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NLPWESSEX, natural law publishing

"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




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

"Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev on Wednesday urged the world's biggest industrialised nations to set up a 50-billion-dollar (44-billion-euro) fund to support solar power, warning that oil or nuclear energy were not viable energy sources for the future. Gorbachev -- who chairs an environmental thinktank, Green Cross International -- called on leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialised nations to invest in renewable energy sources, in a statement marking the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.....Rising oil prices and supply concerns, as well as the growing need to combat global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions, have raised the profile and economic viability of some renewable energy sources."
Gorbachev urges G8 to back solar power
Agence France Presse, 26 April 2006




'We Need A New Way Of Thinking' - Consciousness-Based Education

2011 - 2010 - 2009 - 2008 - 2007 - 2006 & Earlier

"Scientists at the University of Notre Dame are making progress in the creation of solar paint -- paint that acts as a solar power collector to create energy from light.... One of the challenges for the researchers moving forward is to increase the efficiency of the paint. Right now, it can only convert 1 percent of the light that hits its surface to energy. That's not very competitive to solar cells based on silicon that have 10-15 percent efficiency rates. The solar paint's inefficiencies could be offset by the lower costs in producing it.... The nanoparticle paste used in the research described in an article appearing this week in the journal ACS Nano was the first step in obtaining a photoactive layer..."
Color Me Electric: Researchers Develop Solar Paint
TechNewsWorld, 27 December 2011

"Laboratory (NREL) have reported the first solar cell that produces a photocurrent that has an external quantum efficiency greater than 100 percent when photoexcited with photons from the high energy region of the solar spectrum. The external quantum efficiency for photocurrent, usually expressed as a percentage, is the number of electrons flowing per second in the external circuit of a solar cell divided by the number of photons per second of a specific energy (or wavelength) that enter the solar cell. None of the solar cells to date exhibit external photocurrent quantum efficiencies above 100 percent at any wavelength in the solar spectrum. The external quantum efficiency reached a peak value of 114 percent. The newly reported work marks a promising step toward developing Next Generation Solar Cells for both solar electricity and solar fuels that will be competitive with, or perhaps less costly than, energy from fossil or nuclear fuels. The mechanism for producing a quantum efficiency above 100 percent with solar photons is based on a process called Multiple Exciton Generation (MEG), whereby a single absorbed photon of appropriately high energy can produce more than one electron-hole pair per absorbed photon. The researchers achieved the 114 percent external quantum efficiency with a layered cell consisting of antireflection-coated glass with a thin layer of a transparent conductor, a nanostructured zinc oxide layer, a quantum dot layer of lead selenide treated with ethanedithol and hydrazine, and a thin layer of gold for the top electrode. The new results published in Science by the NREL research team is the first report of MEG manifested as an external photocurrent quantum yield greater than 100 percent measured in operating quantum dot solar cells at low light intensity; these cells showed significant power conversion efficiencies (defined as the total power generated divided by the input power) as high as 4.5 percent with simulated sunlight. While these solar cells are un-optimized and thus exhibit relatively low power conversion efficiency (which is a product of the photocurrent and photovoltage), the demonstration of MEG in the photocurrent of a solar cell has important implications because it opens new and unexplored approaches to improve solar cell efficiencies."
Scientists report solar breakthrough
Energy Harvesting Journal, 20 December 2011

"Scientists have finally figured how a way to solar cells to produce more energy than they absorb, reaching a critical success point in making solar energy a viable alternative to fossil fuels. However, MIT's Technology Review highlights a political war between China and the United States that could actually make the photovoltaic technology too expensive to market. As a result, energy that should be globally affordable in the near future might just be out of reach. Just this past week, PhysOrg reported the scientific breakthrough of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), stating that the facility's researchers had finally crafted a solar cell with a 'Multiple Exciton Generation' value of over 100-percent. Basically, MEG measures the amount of energy flowing from the external circuit of a solar divided by the amount of energy flowing into it. So far, the biggest problem with solar energy is that solar cells can't output energy that's equal to the amount of photons (light particles) that they absorb. But thanks to some inventive applications of zinc oxide, lead selenide, and a touch of gold, this new type of solar cell achieves roughly '114 percent external quantum efficiency' from the energy it converts....But even if solar energy becomes cheap enough for mass production, MIT's Technology Review notes that trade tariffs could inflate the cost of the technology. In fact, it has already started, as China-based producers of solar cells and energy-collecting modules are selling their products at "unfairly low prices." In retaliation, the U.S. Government has started playing political hardball."
Solar Energy Reaches a New Efficiency Record
PC World, 20 December 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. The best result for the NREL solar cell was 114 percent. it means, says the team, that solar energy has a competitive future, making it possibly cheaper than energy from fossil or nuclear fuels. The team used a process called Multiple Exciton Generation (MEG), whereby a single absorbed photon of appropriately high energy can produce more than one electron-hole pair per absorbed photon. Ten years ago, NREL scientist Arthur J Nozik predicted that MEG would be more efficient in semiconductor quantum dots - tiny crystals of semiconductor - than in bulk semiconductors. Quantum dots, by confining charge carriers within their tiny volumes, can harvest excess energy that otherwise would be lost as heat – and therefore greatly increase the efficiency of converting photons into usable free energy. The researchers hit the 114 percent external quantum efficiency with a layered cell consisting of antireflection-coated glass with a thin layer of a transparent conductor, a nanostructured zinc oxide layer, a quantum dot layer of lead selenide treated with ethanedithol and hydrazine, and a thin layer of gold for the top electrode. They claim the fabrication of quantum dot solar cells lends itself to inexpensive, high-throughput roll-to-roll manufacturing."
Solar cell could be cheaper than fossil fuel
TG Daily, 19 December 2011

"China has further revised up its solar power development target for 2015 by 50 percent from its previous plan, state media reported on Thursday. The government has set a target for installed solar power generating capacity to reach 15 gigawatts by 2015 and wind power capacity to hit 100 GW, China National Radio reported, citing an announcement from the National Energy Administration. The ambitious move may have been encouraged by a rapid increase in solar power installation in recent months after the government unified grid feed-in tariffs for solar projects for the first time in July, and offered a higher price for projects that would be put into operation before the year end. China had doubled its 2015 solar power goal to 10 GW after the Japanese nuclear power crisis."
China scales up solar power capacity plan by 50 pct -report
Reuters, 15 December 2011

"For the first time, US solar installations will break through the 1 gigawatt (GW) barrier for the year. The US is expected to get 1.7 GW of solar installed this year, up 89% from the 887 MW installed in 2010, and 435 MW in 2009."
US Solar Installations Soar to Highest Levels Yet in Third Quarter
SusatinableBusiness, 15 December 2011

"When Tino Blaesi joined the solar sector gold rush, he thought his career was made. Seven years later, he is looking for a job outside the industry after his company slashed more than a third of its workforce in one day. Workers in Germany's once booming solar energy industry face a shakeout of major proportions following declines in the price of solar panels over the past year. Cuts in subsidies for solar energy, weaker demand for panels and fierce competition from cheaper Asian rivals are eating into what was once the world's biggest hub for the production of solar cells, taking the shine off an industry that was effectively born in Germany. A decision by the German government earlier this year to phase out nuclear energy has done little to reignite the sector. The resulting power gap is likely to be filled by coal and gas rather than solar and wind energy.... Legislation introduced a decade ago by a centre-left coalition of Social Democrats and Greens led by then-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder offered generous incentives and turned Germany into the world's largest market for solar panels, sparking thousands of start-ups, some of which became global leaders. But the incentives, because they were focused on energy production rather than panel manufacturing, also benefited cheaper Asian rivals, which elbowed their way into the market and drove down prices. Companies in China and Taiwan have dislodged their German peers as the world's biggest suppliers of solar cells."
German solar firms go from boom to bust
Reuters, 14 December 2011

"Many analysts claim that solar power for the masses is simply not cost effective, and therefore not a realistic option for most power requirements. However, a recent study conducted at Queen’s University and published in the December edition of Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews concludes the public isn't properly informed about the viability of solar photovoltaic energy. 'Many analysts project a higher cost for solar photovoltaic energy because they don’t consider recent technological advancements and price reductions,' says Joshua Pearce, Adjunct Professor, Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. 'Older models for determining solar photovoltaic energy costs are too conservative.' Pearce believes solar photovoltaic systems are being innovated to the point where they are practically capable of generating energy at the same cost as more traditional sources of energy. Obviously, there are multiple factors used to determine the cost of solar photovoltaic systems for consumers, including installation and maintenance costs, finance charges, the life expectancy of the system, and the amount of electricity it generates. The problem, Pearce says, is that some analytical studies don’t consider the impressive 70% reduction in the cost of solar panels since 2009. Additionally, research now shows the productivity of the top solar panels only drops between 0.1 and 0.2 percent annually. This is much less than the one percent used in most cost analyses. The cost of equipment is determined in dollars per watt of electricity produced. A study in 2010 estimated the cost at $7.61, while a 2003 survey weighed in at $4.16. According to Pearce, the real cost in 2011 is less than $1 per watt for solar panels purchased in bulk on the global market. He says system and installation costs vary widely."
Study claims solar power is more viable than ever
TG Daily, 11 December 2011

"Losses for China’s largest solar manufacturers, including Suntech Power Holdings Co. and JA Solar Holdings Co. may continue through next year as declining shipments prompt them to slash prices and liquidate inventory. Shipments at Suntech will fall about 20 percent in the fourth quarter from the third, the world’s largest panel maker said today in its third-quarter earnings report. JA Solar, the country’s biggest cell producer, also said shipments will fall sequentially, and it wrote off inventory in response to falling prices, driving down gross margins. Cell prices have fallen 59 percent since Dec. 27, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Seven Chinese companies reported lower gross margins since yesterday and three said margins have moved into negative territory, an unsustainable level, said Hari Chandra Polavarapu, an analyst at Auriga USA in New York. 'Liquidation is leading to suicidal pricing.'  Polavarapu said in an interview today. There are too many solar companies in China, he said, and they are cutting prices to maintain share. 'China’s strongest manufacturers are sacrificing profitability because the weakest players still exist.' Chinese solar manufacturers expanded capacity faster this year while demand growth slowed in Europe, the top regional market."
China Solar Makers Face ‘Suicidal’ Prices on Excess Output
Bloomberg, 24 November 2011

"The world’s biggest solar panel maker may pull out of the UK, following the Government’s controversial decision to slash subsidies. Ministers are under intense pressure over their decision to halve the level of subsidies for solar panels from December 12 under the 'feed-in tariff' (FIT) scheme. Now Sharp Solar has warned that it is 'reviewing our presence in the UK' in a private briefing document for the Prime Minister seen by The Daily Telegraph. It has already cut the number of jobs at its Welsh factory from 1,000 to 500, as countries across Europe reduce their support for the green technology."
Solar giant 'could quit UK' after Government cuts to subsidies
Telegraph, 15 November 2011

"Theoretical research by scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has led to record-breaking sunlight-to-electricity conversion efficiencies in solar cells. The researchers showed that, contrary to conventional scientific wisdom, the key to boosting solar cell efficiency is not absorbing more photons but emitting more photons.....In their paper, Yablonovitch, Miller and Kurtz describe how external fluorescence is the key to approaching the theoretical maximum efficiency at which a solar cell can convert sunlight into electricity. This theoretical efficiency, called the Shockley-Queisser efficiency limit (SQ Limit), measures approximately 33.5-percent for a single p-n junction solar cell. This means that if a solar cell collects 1,000 Watts per square meter of solar energy, the most electricity it could produce would be about 335 Watts per square meter. Calculations by Miller, who is a member of Yablonovitch’s research group, showed that the semiconductor gallium arsenide is capable of reaching the SQ Limit. Based on this work, a private company co-founded by Yablonovitch, Alta Devices Inc., has been able to fabricate solar cells from gallium arsenide that have achieved a record conversion efficiency of 28.4 percent."
Research sparks record-breaking solar cell performances
Physorg, 7 November 2011

"These days, mention solar power and you’ll probably hear cries of 'Solyndra!' Republicans have tried to make the failed solar panel company both a symbol of government waste — although claims of a major scandal are nonsense — and a stick with which to beat renewable energy. But Solyndra’s failure was actually caused by technological success: the price of solar panels is dropping fast, and Solyndra couldn’t keep up with the competition. In fact, progress in solar panels has been so dramatic and sustained that, as a blog post at Scientific American put it, 'there’s now frequent talk of a ‘Moore’s law’ in solar energy,' with prices adjusted for inflation falling around 7 percent a year. This has already led to rapid growth in solar installations, but even more change may be just around the corner. If the downward trend continues — and if anything it seems to be accelerating — we’re just a few years from the point at which electricity from solar panels becomes cheaper than electricity generated by burning coal. And if we priced coal-fired power right, taking into account the huge health and other costs it imposes, it’s likely that we would already have passed that tipping point. But will our political system delay the energy transformation now within reach? Let’s face it: a large part of our political class, including essentially the entire G.O.P., is deeply invested in an energy sector dominated by fossil fuels, and actively hostile to alternatives. This political class will do everything it can to ensure subsidies for the extraction and use of fossil fuels, directly with taxpayers’ money and indirectly by letting the industry off the hook for environmental costs, while ridiculing technologies like solar. So what you need to know is that nothing you hear from these people is true. Fracking is not a dream come true; solar is now cost-effective. Here comes the sun, if we’re willing to let it in."
Here Comes the Sun
New York Times, 6 November 2011

"China’s success in wresting control of the solar industry is erasing an advantage for U.S. suppliers led by First Solar Inc., which use a rival technology supported with $5.5 billion in government loan guarantees. First Solar, the largest U.S. solar maker, for 12 years has tinkered with a process that sandwiches a film of toxic cadmium telluride between panes of glass to harness the sun’s power. The Chinese in contrast recently started manufacturing the polysilicon-based cells found in 90 percent of panels sold worldwide and are best known for powering the common calculator. First Solar prospered as surging costs for polysilicon prevented the Chinese from dominating a global panel market worth $33 billion last year. The tables turned as Chinese manufacturers led by GCL-Poly Energy Holdings Ltd. and LDK Solar Co. ramped up production, pushing the cost of the raw material down 90 percent. That’s gutting margins across the industry and forcing First Solar to reduce prices."
China Solar Boom Erodes Technology Edge Backed by U.S. Loans
Bloomberg, 4 November 2011

"Morocco has been chosen as the first location for a German-led, €400bn project to build a vast network of solar and windfarms across North Africa and the Middle East to provide 15% of Europe's electricity supply by 2050. The Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII), a coalition of companies including E.ON, Siemens, Munich Re and Deutsche Bank, announced at its annual conference being held in Cairo on Wednesday that "all systems are go in Morocco", with construction of the first phase of a 500MW solar farm scheduled to start next year. The precise location of the €2bn plant is yet to be finalised, but it is expected to be built near the desert city of Ouarzazate. It will use parabolic mirrors to generate heat for conventional steam turbines, as opposed to the photovoltaic cells used in the UK. The 12 square kilometre Moroccan solar farm will, said Paul van Son, Dii's chief executive, be a "reference project" to prove to investors and policy makers in both Europe and the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region that the Desertec vision is not a dream-like mirage, but one that can be a major source of renewable electricity in the decades ahead."
Morocco to host first solar farm in €400bn renewables network
Guardian, 2 November 2011

"Hundreds of solar companies are likely to go bust by Christmas after the Department for Energy and Climate Change confirmed it is looking to halve subsidies for new panels. Greg Barker, minister for climate change, said the 'feed-in tariff' subsidies are currently too generous, because the cost of installing solar panels has fallen. The proposed cuts, due to come into force from December, will see the amount earned from each panel fall from 43.3p per kilowatt hour of solar power to 21p. This will save energy customers around £23 a year - or £700m in total - because the subsidies are funded through electricity bills. However, the industry warned that many home owners and companies may immediately back away from the flagship scheme because it wouldn now take up to 25 years to earn back their investments. Gaynor Hartnell, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association, said: 'The installation rate is likely to fall drastically, and many of the 25,000 newly-employed in this industry may end up joining the dole queue.'"
Government accused of 'destroying 25,000 green jobs'
Telegraph, 31 October 2011

"Solar heating systems can provide over half of households' hot water needs, according to the largest ever field trial of the green energy devices. But the year-long study, undertaken at 88 homes by the Energy Saving Trust, also reveals that the solar water heating systems will save most owners just £55 a year despite costing between £3,000-5,000, prompting calls from green campaigners for clarity on government subsidies for them."
Solar heating 'can provide over half of households' hot water'
Guardian, 13 October 2011

"Solar generators may produce the majority of the world’s power within 50 years, slashing the emissions of greenhouse gases that harm the environment, according to a projection by the International Energy Agency. Photovoltaic and solar-thermal plants may meet most of the world’s demand for electricity by 2060 -- and half of all energy needs -- with wind, hydropower and biomass plants supplying much of the remaining generation, Cedric Philibert, senior analyst in the renewable energy division at the Paris-based agency, said in an Aug. 26 phone interview. 'Photovoltaic and concentrated solar power together can become the major source of electricity,' Philibert said.'You’ll have a lot more electricity than today but most of it will be produced by solar-electric technologies.' The solar findings, set to be published in a report later this year, go beyond the IEA’s previous forecast, which envisaged the two technologies meeting about 21 percent of the world’s power needs in 2050. The scenario suggests investors able to pick the industry’s winners may reap significant returns as the global economy shifts away from fossil fuels. The 17 members of the Bloomberg Large Solar Energy Index have a combined market value of about $27 billion compared with the $2.2 trillion of the MSCI World Energy Index’s 119 member companies. Under the forecasted scenario, which Philibert will set out in more detail at a conference in Kassel, Germany, on Sept. 1, most heating and transport will switch from dirtier fossil fuels to cleaner electric power. Carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector would fall to about 3 gigatons per year compared with about 30 gigatons this year."
Solar May Produce Most of World’s Power by 2060, IEA Says
Bloomberg, 29 August 2011

"The company behind plans to build the world's largest solar farm has revealed that it is to switch to solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in what could mark a significant shift in the balance of power between competing PV and solar thermal technologies. Germany-based Solar Millennium AG said in a statement released last week that it has changed its plans for the proposed 1GW Blythe solar farm in California, and will install the first 500MW of the facility using PV panels."
World's largest solar farm switches from thermal to PV
Business Green, 22 August 2011

"A thing of sheer beauty is berthed in Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong: the Tûranor PlanetSolar, a vessel that is circumnavigating the globe to prove that solar energy can power water transportation. Designed in New Zealand, built in Germany and flying a Swiss flag, the 102-foot boat has completed about two-thirds of a voyage that began in Monaco last September. So far it has sailed nearly 24,000 miles. With its upper deck covered with over 5,300 square feet of photovoltaic solar panels, the Tûranor PlanetSolar is unlike any ship you’ve ever seen. Sleek and sexy, it looks more like a spaceship than something that travels the seven seas. It has journeyed across the Atlantic to Miami and on to places including the Panama Canal, the Galapagos Islands, eastern Australia and the Philippines. Next week it leaves Hong Kong for Singapore before heading to Mumbai, Abu Dhabi and back into the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal. Throughout the journey, the four-person crew is monitoring the performance of the panels and of lithium batteries that store solar energy and allow the ship to continue sailing through the night, or when the sky is overcast, at a speed of up to about 15 miles per hour. So far, said the skipper, Erwann Le Rouzic, everything has gone smoothly. 'I feel like a mouse in a laboratory which is being used to test what can be done with solar energy,' Mr. Le Rouzic joked at a media briefing here in Hong Kong. To be sure, the Tûranor PlanetSolar, financed by various sponsors, is a scientific experiment rather than something that will be mass-produced for commercial use. Moreover, its route does not stray far from the equator to ensure that a maximum amount of sunlight is available — hardly an option for the commercial shipping industry. Still, the industry has been testing different technologies that could complement fuel-based propulsion, and solar could well play a role, said Arthur Bowring, managing director of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association, one of the largest associations of its kind."
Have Solar Panels, Will Travel
New York Times - Green (Blog), 18 August 2011

"It started with such a simple concept: A solar light bulb that charges up during the day and lights the night when the sun sets. Inventor Steve Katsaros perfected his design in June 2010, and four days later he had a patent in hand. He knew it was a good product, but he didn't know what to do with it. 'It wasn't until after we created it that we asked ourselves, 'How do we market this,'' Katsaros says. 'And we learned that the largest market was the developing world.' As Katsaros began researching markets in developing countries, he began to realize that his solar light bulb could potentially make a huge impact on the 1.4 billion people around the world who don't have access to an electrical grid."
Bringing solar light bulbs to the world
CNN, 14 August 2011

"China will double its solar capacity to around 2 gigawatts (GW) by the end of the year as the world's largest solar-panel maker ramps up domestic installation, a local paper said on Saturday citing a government-linked think tank."
China to double solar capacity by year end: report
Reuters, 12 August 2011

"Photovoltaic cells are best known for turning sunlight into electrical power--and they're big business. But did you know that there's a type of PV cell that eats heat instead of light to make power? It could replace the Li-ion battery in your cell phone, and it may also be used to scavenge waste heat from almost anything that normally dumps it into the environment, from your TV's electronics to your car's engine (even an electrical one). Thermal PV tech has been around ages, and works the same way as the solar variation: Incoming radiation excites the atoms in its semiconductor structure, which then push electrons out--generating current. And much as is the case for solar PV cells, the advances in the tech have all been about improving their efficiency. Scientists at MIT have recently honed this tech, pushing the efficiency up so far that thermal PV cells are now a viable alternative to all sorts of other tech. MIT's breakthrough was to add a layer of tungsten to the front of a PV cell, with a surface that's been etched on a nanoscopic scale so that when heated it emits infrared light (heat) at wavelengths precisely tuned to the best efficiency of the PV cell behind it."
Sun-Less Solar Cells Could Make Energy From Anything Hot
Fast Company, 1 August 2011

"Electric car drivers in the UK are being offered the chance to break free of the city and hit the open road. Green energy firm Ecotricity has launched the world's first national motorway charging network for electric vehicles. It has installed free power points at 12 Welcome Break service stations, with 17 more promised later in the year. Until now, a lack of charging points between towns and cities has made longer journeys impractical. 'There's a bit of the chicken and egg situation going on,' said Ecotricity founder Dale Vince. 'People are not buying electric cars because they're not sure about charging, and people aren't putting charging points up because [not many are] buying electric cars.'. The national network also addresses another common complaint about electric vehicles - charging time. Welcome Break's power outlets offer two types of sockets - a three-pin one for 13A current supply and a seven-pin one for a higher 32A supply. Using the 13A supply can mean waiting around 12 hours and probably spending the night in one of the service area hotels. Opting for the higher current option will top-up a car in just 20 minutes - and fully charge it in one hour, said Mr Vince. 'So in the time it takes you to get a cup of coffee and a sandwich, you can charge your car,' he added."
Electric car motorway charging network opens in the UK
BBC Online, 27 July 2011

"A concentrated solar power plant in Spain has just supplied its first uninterrupted day of electricity to the network, providing energy to the grid even after sundown thanks to molten-salt storage. Located in Fuentes de Andalucía (Seville), the Gemasolar plant is property of Torresol Energy, a joint venture between Masdar — Abu Dhabi’s clean-energy initiative — and SENER, a Spanish engineering and construction company. The plant, barely one month into commercial operation, can store solar energy in molten salt using a thermal-transfer technology developed by SENER. The system enables the facility to deliver 15 hours of electricity production without solar radiation, helping to overcome fluctuations in the energy supply. 'Gemasolar achieved optimal performance in its systems in the last week of June,' said Diego Ramírez, director of production at Torresol Energy. 'The high performance of the installations coincided with several days of excellent solar radiation, which made it possible for the hot-salt storage tank to reach full capacity. We’re hoping that in the next few days our supply to the network will reach an average of 20 hours a day.' The salt storage system allows the plant to stretch its electrical production hours to beyond sunset, regardless of the cloud cover. With a 19.9-megawatt steam turbine, Gemasolar is able to supply electricity to some 25,000 households. Eventually, the plant is expected to be able to supply 24 hours of uninterrupted production per day on most summer days, providing a higher annual capacity factor than most baseload plants such as nuclear power plants."
Solar plant keeps working, even after sundown
Greenbang, 4 July 2011

"The sheet of paper looks like any other document that might have just come spitting out of an office printer, with an array of colored rectangles printed over much of its surface. But then a researcher picks it up, clips a couple of wires to one end, and shines a light on the paper. Instantly an LCD clock display at the other end of the wires starts to display the time. Almost as cheaply and easily as printing a photo on your inkjet, an inexpensive, simple solar cell has been created on that flimsy sheet, formed from special 'inks' deposited on the paper. You can even fold it up to slip into a pocket, then unfold it and watch it generating electricity again in the sunlight. The new technology, developed by a team of researchers at MIT, is reported in a paper in the journal Advanced Materials, published online July 8. The paper is co-authored by Karen Gleason, the Alexander and I. Michael Kasser Professor of Chemical Engineering; Professor of Electrical Engineering Vladimir Bulovic; graduate student Miles Barr; and six other students and postdocs. The work was supported by the Eni-MIT Alliance Solar Frontiers Program and the National Science Foundation. The technique represents a major departure from the systems used until now to create most solar cells, which require exposing the substrates to potentially damaging conditions, either in the form of liquids or high temperatures. The new printing process uses vapors, not liquids, and temperatures less than 120 degrees Celsius. These “gentle” conditions make it possible to use ordinary untreated paper, cloth or plastic as the substrate on which the solar cells can be printed. It is, to be sure, a bit more complex than just printing out a term paper. In order to create an array of photovoltaic cells on the paper, five layers of material need to be deposited onto the same sheet of paper in successive passes, using a mask (also made of paper) to form the patterns of cells on the surface. And the process has to take place in a vacuum chamber. The basic process is essentially the same as the one used to make the silvery lining in your bag of potato chips: a vapor-deposition process that can be carried out inexpensively on a vast commercial scale. The resilient solar cells still function even when folded up into a paper airplane. In their paper, the MIT researchers also describe printing a solar cell on a sheet of PET plastic (a thinner version of the material used for soda bottles) and then folding and unfolding it 1,000 times, with no significant loss of performance. By contrast, a commercially produced solar cell on the same material failed after a single folding.... in addition to the folding tests, the MIT team tried other tests of the device’s robustness. For example, she says, they took a finished paper solar cell and ran it through a laser printer — printing on top of the photovoltaic surface, subjecting it to the high temperature of the toner-fusing step — and demonstrated that it still worked. Test cells the group produced last year still work, demonstrating their long shelf life. In today’s conventional solar cells, the costs of the inactive components — the substrate (usually glass) that supports the active photovoltaic material, the structures to support that substrate, and the installation costs — are typically greater than the cost of the active films of the cells themselves, sometimes twice as much. Being able to print solar cells directly onto inexpensive, easily available materials such as paper or cloth, and then easily fasten that paper to a wall for support, could ultimately make it possible to drastically reduce the costs of solar installations. For example, paper solar cells could be made into window shades or wallpaper — and paper costs one-thousandth as much as glass for a given area, the researchers say....For outdoor uses, the researchers demonstrated that the paper could be coated with standard lamination materials, to protect it from the elements. Others have tried to produce solar cells and other electronic components on paper, but the big stumbling block has been paper’s rough, fibrous surface at a microscopic scale. To counter that, past attempts have relied on coating the paper first with some smooth material. But in this research, ordinary, uncoated paper was used — including printer paper, tissue, tracing paper and even newsprint with the printing still on it. All of these worked just fine....The researchers continue to work on improving the devices. At present, the paper-printed solar cells have an efficiency of about 1 percent, but the team believes this can be increased significantly with further fine-tuning of the materials."
While you’re up, print me a solar cell
MIT News, 11 July 2011

"It's moving from an innovation to a fad, this business of solar-powered charging stations for electric cars. The latest car company to jump on the bandwagon is Mitsubishi, which will launch the diminutive four-door, four-seat 2012 Mitsubishi 'i' electric minicar in November at a price of just $27,990 before incentives. The company recently unveiled a unique solar-powered charging setup at its headquarters in Cypress, California. It's powered by 96 photovoltaic modules from another Mitsubishi company, and can charge up to four vehicles at once. The unusual wrinkle is that it offers three different kinds of charging: Level I (110-Volt), Level 2 (220-Volt), and Level 3 CHAdeMO DC quick charging (an option on both the 2012 'i' and, at $700, the current 2011 Nissan Leaf). It's the first solar-powered DC quick-charge station in the U.S., and employs a charging station built by Eaton Corp. that is the first CHAdeMO Quick Charger certified for U.S. sales. Mitsubishi joins both Nissan, which has solar charging stations at its assembly plant in Tennessee, and General Motors, which installed solar charging stations at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant where it builds the 2011 Chevy Volt range-extended electric car."
Mitsubishi Joins The Crowd, Unveils Solar Charging Station At HQ
GreenCarReports, 11 July 2011

"Global investment in renewable energy sources grew by 32% during 2010 to reach a record level of US$211bn (£132bn), a UN study has reported. The main growth drivers were backing for wind farms in China and rooftop solar panels in Europe, it said. It also found that developing nations invested more in green power than rich nations for the first time last year. The Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2011 report was prepared for the UN by Bloomberg New Energy Finance."
Green energy investment hits record global high
BBC Online, 7 July 2011

"A government-backed research project has hailed a breakthrough in the efficiency of printed plastic solar cells, potentially paving the way for the commercialisation of cheaper and more transportable solar panels. The Science and Technology Facilities Council, a non-departmental public body of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, today confirmed the results of its research into the layers of materials which convert sunlight into electricity. Most photovoltaic devices are made with silicon, but scientists are keen to develop organic or plastic photovoltaic devices, which are believed to be cheaper and more flexible. Plastic films can be deposited from solution using low cost roll-to-roll printing techniques. Some products already use this technology but the efficiency needs to be improved from seven/eight per cent to at least 10 per cent to make it commercially viable."
Diamond Light Source study hails efficiency of 'cling film' solar cells
BusinessGreen, 4 July 2011

"Solar energy may soon become easier to capture, say researchers who have developed a novel method to produce solar cells using inkjet printing. Oregon State University researchers have come up with a technology similar to that commonly used to print documents and photos. They say their method is quicker and less expensive than traditional solar cell manufacturing techniques. It could also reduce raw material waste by 90%, they add. As people move away from conventional combustion-type technologies, more attention is paid to renewable energy types, and solar energy is one of them. It is known as a clean and sustainable form of energy, but this is offset by the manufacture of solar panels which is an expensive and complicated process. Finding a balance between costs of production and efficiency could become key to future manufacture of solar cells, and many scientists around the world have been concentrating on developing new materials and methods to do that. ... The team used chalcopyrite - a material composed of copper, indium, gallium and selenium and also known as CIGS. It has a much greater solar efficiency than silicon, currently used to manufacture solar panels. The researchers then printed chalcopyrite onto the surface of the cell, applying a technique similar to a common inkjet approach, but with a special type of ink. They managed to produce solar cells of 5% efficiency - and say that in future, they will aim to increase this figure to about 12% to make the product commercially viable."
Scientists use inkjet printing to produce solar cells
BBC Online, 30 June 2011

"Startup Pythagoras Solar has designed and is selling a double-pane window embedded with solar cells, and this week got recognition (and $100,000) from GE for its innovation. The idea is that the window lets in less light, while still being transparent, so buildings get needed shade during hot sunny hours, reducing their air conditioning use and making the building more energy-efficient. At the same time, the panels produce solar power, which the building can use for electricity. The company is currently targeting architects and commercial building owners. Four-year-old Pythagoras Solar will announce its first commercial installation in the coming weeks, CEO Gonen Fink told me in an interview, and the company has been working for several years on smaller pilot projects, like one on the south-facing side of the Willis Tower in Chicago. The company, which has its R&D and investors in Israel, is in the process of moving from the project stage into mass production. The company raised a $10 million series A round from Israel Cleantech Ventures, Pitango Venture Capital and Evergreen Venture Partners. So when Pythagoras is churning out these solar windows on a grand scale will they fly off the shelves? Part of the success will depend on the math. The solar windows cost more than a standard window, bur will be priced on par with some of the new dynamic tinting windows that are coming to the market from firms like Soladigm and Sage, said Fink. The windows are also more expensive per square foot than straight solar PV, but factoring in the energy efficiency savings and clean power savings of the solar windows, Fink says their return on investment is 3 to 5 years. Solar panels, on the other hand, take longer, like 7 to 12 years to deliver a return."
The vision for solar windows
Reuters, 24 June 2011

"Ernst & Young analysis suggests that falling solar and rising fossil fuel prices could make large-scale installations cost-competitive without government support within a decade. Prices of solar panels are falling so fast that by 2013 they will be half of what they cost in 2009, according to a report from Ernst & Young that argues solar electricity could play 'an important role' in meeting the UK's renewable energy targets. The average one-off installation cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels has already dropped from more than $2 (£1.23) per unit of generating capacity in 2009 to about $1.50 in 2011. Based on broker reports and industry analysis, the report forecasts that those rates of decline will continue, with prices falling close to the $1 mark in 2013. At present, solar PV is economically viable in the UK for homeowners, businesses and investors only because of government subsidies given out via feed-in tariffs (Fits). But the new analysis suggests that falling PV panel prices and rising fossil fuel prices could together make large-scale solar installations cost-competitive without government support within a decade – sooner than is usually assumed."
Price of solar panels to drop to $1 by 2013, report forecasts
Guardian, 20 June 2011

"Friday the DOE once again hammered home its view that solar’s promise is real, with a $150 million loan guarantee to 1366 Technologies, a Lexington, Mass.-based solar wafer manufacturing company that has a great new technology – but no manufacturing plant. Now it will. 'This project is a game-changer that could dramatically lower the cost of photovoltaic solar cells,' said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. 'As global demand for solar cells increase, this kind of technology will help the US increase its market share.' For 1366 Technologies – the company is named for the amount of energy in watts that strikes the earth’s atmosphere per square meter – the DOE’s vote of confidence is a big deal. The company, started in 2007 on the idea of MIT professor Emanuel Sachs, will now finally be able to demonstrate in production a technology that company officials say could vault the US to technological leadership in the manufacturing of solar cells. Using an innovative process, the company plans to cast silicon wafers for solar panels directly from the molten output of an industrial furnace – rather than cut ingots of pure silicon with a special saw. That change alone saves fully half of the high-cost silicon usually wasted in that process. In addition, the company has figured out how to coat its wafers with materials that boost their efficiency. 'With this loan, 1366 will realize its goal to make solar energy as cheap as coal while helping the US to reclaim a key part of the silicon supply chain and restore the nation's dominance in photovoltaics,' Frank van Mierlo, 1366’s president, said in a statement. Part of the plan is not only to manufacture the photovoltaic cells more efficiently but also to produce at least a three percentage point gain in the solar cells’ output. Their goal is to reduce the cost of manufacturing a photovoltaic cell to less than $1 per watt.... For solar power to compete without subsidies with coal, the Department of Energy says, the installed cost of solar energy modules needs to drop another 75 percent. At the current rates of declining cost, the DOE and others project, solar will be competitive with coal in 2020. At that point, the DOE website says, there will be 'rapid, large-scale adoption of solar electricity across the United States.'”
US boosts 'game-changer' solar technology in bid for global market share
Christian Science Monitor, 17 June 2011

"Jersey City, N.J., may be an unlikely place to find a utility-scale solar farm, but Petra Solar has found a way to generate electricity from the sun even on hard-paved urban streets. Bolted onto street-light and utility poles across Jersey City and other urban and suburban areas of the state, a five-foot by two-and-a-half-foot solar panel is attached about 15 feet above the ground, tilted south toward the sun. Each new solar panel from the privately held South Plainfield, N.J., clean-energy technology firm generates about 225 watts of power, adding to generation capacity and helping utilities meet renewable-power requirements. 'It allows you to deploy quickly and cost effectively because you don’t have to invest in land, you’re not building substations or transformers,' said Petra Solar Chief Executive Shihab Kuran. Under a contract with Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. — New Jersey’s biggest utility — Petra Solar is now about halfway through its $200 million commitment to provide 40 megawatts of solar power in six cities and 300 rural and suburban communities in the utility’s service area. So far, it’s put up about 95,000 of the panels with a total generation capacity of 20 megawatts, enough power for 3,250 homes. Petra Solar says it takes just 30 minutes to install one of its panels, which feeds its electricity directly into the utility’s power lines. Included in the gear are devices that hook up to an AT&T communications network to allow utilities to remotely monitor their electricity lines. The network gear helps old-school copper power wires behave more like an Internet-based information-technology system."
Petra Solar turns cities into sun-power farms
MarketWatch, 16 June 2011

"Electric cars could produce higher emissions over their lifetimes than petrol equivalents because of the energy consumed in making their batteries, a study has found. An electric car owner would have to drive at least 129,000km before producing a net saving in CO2. Many electric cars will not travel that far in their lifetime because they typically have a range of less than 145km on a single charge and are unsuitable for long trips. Even those driven 160,000km would save only about a tonne of CO2 over their lifetimes. The British study, which is the first analysis of the full lifetime emissions of electric cars covering manufacturing, driving and disposal, undermines the case for tackling climate change by the rapid introduction of electric cars. The Committee on Climate Change, the UK government watchdog, has called for the number of electric cars on Britain's roads to increase from a few hundred now to 1.7 million by 2020. Britain's Department for Transport is spending $66 million over the next year giving up to 8,600 buyers of electric cars a grant of $7700 towards the purchase price. Ministers are considering extending the scheme. The study was commissioned by the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, which is jointly funded by the British government and the car industry. It found that a mid-size electric car would produce 23.1 tonnes of CO2 over its lifetime, compared with 24 tonnes for a similar petrol car. Emissions from manufacturing electric cars are at least 50 per cent higher because batteries are made from materials such as lithium, copper and refined silicon, which require much energy to be processed. Many electric cars are expected to need a replacement battery after a few years. Once the emissions from producing the second battery are added in, the total CO2 from producing an electric car rises to 12.6 tonnes, compared with 5.6 tonnes for a petrol car. Disposal also produces double the emissions because of the energy consumed in recovering and recycling metals in the battery. The study also took into account carbon emitted to generate the grid electricity consumed. Greg Archer, director of Low CVP, said the industry should state the full lifecycle emissions of cars rather than just tailpipe emissions, to avoid misleading consumers. He said that drivers wanting to minimise emissions could be better off buying a small, efficient petrol or diesel car. 'People have to match the technology to their particular needs,' he said."
Electric cars may not be so green after all, says British study
Australian/Times, 10 June 2011

"No minivan for one family of nine. They get around on a solar bike. And not only is it fun, it saves them big at the pump. The Hatchs leave home to drive their son Hunter to school. But on this ride he has to put on a helmet first. Hunter said when he shows up for the fourth grade everybody notices. 'They are like 'I want to ride it too,'' said Hunter Hatch. 'And when I go in, everybody talks about it.' The coolest thing about the [four wheeled] bike is if you are carrying too heavy a load you don't have to pedal because its solar powered. They are the same solar panels that power a house and are connected to a battery that propels an extra wheel which is covered in duct tape....It works even on cloudy days and brings happiness in more ways than one. 'It has cut my gas bill by 80 percent,' said Brent Hatch.... It goes about 10 miles per hour, but it takes the family everywhere they need nearby. Brent Hatch is a realtor and rides to open houses."
Family of 9 uses solar powered bike as transportation
KABC News, 6 May 2011

"French energy major Total SA's (TOTF.PA) landmark $1.37 billion offer for a majority stake in U.S. company SunPower Corp (SPWRA.O) gave fresh impetus to hopes of more deals, lifting global solar stocks. Total's move is one of the biggest ever by an oil and gas giant into the market for renewable energy, which has seen a resurgence of interest following the nuclear crisis at Japan's Fukushima power plant caused by last month's earthquake and tsunami. Investors have been waiting for years for large-scale consolidation in the solar sector. But activity has been muted as the industry is still in its early stages and dependent on government subsidies to compete with fossil fuels. Big utilities have so far shunned the sector -- which predominantly features small roof-installed systems -- in favor of large-scale wind farms that fit better into their business models."
Total's SunPower bid adds shine to solar M&A
Reuters, 29 April 2011

"Householders rushing to put solar panels on their roof in order to take advantage of government subsidies have more than tripled the amount of solar power in the UK over the past year, figures published on Thursday show. The lure of making nearly £1,000 a year has led to a record 11,314 people, largely homeowners, installing solar panels in the first three months of this year. The 'solar gold rush' appears to have been driven by the introduction of feed-in tariffs (Fits) last year, which pay businesses, groups and individuals for generating green energy. The total amount of installed solar power in the UK has jumped from 26 megawatts (MW) before the scheme started on 1 April 2010, to 77.8MW at the end of March this year, according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc). This takes the number of solar photovoltaic systems in the UK taking part in the Fits scheme to 28,505, alongside over a thousand micro wind turbines and just over 200 small hydro sites. But despite the rise in demand, solar power under the Fits scheme still contributes only a tiny amount of the UK's total electricity generation. At 77.8MW, it accounts for just 0.104% of the 75GW provided by fossil fuel, nuclear and large scale renewable power plants. The UK's largest coal fired power station, Drax in Yorkshire, generates approximately 4,000MW."
Surge in solar panel installations on UK household roofs
Guardian, 28 April 2011

"A dramatic and surprising magnetic effect of light discovered by University of Michigan researchers could lead to solar power without traditional semiconductor-based solar cells. The researchers found a way to make an 'optical battery,' said Stephen Rand, a professor in the departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Physics and Applied Physics. In the process, they overturned a century-old tenet of physics. 'You could stare at the equations of motion all day and you will not see this possibility. We’ve all been taught that this doesn’t happen,' said Rand, an author of a paper on the work published in the Journal of Applied Physics. 'It’s a very odd interaction. That’s why it’s been overlooked for more than 100 years.' Light has electric and magnetic components. Until now, scientists thought the effects of the magnetic field were so weak that they could be ignored. What Rand and his colleagues found is that at the right intensity, when light is traveling through a material that does not conduct electricity, the light field can generate magnetic effects that are 100 million times stronger than previously expected. Under these circumstances, the magnetic effects develop strength equivalent to a strong electric effect. 'This could lead to a new kind of solar cell without semiconductors and without absorption to produce ,' Rand said. 'In , the light goes into a material, gets absorbed and creates heat. Here, we expect to have a very low heat load. Instead of the light being absorbed, energy is stored in the magnetic moment. Intense magnetization can be induced by intense light and then it is ultimately capable of providing a capacitive power source.'”
Solar power without solar cells: A hidden magnetic effect of light could make it possible, 14 April 2011

"A solar-powered plane is slated to take its first international flight next month in a move that offers an unprecedented step toward 'green' flying. Switzerland’s Solar Impulse Team said the airplane, which is the first designed to fly day and night without requiring fuel or producing carbon emissions, will soar to Brussels around May 2. The project offers the aviation industry a new look at dealing with the rising cost of oil, which has continued to creep higher amid unrest in the Middle East, weighing on some airline profits. American Airlines (AMR: 5.75, -0.05, -0.86%), for example, said last week that higher fuel prices crippled its profit, sending its first-quarter income down $436 million...The single-seat prototype has the wingspan of a Boeing (BA: 78.55, +2.43, +3.19%) 777 jet. It took its maiden flight in Switzerland in 2009 and has taken many other test flights, particularly as the crew readies itself for the international voyage."
Solar Plane Set to Soar Abroad in May
Fox, 28 April 2011

"Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) say they have created a new class of transparent photovoltaic cells that can turn windows into solar panels. Richard Lunt, a postdoctoral researcher at MIT's Research Laboratory of Electronics, says the new photovoltaic cells have the potential to turn skyscrapers into enormous solar collectors that could supply much of the electricity needed in modern office buildings. Previous attempts to make transparent solar cells have either failed to achieve high efficiency or blocked too much light. But Lunt and his colleagues say the new transparent cells are built to absorb only the near-infrared spectrum and have the potential to transform light to electricity at relatively high efficiency. The biggest challenge, said Lunt, is creating photovoltaic cells that would last as long as the windows thmselves, since the best way to use the cells would be to package them in the middle of double-pane windows. But Lunt and his colleagues said that the solar cell longevity problem is a basic engineering challenge that can probably be solved within a decade."
Transparent Solar Cells Can Turn Windows into Solar Panels
Yale Environment 360, 22 April 2011

"A new class of transparent photovoltaic cells has been developed that can turn an ordinary windowpane into a solar panel without impeding the passage of visible light, scientists said Tuesday. The cells could one day transform skyscrapers into giant solar collectors, said Richard Lunt, one of the researchers on the project. 'We think there’s a lot of potential to be able to integrate these into tall buildings,' Dr. Lunt, a postdoctoral researcher at the M.I.T. Research Laboratory of Electronics, said in an interview. Previous attempts at transparent solar cells have either failed to achieve high efficiency or blocked too much light to be used in windows. But the new cells, based on organic molecules similar to dyes and pigments, are tailored to absorb only the near-infrared spectrum and have the potential to transform that light into electricity at relatively high efficiency. The current efficiency of the prototype cells is only about 2 percent, but some basic modifications, like stacking the cells, could increase efficiency to around 10 percent, Dr. Lunt said. The largest challenge in developing commercial applications for the new solar cells will be longevity. The cells could be packaged in the middle of double-paned windows, which would provide protection from the elements. But the longevity of the cells would still need to approach the life span of the windows themselves, which would not be replaced for decades. 'To make this thing truly useful, you do need to extend the lifetime, and make sure it reaches at least 20 years, or even longer than that,' said Vladimir Bulovic, a professor of electrical engineering at M.I.T. who collaborated on the development of the cells. Mr. Bulovic said that previous work to extend the life span of organic light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, which share properties with the organic solar cells, indicated that the problem of longevity was not an extraordinarily difficult one. 'It appears at this point that this is an engineering problem,' he said. 'I would expect that within a decade those will be solved issues.' If the cells can be made long-lasting, they could be integrated into windows relatively cheaply, as much of the cost of conventional photovoltaics is not from the solar cell itself, but the materials it is mounted on, like aluminum and glass. Coating existing structures with solar cells would eliminate some of this material cost. If the transparent cells ultimately prove commercially viable, the power they generate could significantly offset the energy use of large buildings, said Dr. Lunt, who will begin teaching at Michigan State University this fall. 'We’re not saying we could power the whole building, but we are talking about a significant amount of energy, enough for things like lighting and powering everyday electronics,' he said."
Transparent Photovoltaic Cells Turn Windows Into Solar Panels
New York Times (Blog), 20 April 2011

"Google's product portfolio has now expanded from search engine power to solar power. The company has invested $168 million in a Mojave Desert facility that will become the world's largest solar power tower plant. The site is located on 3,600 acres of land in the Mojave Desert in southeastern California. According to gizmag, 'the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) will boast 173,000 heliostats that will concentrate the sun's rays onto a solar tower standing approximately 450 feet (137 m) tall.' Construction on this plant started in October 2010. When finished in 2013, the facility is expected to generate 392 MW of solar energy. Solar power tower development, while less advanced than the more common trough systems, may offer higher efficiency and better energy storage capabilities. Parabolic trough systems consist of parabolic mirrors that concentrate sunlight onto a Dewar tube running the length of the mirror through which a heat transfer fluid runs that is then used to heat steam in a standard turbine."
Google invests $168m in world's largest solar power tower plant
Guardian, 15 April 2011

"Scientists at the University of Michigan have discovered a new effect from an old property of light, which they say could lead to an 'optical battery' that converts sunlight to electricity at a fraction of the cost of today's photovoltaic cells. Light has electric and magnetic qualities. Scientists had long thought, however, that the effects of light's magnetic field were so weak as to be irrelevant. No so, says Stephen Rand, a professor of physics. Along with doctoral student William Fisher, he persisted in probing the long-ignored weak magnetic field that light produces when traveling through a nonconductive material, such as glass. The breakthrough – unveiled Friday in a scientific paper in the Journal of Applied Physics – shows that if light is intense enough, it can, when traveling through nonconductive material, generate voltage from magnetic effects 100 million times stronger than earlier expected. Such magnetic effects produce a strong electric field that can be harnessed for electric power production, Dr. Rand and Mr. Fisher say..... The breakthrough – unveiled Friday in a scientific paper in the Journal of Applied Physics – shows that if light is intense enough, it can, when traveling through nonconductive material, generate voltage from magnetic effects 100 million times stronger than earlier expected. Such magnetic effects produce a strong electric field that can be harnessed for electric power production, Dr. Rand and Mr. Fisher say. 'This could lead to a new kind of solar cell without semiconductors and without absorption to produce charge separation,' Rand said in a statement. 'In solar cells, the light goes into a material, gets absorbed and creates heat. Here, we expect to have a very low heat load. Instead of the light being absorbed, energy is stored in the magnetic moment.' He continues, 'Intense magnetization can be induced by intense light and then it is ultimately capable of providing a capacitive power source.' Of course with every scientific breakthrough, there's the challenge of how to make it practical. In this case, the problem is that the intensity of the light must be about 10 million watts per square centimeter. Ordinary sunlight is much less than even one watt per square centimeter. But that doesn't deter Fisher, who says that new materials (transparent ceramics, perhaps), when combined with focused sunlight, could work at lesser intensities. 'We show that sunlight is theoretically almost as effective in producing charge separation as laser light is,' says Fisher in a phone interview. 'It turns out we can in principle develop a voltage along the direction of the beam of light.' He adds, 'Enough sunlight, focused into an optical fiber, could generate electricity – that’s is a simple way to think about it.' In experiments planned for this summer, the two scientists plan to harness this power using laser light and – after that – sunlight. Fisher says that with improved materials (various kinds of glass, for example), sunlight could produce electricity at perhaps 10 percent efficiency – roughly equal to the rate at which commercial solar cells today convert sunlight to electricity. 'The breakthrough is really on the cost side,' Fisher says. 'All we need are lenses to focus the light and a fiber to guide it. Glass is made in bulk, and it doesn’t require much processing, either.'"
Solar power: breakthrough could herald big drop in costs
Christian Science Monitor, 13 April 2011

"The Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) is all set to establish first on-grid solar electricity generation system in the country during the current year to overcome energy crisis. 'This solar system and smart grid is becoming a reality in less than a year,' said PEC Chairperson Senator Rukhsana Zuberi, addressing a press conference Saturday. She said the smart-grid system could make Pakistan self-sufficient in energy, as the country was rich in renewable energy resources, especially solar energy."
Pakistan to have first on-grid solar electricity generation system
Daily Times, 10 April 2011

"In a move that could shake up the American solar industry, General Electric plans to announce on Thursday that it will build the nation’s largest photovoltaic panel factory, with the goal of becoming a major player in the market. 'For the past five years, we’ve been investing extremely heavily in solar,' said Victor Abate, vice president for G.E.’s renewable energy business. 'Going to scale is the next move.' The plant, whose location has not been determined, will employ 400 workers and create 600 related jobs, according to G.E. The factory would annually produce solar panels that would generate 400 megawatts of energy, the company said, and would begin manufacturing thin-film photovoltaic panels made of a material called cadmium telluride in 2013. While less efficient than conventional solar panels, thin-film photovoltaics can be produced at a lower cost and have proven attractive to developers and utilities building large-scale power plants. G.E. has signed agreements to supply solar panels to generate 100 megawatts of electric power to customers, including a deal for panels generating 60 megawatts with NextEra Energy Resources.... Mr. Abate said G.E. would focus on improving the 12.8 percent efficiency of its panels as well as lowering costs. 'We see our way to much higher efficiencies than that,' he said. 'We probably can cut costs 50 percent over the next several years.'"
G.E. Plans to Build Largest Solar Panel Plant in U.S.
New York Times, 7 April 2011

"A £6.5 million project to investigate and produce the next generation of low carbon whole building solutions has been opened in north Wales. The Sustainable Building Envelope Centre (SBEC) at Shotton, Deeside, is a partnership between the Low Carbon Research Institute (LCRI), Tata Steel and the Welsh Assembly Government which over three years will research and monitor solar thermal and photovoltaic technologies and their use together. Various combinations of technologies will be evaluated, and the solutions arrived at will be relevant not only for new-build, but also for retrofit of large public, industrial or office structures. The SBEC's director, structural engineer Daniel Pillai, says that the focus on the building envelope (external and internal roofs and walls) is important because it has the potential to play a far more proactive role during a building’s life, and provide sources of renewable energy. 'Naturally,' he says, 'since one partner is Tata Steel, the solution will involve this material, but this focus is far from exclusive. We are looking at a variety of ways in which the envelope can capture, store and release energy.' Tata bought Corus Steel in 2010. One of the products Corus had developed and which the SBEC is researching is a transpired solar collector (TSC). This involves an equator-facing wall clad with steel that is coated with special solar absorbing paint. The cladding, mounted a few inches from the wall, is perforated with thousands of tiny holes. The sun heats up the metal, and fans at the top of the gap draw up the heated air into a Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system with heat recovery. Ducting transmits the heated air around the building...Air source heat pumps have come under some criticism lately for not being sufficiently efficient to warrant use. But the SBEC hopes that using solar pre-heated air will improve their performance, and will be checking this. Later in the project they will be investigating other means of cooling buildings, perhaps using solar thermal heat engines to drive adsorption chillers.... The Low Carbon Research Institute, housed in the building, is a team of 18 people drawn from Tata Steel, LCRI, Welsh School of Architecture and other industry specialists, partly funded by the Higher Education Funding Council For Wales (HEFCW) and £34m from the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO). Their work involves developing pre-finished steel products that deliver efficient energy functionality, and turning them into roof and wall components that will work on all building types. An additional and connected centre, the PV Accelerator Centre, is developing a photovoltaic pre-finished steel product and its manufacturing process. It is using the next generation of dye-sensitised PV technology, which works on a principle similar to photosynthesis in plants. This product performs well in all light conditions and will hopefully make solar electricity much cheaper and easier to use. This £11 million project has operated jointly with Australian company Dyesol, funded by £5 million from the Welsh Assembly Government."
Three-year project to develop the next generation of sustainable construction technology
Energy and Environmental Management, 7 April 2011

"Solar panel installations may surge in the next two years as the cost of generating electricity from the sun rivals coal-fueled plants, industry executives and analysts said. Large photovoltaic projects will cost $1.45 a watt to build by 2020, half the current price, Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimated today. The London-based research company says solar is viable against fossil fuels on the electric grid in the most sunny regions such as the Middle East. 'We are already in this phase change and are very close to grid parity,' Shawn Qu, chief executive officer of Canadian Solar Inc. (CSIQ), said in an interview. 'In many markets, solar is already competitive with peak electricity prices, such as in California and Japan.' Chinese companies such as JA Solar Holdings Ltd., Canadian Solar and Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. are making panels cheaper, fueled by better cell technology and more streamlined manufacturing processes. That’s making solar economical in more places and will put it in competition with coal, without subsidies, in the coming years, New Energy Finance said. 'The most powerful driver in our industry is the relentless reduction of cost,' Michael Liebreich, chief executive officer of New Energy Finance, said at the company’s annual conference in New York yesterday. 'In a decade the cost of solar projects is going to halve again.'... 'System costs have declined 5 percent to 8 percent (a year), and we will continue to see that,' SolarCity Inc. CEO Lyndon Rive said in an interview."
Solar Energy Costs May Already Rival Coal, Spurring Installation Boom
Bloomberg, 6 April 2011

"Falling solar-panel prices, generous government subsidies and rising power costs are creating a new breed of solar enthusiasts: people who are installing panels on their roof because they see it as a good investment, not because they are out to save the world..... There is debate, though, about whether it makes sense to subsidize solar power, as it is more expensive than power generated from coal or natural gas. The Energy Department estimates that solar panels, all in, cost about $210 for each megawatt hour, more than twice as much as a coal, which runs about $95, and nearly twice as much as natural gas, which costs about $125. Those who support subsidies say they are necessary to drive demand to achieve market scale so that prices continue to drop. Opponents say the government supports only make power more expensive for all users. Right now, the sun contributes only 0.2% of the power on the electric grid. Even if that doubles in the next five years, as expected, it will remain a teeny portion. Solar has long held great promise. The sun is cranking exactly when power demand is typically highest and electricity is most expensive—during daylight hours. And residential installations can feed power directly into homes and power grids without needing to build giant new transmission lines. Installing panels is hailed as a green job that can't be outsourced. In 2009, government support for residential solar systems was about $600 million, according to Larry Sherwood, a consultant who tracks solar programs for the Interstate Renewable Energy Council. That is split roughly evenly between federal tax credits and rebates paid for by electricity customers."
Solar Gains Traction—Thanks to Subsidies
Wall St Journal, 31 March 2011

"New studies conducted by researchers at the Colorado School of Mines could significantly improve the efficiency of solar cells. Mark Lusk and his colleagues' latest work describes how the size of light-absorbing particles-quantum dots-affects the particles' ability to transfer energy to electrons to generate electricity. The advance provides evidence to support a controversial idea, called multiple-exciton generation (MEG), which theorizes that it is possible for an electron that has absorbed light energy, called an exciton, to transfer that energy to more than one electron, resulting in more electricity from the same amount of absorbed light. Quantum dots are man-made atoms that confine electrons to a small space. They have atomic-like behavior that results in unusual electronic properties on a nanoscale. These unique properties may be particularly valuable in tailoring the way light interacts with matter....For this study, Lusk and collaborators used a National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported high performance computer cluster to quantify the relationship between the rate of MEG and quantum dot size. They found that each dot has a slice of the solar spectrum for which it is best suited to perform MEG and that smaller dots carry out MEG for their slice more efficiently than larger dots. This implies that solar cells made of quantum dots specifically tuned to the solar spectrum would be much more efficient than solar cells made of material that is not fabricated with quantum dots. According to Lusk, 'We can now design nanostructured materials that generate more than one exciton from a single photon of light, putting to good use a large portion of the energy that would otherwise just heat up a solar cell.' The results are published in the April issue of the journal ACS Nano."
Quantum dots could make solar panels more efficient
ANI, 26 March 2011

"Wind and solar power may compete with fossil fuels, without aid from government subsidies, within the next decade, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said. 'It’s not going to be three decades,' Chu said today at an event in Washington sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trust. Chu is calling for a national energy policy that will promote the use of clean-energy technologies. The U.S. should invest in advanced battery technologies, biofuels and efficient high-voltage transmission systems, Chu said. China and other nations are promoting policies to support cleaner energy. 'This is a race,' he said. Small, modular nuclear reactors, less than a third the size of current units, are “much, much safer” than traditional reactors, which remain safe, Chu said. Chu was speaking about the role that future generations of nuclear reactors might play in U.S. energy policy."
Wind, Solar May Be Competitive With Coal Without Aid in Decade, Chu Says
Bloomberg, 23 March 2011

"Electric car buyers said they're purchasing solar panels to support their new, electricity-intensive driving habits.The first in the most recent wave of plug-in electric cars rolled out last year in San Diego County, an all-electric vehicle from Nissan, followed a month later by Chevy's mostly electric Volt. While there's no hard data for Volt owners, 40 percent of Leaf owners have solar panels, according to the California Center for Sustainable Energy, a San Diego nonprofit. Owners reached by the North County Times said they decided on solar panels at the same time they decided on electric cars, both to reduce their contributions to global warming and to offset the extra electricity they'd have to buy for their new vehicles.... 'When a person goes solar and buys an electric car, they essentially have their own gas station on their roof,' said Daniel Sullivan, founder of Sullivan Solar Power in San Diego. Many owners also said they'd come out ahead financially, thanks to the way California utilities bill for power. The price of electricity in California escalates as customers' consumption passes usage plateaus. Owning an electric car not only adds to total usage, but it also puts more customers into the most expensive tiers of electricity. Using solar panels to generate electricity and pump it back into the grid allows customers to reduce their usage, and to pay a lower rate for the power they use, lowering their bills. San Diego Gas & Electric Co. would prefer car owners use an alternate billing system in which the owners pay for power priced on when it's used. Electricity used in the middle of the day, when it's most needed in offices and factories, costs the most, while power at night is the cheapest, said SDG&E spokesman Art Larson."
ENERGY: Electric car owners prone to going solar
North County Times, 20 March 2011

"Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA), the U.S. electric carmaker backed by Daimler AG (DAI) and Toyota Motor Corp. (7203), said its battery-powered sedan that goes on sale next year will be profitable even on the base model that will sell for $57,400. That price will be the entry point after the first 1,000 'Signature Series' of its all-electric Model S sedan built next year sell for at least $20,000 more than the base model, the company said March 7. All grades of the car will make money, said J.B. Straubel, Tesla’s chief technology officer. 'We can’t sell this car at a loss,' Straubel told reporters today at Tesla’s Palo Alto, California, headquarters. 'We know what the targets are, what the materials cost. Tesla is enormously more capable than we were four to five years ago.'...An element helping hold down costs for the sedan that goes on sale in mid-2012 is cheaper, higher-powered lithium-ion cells specifically designed for electric vehicles, Straubel said. There may also be opportunities to get lower prices for parts and materials from its Toyota and Daimler affiliations, he said.... For example, the Model S will use an air-conditioning system modified from that in Toyota’s Prius that’s designed for electric vehicles, Straubel said. ..... The 1,000 'Signature Series' Model S cars will be able to travel as far as 300 miles per charge. The base-level Model S, which goes 160 miles per charge, is about $57,400, and a version able to go about 230 miles will be about $67,400, the company said."
Tesla Says Model S Sedan to Be Profitable Even on Base Model
Bloomberg, 17 March 2011

"Solar greenhouses have played a role in China’s agricultural scene for some time, but new innovations are taking them to the next level in addressing the global energy crisis and climate change. A recently published report based on 20 years of systematic studies from the College of Agronomy and Biotechnology at China Agricultural University proposes that solar greenhouses can greatly improve current sustainability initiatives and goals worldwide."
China’s Solution: The Solar Greenhouse
Buildings, March 2011

"Thousands of charging points for electrical cars are to be installed across Britain over the next two years, the Government will say today. The scheme is part of a new Carbon Plan, launched today by deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Energy secretary Chris Huhne, which sets deadlines to help turn Britain into a greener economy. The Government’s plan says it wants to have developed a 'nationwide strategy to promote the installation of electric vehicle infrastructure' by June this year. The 83 page plan commits the Government to overseeing 'up to 8,500 charging points installed across the UK by 2013', costing up to £30million. It says: 'If we are to see large-scale take-up of electric vehicles as a major form of road transport, developing charging infrastructure will be vital'. The money will pay for charging points in 'streets, homes and sites such as car parks and commercial retail and leisure facilities', the plan says. The commitment comes despite recent concern about that not enough demand to support more charging points."
Thousands of charging points to be installed across UK over next two years, Government to say
Telegraph, 8 March 2011

"The world added about 16 gigawatts of new solar photovoltaic (PV) power in 2010, double the growth seen a year earlier, the European Photovoltaic Industry Association told Reuters on Monday. Uncertainty about Italian figures made a precise figure difficult, after an end-of-year rush to qualify for a higher solar power price premium, called a feed-in tariff. The global increase compared with 7.2 GW of new capacity in 2009, confounding a financial crisis and reflecting sharp falls in solar panel prices and generous subsidies, especially in Germany and Italy. "Solar PV is continuing to develop in countries that put a feed-in tariff in place," said EPIA economist Gaetan Masson. The added capacity in 2010 brought cumulative, global solar PV power to nearly 40 GW, up 70 percent from nearly 23 GW in 2009. Europe dominated new solar power installations last year, at about 13 gigawatts (GW), Masson estimated, with Germany and Italy accounting for nearly 7 GW and about 3 GW respectively. Estimates for the other major European players included the Czech Republic (1.3 GW), France (0.5 GW), Spain (0.4), Belgium (0.25) and Greece (0.2). Outside Europe, the biggest markets were Japan (about 1 GW), United States (0.8 GW) and China (0.4 GW). Solar panel prices have halved since 2007, say analysts, at about $1.8 per watt at the end of 2010 compared with $3.7 three years earlier."
Global solar power growth doubled in 2010: study
Reuters, 14 February 2011

"Solar companies have warned of 'massive uncertainty' hanging over the market, after the Government said it would review subsidies for renewable electricity. The subsidies, called feed-in tarrifs, were intended as a way to pay householders above market rates to generate electricity from solar panels and small wind turbines on their roofs. However, large-scale 'photovoltaic farms' have been springing up all over the countryside to take advantage of the generous offer. It was revealed in The Telegraph that the Government was ready to act against 'hot money and speculators' soaking up much of the £360m subsidies."
Blow to companies over solar power subsidies
Telegraph, 8 February 2011

"Seizing on what President Obama called this generation's 'Sputnik moment,' the federal government has begun an effort to slash the cost of solar power by 75 percent and reclaim America's lead in the fast-growing global industry. The effort, called SunShot, aims to make photovoltaic solar power as inexpensive as electricity from plants burning fossil fuels by the end of the decade. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Friday the U.S. government would refocus its existing solar programs, which costs about $200 million a year. He also announced $27 million in new funding for companies exploring new solar technologies, including three in the Bay Area. Chu has repeatedly warned that the United States risks losing its leadership in green technology to other countries, a theme Obama seized upon last week in his State of the Union address. In just a few short years, China has become the world's dominant maker of solar cells, a position the United States held for decades. Obama likened this moment in history to Sputnik's launch in 1957, which shocked the United States into realizing that other nations could match or beat American technical prowess. The 'moon shot' effort that followed Sputnik provided the inspiration for SunShot's name. 'This is an economic opportunity that we can't afford not to participate in, and it will be a race,' said Chu, discussing the new program Friday. 'It's an internationally competitive world, and in the end, the best technology is going to win.' The program will try to lower the cost of utility-size solar installations to about $1 per watt, which translates into an electricity cost of 6 cents per kilowatt hour. Although the price of solar panels has plunged more than 40 percent in the past two years, solar remains a relatively expensive way to generate electricity. When the costs of financing, construction, operations and fuel are included, electricity from a new natural gas plant costs 12 cents per kilowatt hour, according to the California Energy Commission. Electricity from a large photovoltaic installation, meanwhile, costs 26 cents per kilowatt hour. 'As an industry, we can easily see a two (times) cost reduction over the next decade,' said Richard Swanson, co-founder and president emeritus of SunPower Corp. in San Jose. 'A four (times) cost reduction ... would be a huge boost to clean energy and is certainly not possible, in my view, without the support of the Department of Energy.'"
Solar power: U.S. tries to cut costs, regain edge
San Francisco Chronicle, 5 February 2011

"The U.S. Department of Energy said on Friday it will spend $27 million on a new effort to reduce the costs of solar power by 75 percent by the end of the decade in a bid to make the renewable power source as cheap as fossil fuels. Energy Secretary Steven Chu dubbed the program a 'sun shot' that was patterned on President John F. Kennedy's 'moon shot' goal in the 1960s that called for the United States to land a man on the moon. Chu said cutting the cost of installed solar power by 75 percent would put the price at about $1 per watt, he said, or about 6 cents per kilowatt hour. 'That would make solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of energy without subsidies of any kind,' he told a conference call. Costs for to install photovoltaic solar panels, which turn sunlight directly into electricity, currently run above 22 cents per kilowatt per hour, although federal grants and state incentives can trim that to below 15 cents for large projects. Many U.S. solar industry advocates have long complained that the Chinese government's support of its solar companies has enabled its companies to take market share from U.S. manufacturers."
U.S. DOE seeks to cut solar costs by 75 pct
Reuters, 4 February 2011

"The next generation of cheaper, thinner and better solar cells could come courtesy of a technology found right in our homes and offices: inkjet printers. As their name implies, inkjet printers squirt ink onto a material, such as a paper document or the silicon of a solar cell. The well-controlled, contactless deposition of inkjetting should make possible solar cells that are half as thick, yet more efficient at, soaking up the sun's rays than today's industry standard. 'Inkjet is very good at putting down patterned material – anything that has a specific layout,' said Maikel van Hest, a senior scientist at the National Center for Photovoltaics at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colo. Such precision allows for the placement of thinner metallic grids on silicon solar cells that serve as collectors of sun-generated electricity. These silver 'finger' strips crisscrossing solar cells measure in the 100- to 120-micrometer — or micron — range, whereas inkjet-deposited lines can be as narrow as 50 or even 20 microns, van Hest said. The thinner contacts expose more of a solar cell's silicon to sunlight, which translates into more electricity generation. '(These lines) mean less shadows and more light onto the solar cell,' said van Hest."
Inkjet printers may be the future of solar cells
TechNewsDaily, 28 January 2011

"Solar-power arrays have sprouted up on rooftops and parking garages across Tucson and Arizona. The next big wave of solar development will be across expanses of desert, as Tucson Electric Power Co. and other Arizona utilities bring online hundreds of megawatts worth of large, utility-scale solar-power plants. Last year, state regulators approved some 150 megawatts of renewable-energy projects to be owned by TEP or developed under power-purchase contracts with the utility, including more than 130 megawatts of new solar plants by 2013. Six of those projects are expected to go online by the end of this year. One megawatt, or 1 million watts, worth of solar capacity is roughly enough to power about 160 typical TEP homes, the utility estimates. On top of those projects, the Arizona Corporation Commission has approved TEP's plan to spend up to $28 million annually for about 7 MW of new company-owned or contracted solar-power capacity each year through 2014. And the state's biggest power company, Phoenix-based Arizona Public Service Co., plans to increase its solar output more than sevenfold by 2013, with major utility-scale projects including an 18-MW photovoltaic plant and a massive, 280-MW concentrating solar thermal power plant, both in the sun-soaked desert near Gila Bend. The Big Solar buildout is happening nationwide. Driven by taxpayer subsidies, state renewable-energy mandates and plunging equipment costs, the U.S. market for utility-scale solar energy farms is expected to double each year between 2010 and 2015, to $8 billion, according to a study released in November by GreenTech Media, a Cambridge, Mass.-based research group. In 2010, 274 MW of utility-scale solar plants were expected to be connected to the grid - a 370 percent increase from 2009. GreenTech projects are planned to double in 2011 and reach 5,600 MW by 2015."
Solar-power buildup going large-scale across Arizona
Arizona Daily Star, 9 January 2011


"According to a new article published by a team of researchers from CalTech and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology there may be a new way to harness the energy of solar even when the sun is not shining. Led by Sossina Haile, she along with her colleagues are looking at ways to produce hydrogen and syngasses by using solar funnels. In an article, 'High-Flux Solar-Driven Thermochemical Dissociation of CO2 and H2O Using Nonstoichiometric Ceria,' published in the December 24, 2010 edition of Science magazine, the research team has developed a device that is able concentrate solar radiation and heat it up to 1,600 degrees Celsius. In simple terms, the heat that results from this process is then used to split water or carbon dioxide into hydrogen. As described in an article in Clean Energy, the device consists of a quartz lens that focuses the solar radiation on a reaction chamber that is internally reflective and captures most of the photons that enter and converts them to heat. The device heats up at a rate of 140 degrees Celsius a minute until it reaches about 1,250 degrees Celsius, and stabilizing at more than 1,400 degrees Celsius. Through a two-step process, the device’s catalyst ceria (cerium dioxide) converts CO2 or water into its constituent elements....'We calculated efficiency should be between 15 percent and 19 percent. We’re working with University of Minnesota on that. Right now it’s limited by the thermal design of the reactor. We need a better thermal design,' Haile concluded."
Solar Funnels Convert Sun into Hydrogen
Domestic Fuel, 30 December 2010

"An interestingly novel way of comparing solar power with nuclear power finds that solar easily bests nuclear. Ken Zweibel has an analysis at The Solar Review, that compares the two kinds of electrical energy, in terms of how much power is packed into each gram of its respective material: cadmium telluride, versus uranium. He provides data showing that CdTe thin film solar power (using cadmium telluride) takes ten times less PV material to make 1 kilowatt hour of electricity, than nuclear uses of uranium, to make an identical 1 kilowatt hour of electricity. This is even comparing the two as if solar 'used up' each gram of cadmium telluride the way that nuclear power uses up its uranium fuel (pretty much – some can be recycled, theoretically). But of course, solar doesn’t burn up fuel. You can get electricity from the same grams of PV material for at least thirty years, and then the material can be recycled and still used again. By contrast, the equivalent grams of nuclear uranium must be replaced with newly mined uranium once the first has yielded its energy.... So, compared with nuclear, solar packs a punch: using one-tenth as much material to make the same power. But check out the comparison to coal. According to his calculations, even assuming just thirty years use, then tossing the solar, the thin film photovoltaic material uses just five millionths of the weight of coal needed to make the same kilowatt hour of electricity. 'Compared to coal, of course, the numbers are out of this world. These differences in resource needs bear on the ultimate sustainability of the PV in comparison to other more resource-intense energy technologies'."
Compared Gram for Gram, Solar is Ten Times More Powerful than Nuclear
Cleantechica, 23 December 2010

"It’s a segment one rarely hears about, even in the supercharged discussions about the country’s solar future and clean energy, but distributed solar power seems to have left behind its bigger cousin in the race to achieving business-model sustainability. As big companies fall over one another to convert the Thar desert into a sea of solar panels with government subsidies, Amit Chugh, the pioneer of distributed solar sector in the country, says he is happy to stand and watch. Distributed solar refers to power that’s generated from panels that doesn’t go into a grid, but straight to the user. 'Please do not subsidise this in an unsustainable manner,' says Chugh, who was chronicled in 2007 by Time magazine for abandoning a cushy job with a multinational in Malaysia and starting out on a journey to sell solar panels and lamps to the tens of millions of Indians still untouched by electricity. Among the hue and cry of industry demanding higher and higher subsidies to roll out solar projects, Chugh strikes a diffident pose, calling subsidies a ‘market spoiler’. While it may appear to be superficial bravado at first, a look at Chugh’s achievements forces one to rethink. As a founder of Cosmic Ignite along with Stanford University alumni Matt Scott, the finance-professional turned green energy entrepreneur is responsible for bringing solar power to more than one lakh families in the most backward of India’s districts. 'Yes, we manage to make a profit,' he said. The Mighty Light, a solar light that also powers a radio and can charge a cellphone, sells for just Rs1,000. It includes a small solar panel that is kept outside the home/hut during the day. Some nifty innovation and steadily declining solar module prices has meant Mighty Light sells for half the price it used to three years back. 'Our product costs Rs1,000 and gives 24 hours of light on one charge. It is actually cheaper than kerosene when you spread it over the full lifetime,' Chugh said. 'The solution, technologically, is there.. If 700 million people can buy a mobile phone that costs Rs3,000 or more, they can surely spend Rs1,000 for energy,' he said. What is missing, Chugh points out, are market ‘enablers’. In other words, while it may indeed be cheaper than a kerosene in the long run, how does one convince the ‘bottom of the Indian pyramid’ to save up and shell out Rs1,000 at one go? 'Most of them don’t even have land to give as collateral,' Chugh said. Having attacked the bottom of the pyramid for more than three years, he is wary of marketing evangelists. 'The fortune is not there now, don’t believe it,' he said, having seen some of his earlier products fail to attract his target customers. 'There’s this big bubble of the so-called fortune at thebottom of the pyramid,” said Chugh, while attending the TIE Entrepreneur Summit in New Delhi last week. Chugh is currently attacking the problem by tying up with microfinance players, instead of trying to take advantage of some of the old government schemes that provide small subsidies to families that buy solar lanterns.... Unlike coal and hydro, solar lends itself to being produced where it is consumed. As a result, solar power does not have the handicap of losing 35% in transmission as in the case of traditional power that is carried from a big plant in one corner of the country to another where consumers exist. However, under the Centre’s Solar Mission, out of the 1,300 mw of capacity to be built in three years, 1,000 mw is to be in centralised plants called solar farms. But for the remaining 300 mw, the government is yet to announce any incentive scheme or programme."
Pioneer avers solar power’s now cheaper than kerosene
DNA (India), 27 December 2010

"Spain's government approved Thursday a 30% cut to solar power subsidies that may result in savings of around EUR740 million, but is also likely to anger international investors in the sector."
Spain Confirms 30% Cut To Solar Power Subsidies
Wall St Journal, 23 December 2010

"U.S. researchers say they've developed a new kind of solar cell that can generate energy even at night, promising a new form of renewable energy. The key is their ability to harvest infrared radiation as well as visible light, Steven Novack at the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls says. Almost half of the available energy in the spectrum of solar radiation resides in the infrared band, and infrared is re-emitted as heat by the Earth's surface after the sun has gone down, meaning the cells can even capture some energy during the night, he says. Novack estimates a complete system using the new cells would have an overall efficiency of 46 percent, whereas the most efficient current silicon solar cells top out at about 25 percent. Also, currently solar cells can only produce their top output in a narrow range of conditions. For example, if the sun is in the wrong position, sunlight is reflected off a silicone solar cell instead of being absorbed to create energy. The new cells can absorb radiation at a variety of angles, the researchers say."
New solar cells could even work at night
United Press International, 20 December 2010

"The National Renewable Energy Labratory (NREL) recently tested thin-film solar modules made by MiaSolé, and verified that their energy conversion efficiency rate hit 15.7 percent, up from 14.3 percent last year. The company boasted about the number, and several news outlets touted the results. Does it mean the performance gap between thin-film and crystalline solar modules is closing? Could thin-film take a bite out of the market for crystalline panels in the U.S., soon? Clean tech analysts and engineers believe that thin-film solar is not likely to catch up to crystalline in terms of efficiency any time soon. Neither will thin-film solar modules steal market share from crystalline in 2011, they predict....Of all thin-film technologies, CIGS modules demonstrate the greatest energy conversion efficiency, and power output per square meter. CIGS cells require less energy for production than crystalline cells. Thin film in general requires less expensive semiconductor material, and fewer process steps than it takes to make crystalline modules, according to NREL research. Manufacturing costs keep the price of thin-film modules comparatively low, today."
Thin Film Solar Catching Up To Crystalline Panels On Efficiency?
GreenTech, 8 December 2010

"Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory researchers have improved the efficiency of polymer solar cells through the use of a new process that increases light absorption.... Together, these researchers have created a new process that increases the efficiency of solar cells. To do this, researchers took flexible, lightweight polymers and added a textured substrate pattern that provided a uniform and thin light-absorbing layer. Also, this textured substrate pattern remains uniformly thin when going up and down the flat-topped ridges, which are less than a millionth of a meter high. The polymer solar cells were indeed much more efficient with this layer, as they were able to absorb more sunlight within the ridges. The absorbing layer was also able to maintain its electrical transport properties. 'Our technology efficiently utilizes the light-trapping scheme,' said Chaudhary. 'And so solar cell efficiency improved by 20 percent.'.... Not only does this light-absorbing layer make the solar cells 20 percent more efficient, but after testing the polymer solar cells, Chaudhary and fellow researchers found that the amount of light absorbed at the red/near infrared band edge 'increased by 100 percent over flat cells.' This study was published in Advanced Materials."
New Light-absorbing Layer Makes Polymer Solar Cells More Efficient
DailyTech, 3 December 2010

"Sharp Manufacturing UK, part of Japan's Sharp Corp (6753.T), will spend $56 million to expand its solar manufacturing plant in Wrexham, the Welsh Assembly Government said on Thursday. The investment will add several hundred new jobs to the 750 workers already employed, the government said in a statement."
Sharp to invest $56 mln to expand Welsh solar plant
Reuters, 2 December 2010

"Maryland-based New Energy Technologies, Inc., demonstrated the technology in Florida back in September with a small-scale working prototype (see this story). Today the company released details on how it will accelerate development to bring the technology to market. Over the next year it will work to improve solar cell efficiency and performance, increase the transparency of coated glass surfaces and improve the durability of the system to ensure long-term performance. As it works to scale-up its current prototype system, New Energy intends to develop low-cost manufacturing methods, although it has already indicated that the application of the coating to glass can be carried out at room temperatures, with existing commercially-available equipment. The company will also seek more patents to protect its intellectual property, secure third-party certification of the SolarWindow module performance and pursue commercial partnerships. John A. Conklin, President & CEO of New Energy Technologies, Inc., said: 'In upcoming quarters and the year ahead, we anticipate undertaking significant efforts to accelerate our SolarWindow towards commercialization. 'Our priorities include the development of additional patent protection, improved manufacturability, increased power production, advanced power output modeling, and attracting management-level talent able to help advance our breakthrough technology from the research-bench to commercial market,' explained Mr. Conklin. New Energy Technology’s patent-pending process allows energy to be generated from natural and artificial light. It uses some of the world’s smallest functional solar cells, which measure a quarter the size of a grain of rice. The company suggests its SolarWindow technology would turn otherwise passive window panes into solar power-generating panels on five million commercial buildings and 80 million detached homes across America. Claims are that the technology would outperform conventional rooftop solar installations by more than 300% when applied to facades of commercial towers. Mr Conklin said: 'Our demonstration of SolarWindow’s ability to generate both current and voltage on glass surfaces, while remaining see-through, is an incredible technical achievement and marks a pivotal maturation point for New Energy, where we have transitioned from early research towards product development, and eventual commercial launch.'"
Firm sets out plans for spray-on solar window technology, 23 November 2010

"With the Government of India emphasising on green energy, the use of solar power and other renewable energy sources is likely to increase in the coming decades, an industry expert said. The electricity generation from solar photovoltaic is expected to grow at Compounded Average Annual Growth Rate (CAAGR) of 36.4 per cent by 2035, Martin Daniel, editor of Platts Power in Asia, which is the leading global provider of information on the Asia electric power industry, said quoting a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA). 'Alternative sources of energy will play an important role in power generation in India over the next 15 years, while the production of coal-based power is likely to reduce,' Daniel said. As per the report, which has considered drafting and implementation of new policies for use of renewable energy as a base for computing the power generation by 2035, the share of coal-based power will be 52%, of the total generated power, as compared to its contribution in 2008, which was nearly 69%. As against this, the share of renewable energy from sources like wind, biomass and waste, gas, nuclear and solar PV will increase to 6%, 4 %, 14%, 6% and 3%, respectively, by 2035, he said quoting the report. Of this, the solar PV and biomass based power had an almost 0% share in the total power generation in 2008, while the share of nuclear, gas and wind based energy was 2 %, 10% and 2% respectively, he said."
Use of solar power may rise in coming decades: Expert
Press Trust Of India, 22 November 2010

"Solar energy and biofuels are on track to become economically competitive against conventional power sources within a few years to a decade, the Boston Consulting Group said on Wednesday. Wind power and electric cars face hurdles to massive adoption, though, analysts at the consulting firm said in a report....Concentrated solar, which uses the sun's heat to run a boiler to produce power, had a particularly strong outlook because plants can be built to hold heat for hours, allowing them to overcome problems from cloudy days -- or even nightfall, the report said.....Biofuels made from non-food sources such as switchgrass could be competitive with $3/gallon gasoline by 2012 to 2015, as costs of enzymes and feedstock fuels fall and the benefits of large-scale production kick in. The projections were based on a combination of forecasts for materials, extrapolation of previous technological progress, and analysis of potential barriers toward rolling out new technologies on a large scale. Thus while the cost of photovoltaic solar panels is expected to fall precipitously, without some form of energy storage they and land-based wind farms face challenges compared with other technologies, the group said."
Concentrated solar, biofuels competitive soon: BCG
Reuters, 10 November 2010

"California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger broke ground Wednesday on what was touted as the world's largest solar-energy project.  The 370-megawatt Ivanpa Solar Electric Generating System is scheduled to go online in 2013 and produce enough energy to power 140,000 US homes. Situated in southern California's Mojave Desert, the 2-billion- dollar project covers close to 1,500 hectares and will include 3,600 billboard-sized mirrors, arranged in concentric circles around a central tower. The mirrors will focus the sun's rays on the tower to create steam that will run a turbine. 'Some people look out into the desert and see miles and miles of emptiness,' Schwarzenegger said at the event. 'I see miles and miles of gold mine. The construction of this renewable energy plant is great news for our state and further proof that it is possible to both protect the environment and grow the economy.'"
Schwarzenegger breaks ground on world's largest solar-energy plant
Deutsche Press Agentur, 27 October 2010

"An economically-sound solution to solar power comes from Tata Steel’s Corus and Swansea University researchers, who developed a technology that uses steel sheets for more efficient dye-sensitized solar cells. This kind of solar cell would work very well in diffused sunlight, in countries where the weather is generally cloudy and countries at higher latitudes. Also, the technology could be implemented in automobiles, whose paints could be actually active dyes that would charge their batteries or electrolyze water and create pure hydrogen for the fuel cell. Sun Catalytix, a US-based company, already delivers an integrated solution containing solar cells, low-cost catalysts and fuel cells that could be placed on just about any electric car. The printing process for these dyes has also already been mastered by Corus, Tata’s European subsidiary, which is building a new plant for the production of steel sheets in Europe. The need for solar cells that are also efficient in low light conditions is pretty big nowadays, since the Sun doesn’t shine as brightly in all countries. Tata’s efforts to bring this plan to reality may also prove fruitful in the not-so-distant future."
Tata Using Steel As Substrate For Cheap Solar Cells
IBTimes, 26 October 2010

"Rather than close the blinds on a sunny day, perhaps you'll pull down the solar panel. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology here today presented early results of research projects funded by Italian oil company Eni, including paper-thin solar cells, which could be used as window covers, and a paper-based material to collect oil spilled in water. MIT showed prototypes of paper solar cells able to generate enough current to light a small LED display. A commercial solar paper device could be available in five years, said chemical engineering professor Karen Gleason, whose lab is doing the work."
MIT's new paper chase: Cheap solar cells
Cnet News, 18 October 2010

"The United States now has more than 35GW of installed wind energy, enough to power close to 10 million homes. Close on the heels of this ongoing renewable energy revolution is another green technology: By next year tens of thousands of Nissan LEAFs, Chevy Volts, and other electric vehicles will start rolling off assembly lines. The electricity generation and transportation sectors may seem like two disparate pieces of a puzzle, but in fact they may end up being intimately related. The connection comes in the form of the vehicle-to-grid concept, in which a large electric vehicle (EV) fleet — essentially a group of rechargeable batteries that spend most of their time sitting in driveways and garages — might be used to store excess power when demand is low and feed it back to the grid when demand is high. Utilities and electricity wholesalers would pay the EV owners for providing that power. Vehicle-to-grid, or V2G, is not a new idea. In fact, it's been floating around environmental and green tech circles for a decade at least. But it has always had the tough-to-shed image of a utopian technology. Now, though, V2G — as well as simpler schemes based on smart-timed charging of the vehicles — is slowly becoming reality, evolving in quiet synergy with the worldwide push for renewable energy. The main drawback of wind and solar power has always been their intermittency: By now it is more than a cliché to say that the wind doesn't always blow and the sun doesn't always shine. To some extent, that claim is specious: Existing power supplies also vary by huge amounts, and flexible generators, such as natural gas power plants, are called on to balance out the blips. This is called frequency regulation. Those generators can handle only so much variation, though, says Willett Kempton, director of the Center for Carbon Free Power Integration at the University of Delaware and one of the pioneers of the V2G concept. 'And also, we'd rather not be using those generators at all. When you get to 40 percent, 50 percent generation coming from renewables, you need some kind of storage, and this [V2G] is a way of getting storage on the system.' That storage takes the form of the lithium-ion battery pack on board most EVs being produced today. For V2G to work, though, the cars need to be able to communicate with system operators running the electrical grid — this can be accomplished with a simple Internet connection that could be built into the car's plug. That communication link and a power converter that lets electricity flow both in and out of the battery will allow an overtaxed electrical grid to draw power from a group of cars, and then charge them when there is plenty of electricity to go around. If renewable energy ever supplies a sizeable portion of a nation's power needs, using EVs as a diffuse network for storing electricity — and then feeding it back to the grid on demand — could be an important tool in decarbonizing the economy."
How electric cars could become a giant battery for renewable energy
Guardian, 15 October 2010

"In an industry-wide effort to cut the cost of solar power, panel manufacturers are using electronics to boost efficiency and get more bang for the solar buck. Suntech, a large Chinese panel maker, is partnering with three companies to integrate electronics onto its panels to optimize the output and ease installation. 'Smart' solar panels is likely one of the technology trends to emerge at the annual Solar Power International (SPI) conference next week in Los Angeles. Companies developing these technologies say that making efficiency improvements in panels represents one of the best ways to improve the economics of solar photovoltaics. Because of higher manufacturing volumes and price competition, the cost per watt of solar panels themselves continues to decline. But about half of the end cost to consumers--called the balance of system in industry parlance--is tied up in the wiring, electronics, and installation. Enphase Energy on Tuesday said that it will collaborate with Suntech to explore the development of an 'AC module' which uses Enphase's microinverters. Enphase next week at SPI plans to demonstrate the latest version of its microinverter technology, which will be available in the first half of next year, according to the company. Traditionally, arrays of solar photovoltaic panels are wired to an inverter which converts the aggregated direct current from panels to household alternating current. In the past few years, companies have developed improved microinverters which are fitted directly onto the panel. In addition to simplified wiring, microinverters boost the overall output of an array because shading of one panel won't affect other panels connected to it, as happens with a centralized inverter."
'Smart' solar panels wring more juice to lower cost
CNet News, 8 October 2010

"Developing nations in Asia, it seems, are finally seeing the light. In May, the Asian Development Bank started a major drive to promote solar power across the region. Last year, the Indian government approved an ambitious National Solar Mission, which seeks a huge increase in the country’s solar-energy capabilities. Bangladesh, with the support of the World Bank, is aiming to have one million remote rural homes supplied with solar panels by the end of 2012. And in India, where nearly 40 percent of households have no access to electricity, companies like Selco Solar and Orb Energy have helped tens of thousands of families and small entrepreneurs purchase solar panels. All worthy causes. So worthy and sensible, in fact, that you may well ask why on earth they did not take off much earlier. The answer, as is so often the case, is political support — or, until relatively recently, the lack of it — and, inevitably, cost. 'The upfront costs of installing solar-electricity-generating farms, plus high borrowing costs and the fact that developing nations struggle to access long-term capital, have inhibited the growth of solar energy until recently,' said Seethapathy Chander, chairman of the committee on energy issues at the Asian Development Bank in Manila. ... Banks were long reluctant to lend to the poor. Increasingly, however, companies like Selco and Orb Energy have been able to convince some local banks that low-income earners are creditworthy and that solar-related credits bring in solid business in much the same way that car financing does... Cheaper panels, combined with lower interest rates since the financial crisis, have helped put solar energy systems within the financial reach of poorer nations, said Anil Cabraal, an alternative energy expert who, until his retirement from the World Bank in April, got many of the bank’s solar projects in Asia and Africa under way over the past decade. Under the solar initiative it announced this year, the Asian Development Bank hopes to help put in place solar power projects with a total capacity of 3,000 megawatts by 2013.  The total operating capacity now is less than 500 megawatts. (One megawatt is enough to cover the power demand of about 200 homes, or 1,000 people, in developing Asia.) The solar mission in India aims to have 20,000 megawatts of grid-connected solar energy by 2022, up from only about 2 megawatts now. It also wants to help increase off-grid solar energy, currently at about 20 megawatts a year, to 10 times that amount by 2013, and to 2,000 megawatts by 2022."
Asia Begins Embracing Solar Power
New York Times, 26 September 2010

"U.S. researchers say flexible, water-gel-based 'solar leaves' could be less expensive and more environmentally friendly than silicon-based solar cells. Researchers at North Carolina State University say the bendable devices are composed of water-based gel infused with light-sensitive molecules coupled with electrodes coated by carbon materials, a NCSU release reports. The molecules get 'excited' by the sun's rays to produce electricity, similar to the way plant molecules get excited to synthesize sugars in order to grow, Orlin Velev, a professor of chemical and bio-molecular engineering, says. The team hopes to 'learn how to mimic the materials by which nature harnesses solar energy' Velev says. Now that they've proven the concept, the researchers will work to fine-tune the water-based photovoltaic devices, making them even more like real leaves."
Scientists create solar-power 'leaves'
United Press International, 24 September 2010

"California regulators approved construction Wednesday of a 370-megawatt solar-thermal power plant, one of nine facilities that together will more than double U.S. solar power generation capacity. The California Energy Commission approved a plan by privately held BrightSource Energy to build the facility in the Mojave Desert in three parts."
California Regulators Approve 370-Megawatt Solar Power Plant
Wall St Journal, 22 September 2010

"The development of new organic photovoltaic (PV) technology by Cambridge University could make the installation of solar cells easier and cheaper and even allow homeowners to generate alternative energy from their windows. Cambridge University's Cavendish Laboratory and UK environmental group the Carbon Trust have jointly formed Eight19, a new company concentrating on the development of new organic solar PV technology. With organic solar PV technology, organic photovoltaics (OPV) operate differently from solar conductors on a principle similar to photosynthesis in plants. The new solar panels will be developed on flexible transparent material which can easily be unrolled, allowing them to be used more simply and with more versatility. For example the transparent plastic sheeting could be fitted to windows in the home, as head of research and development at the Carbon Trust, Dr. Robert Trezona points out, this "would revolutionize the possible applications for solar technology."
Revolutionary 'roll-out' solar cells for windows
Independent, 17 September 2010

"Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have announced a new development that could have major implications for the solar energy industry as well as for homeowners hoping to save money and help the environment. According to an announcement from the university, new 'solar funnels' use carbon nanotubes to concentrate solar energy up to 100 times more than conventional photovoltaic panels. One potential application cited by MIT was antennas that can capture energy from the sun, allowing for the next generation of solar panels to have considerably higher effectiveness. 'Instead of having your whole roof be a photovoltaic cell, you could have little spots that were tiny photovoltaic cells, with antennas that would drive photons into them,' Michael Strano, an associate professor of chemical engineering who led the research, was quoted as saying in the announcement."
MIT reports significant solar energy breakthrough
CoolerPlanet, 13 September 2010

"Researchers have demonstrated tiny solar cells just billionths of a metre across that can repair themselves, extending their useful lifetime. The cells make use of proteins from the machinery of plants, turning sunlight into electric charges that can do work. The cells simply assemble themselves from a mixture of the proteins, minute tubes of carbon and other materials. The self-repairing mechanism, reported in Nature Chemistry, could lead to much longer-lasting solar cells."
Tiny solar cells fix themselves
BBC Online, 5 September 2010

"A record number of homeowners had solar panels installed this month, according to energy regulator Ofgem. The devices have been fitted to 2,257 homes so far during August, up from 1,700 in July and 1,400 in June. More than 6,688 homes have had solar panels fitted since April, when the government's scheme to reward people who generate their own energy altered. The feed-in tariff system now enables homeowners to receive 41.3p for every unit of energy they generate. This is regardless of whether they use the energy or sell it back to the National Grid. After the panels are installed, the tariff is paid for 25 years and increased in line with inflation."
August sees record rise in UK home solar panels fitted
BBC Online, 1 September 2010

"At long last, Nissan begins taking actual orders today for the first next-generation fully electric car from a major automaker, the Leaf. More than 18,000 people who plunked down $99 to stay on the reservations list will have first crack at turning their interest into an actual order for the all-electric, five-seat car. Orders will be taken online and Nissan is still taking reservations on Leaf's website. Even though now you can actually pay for one, deliveries won't start until December. The car has a range of about 100 miles per charge. Nissan has been having inspectors make home visits and taking other steps to make sure customers will be able to recharge at home and likely be happy with the car. The base level Leaf, the SV, is priced at $33,720, Nissan says. It comes with a list of standard features, including cruise control and a navigation system."
Nissan starts selling all-electric Leaf sedan today
USA Today, 31 August 2010

"A new federal government report concludes that by 2015 the cost of solar power will be the same as the cost of power from the electrical grid and could even be less by 2030. Released this week by Vice President Joe Biden, the report predicts that the cost of generating power from rooftop solar panels will drop from the 2009 cost of $0.21 per kWh to $0.10 per kWh in 2015, which is equivalent to typical household electricity rates. Further, the cost of rooftop solar power could drop to as low as $0.06 per kWh by 2030. At that cost, solar power will be significantly cheaper than household electricity rates, allowing an average household to save more than $400 per year in electricity bills. The study focused on the impact of technological innovations funded by the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, established in 2009 in response to the U.S. financial crisis to create new jobs and spur economic activity. The $787 billion act includes $100 billion for science and technology projects including a nationwide smart energy grid, electric vehicle manufacturing, and development of regional high-speed rail systems."
Solar Power’s Price to Plummet
EcoHome, 8 August 2010

"When you think of hot climates, images of deserts often pop into your mind.  Indeed, many of the world's sunniest regions (near the equator) are also home to large deserts.  Those deserts would seem to be an ideal place to deploy solar installations -- they're hit by intense sunlight, they're relatively foliage-free for easy installation, and they don't have high concentrations of wildlife that would be impacted. Unfortunately, the soil of deserts poses a critical problem.  Sandy dust clings to panels, dramatically reducing their output. Now a team of researchers led by MIT professor Malay K. Mazumder, Ph.D has come up with a solution -- use automated cleaning technology developed for missions to Mars. The technology involves first using a transparent, electrically sensitive material deposited on glass or a transparent plastic sheet covering the panels.   Sensors monitor the levels of deposited dust on the panel.  When the dust levels get too high, a charge is applied to the coating and the dust is physically move across the panel via the charge and dumped off the edges. The procedure uses a minimal amount of energy, making it a viable cleaning solution.  It removes 90 percent of dust, greatly improving power output. And best of all, the technology has already been stress tested by NASA space probes and rovers under the harsh Martian climate....United States, Spain, Germany, the Middle East, Australia, and India all are home to large scale solar installations.  Many of these installations are in regions where water is scarce, making water-based cleaning problematic.  Professor Mazumder elaborates, 'A dust layer of one-seventh of an ounce per square yard decreases solar power conversion by 40 percent.  In Arizona, dust is deposited each month at about 4 times that amount. Deposition rates are even higher in the Middle East, Australia, and India.'"
Self-Cleaning Panel Tech Could up Solar Power Yields by 40 Percent
DailyTech, 23 August 2010

"2010 just might go down as the year solar energy gained mainstream acceptance. Stores that sell solar products are seeing major boosts in sales compared with last year, some as much as 40 percent. The sun-powered momentum is fueled by less expensive products that are made more affordable through federal tax credits and rebates at a time when utility prices are rising. Another contributing factor to the rising interest in renewable energy is the recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. 'It's made the masses realize the difficulty of getting fossil fuels,' says Rita Norton, a retired schoolteacher who invested in a solar panel electrical system several years ago for her Kansas City, Mo., Cape Cod-style home. 'More people are talking to me about solar, which is simply free energy from the sun.'"
Here comes the sun: Solar power within reach
McClatchy Newspapers, 8 August 2010

"Innovative technology used in a Chinese ‘electrical highway' could provide the solution to Europe's energy problems and ensure cheaper electricity for consumers. Sustainable power project DESERTEC aims to provide the European Union (EU), the Middle East (ME) and North Africa (NA) with electricity generated from large concentrations of solar panels located in the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East. The EU, working in close cooperation, with MENA aims to create a network of long distance power lines carrying solar power from the deserts of Africa into Europe; because the electricity is generated by solar power it would be available at a lower cost than power generated by conventional sources, which are subject to rising prices relating to supply and demand issues. Currently the technology needed to transport electricity from the desert to households in Europe is unavailable due to the large amount of power lost in transporting power over such a distance. Currently about 3 percent of electricity is lost per 1000 km of cables meaning 15 percent of power generated in the desert would be lost before it reached Europe..... However electrical company Siemens announced on August 1 the successful operation of an innovative 'electric highway in China.' The electricity carried by this highway is generated by hydropower and then transported 1,500 km from Yunnan province to the industrial heartland of Guangzhou and Shenzhen. This ‘electric highway' uses a new transformer capable of carrying 800kv, a world first in the field of power generation; this transformer ensures that less than 2 percent of power is lost in transport and the cost of electricity remains low for the Chinese consumers.  It is estimated that the successful implementation of technologies similar to those used in China for the DESERTEC project could reduce the cost of electricity to 3/4 euro cents per kWh (kilowatt hour). European statistic database Eurostat currently estimates the average cost of electricity for the household consumer at around 12 euro cents per kWh; electricity is most expensive for householders in Ireland at 18 euro cents  per kWh and cheapest for Bulgarians at 6.8 euro cents per kWh. As well as financial benefits, projects such as the one in China and DESERTEC also have huge environmental bonuses; Siemens estimate that the ‘eclectric highway' reduces CO2 emissions by 30 million tons per year, and DESERTEC would hugely reduce Europe's reliance on fossil fuels."
Power line in China could help bring cheap, sustainable electricity to the EU
Independent, 3 August 2010

"A Stanford University research group says it found a way to more than double current solar power production efficiency. The technology uses both light and heat from the sun and is inexpensive enough that, if it pans out, it might be able to compete with oil. Most current technology can either convert light into electricity at relatively low temperatures, or convert the sun’s heat at very high temperatures. Stanford engineers claim they developed a way to do both. The photon enhanced thermionic emission, or PETE, works best at high temperatures, where current photovoltaics struggle. Solar panels usually use silicon to convert photons to electricity, but only from a certain portion of the light spectrum. Unused photons generate heat in the cells, making them perform poorly and losing up to 50% of the energy reaching the solar panel. Professor Nick Melosh, who led the research group, says PETE works best at higher temperatures, making it most effective when used with solar concentrators like parabolic mirrors used in solar farms, rather than as rooftop solar panel replacements. If installed in solar farms, PETE could also pass any waste heat it can’t convert to a solar farm’s thermal conversion system. The team’s vision is to attach PETE devices to existing systems. Solar panels are often expensive because they require a lot of silicon, but one PETE device needs only about a six-inch wafer of semiconducting material, reducing the amount of investment capital needed to get it off the ground. According to the research team’s estimates, the devices could reach 60% efficiency on solar farms. Falling short of that goal could still have significant effects. The team said if they can boost efficiency to 30%, it could make the cost of solar power comparable to oil."
Stanford Heats Up Solar Power With New Harnessing Technology
GreenTech, 2 August 2010

"Vodafone Essar Ltd. unveiled a solar-powered mobile phone Tuesday that it hopes will appeal to India's rural masses who lack electricity. India has been adding close to 20 million mobile subscribers each month, but many are in rural areas where electricity supply can be patchy at best. A third of Indians don't have access to electric power, but they do get plenty of sun. Samsung, which launched a solar-powered handset about a year ago, and now Vodafone are trying to bridge the infrastructure gap."
Vodafone Brings Solar Power Mobile Phone to India
Associated Press, 27 July 2010

"The UT Administration has adopted the theme, 'generating electricity from solar power', under the Solar City initiative, for which a proposal has been made before the Union government for its approval. According to the draft plan, which proposes to accord Chandigarh a solar city status, the UT Administration has recommended energy efficiency measures for the residential and commercial sectors of the city. The plan was finalised after discussion with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). 'You install solar panels and generate electricity for your house or commercial establishment. The surplus energy generated can be transmitted to a common grid, and its value shall be deducted from the monthly electricity bill of the generating source (electricity connection holder),' said a senior UT official. Sources said that various government institutions, nationalised banks and certain private players are also in the process of generating electricity through solar power, for which talks are on with the UT Administration."
Solar energy to satiate city’s growing need for power
Express India, 19 July 2010

"A unmanned solar aircraft has smashed the world record for continuous flight. The 'Zephyr' plane, developed by UK defense technology company, QinetiQ, took off from the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona on Friday July 9. Seven days on, it is still flying high.  Zephyr program director, Jon Saltmarsh told CNN: 'It's extremely exciting. What we now have is an eternal plane. It has the same amount of fuel at the start of one day as it does at the start of another.' The aircraft has already doubled its own unofficial record of over 82 hours and smashed the previous world record for unmanned flight of 30 hours and 24 minutes, set in 2001 by U.S. aerospace company, Northrop Grumman's RQ-4A Global I."
Unmanned solar plane smashes records
CNN, 16 July 2010

"Sweden leads the European Union on renewable energy, producing 44.4 percent of its energy from renewable sources but Malta, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom lag behind. Renewable energy contributed 10.3 percent of total energy consumption in the EU27 in 2008 according to a July 13 report by the statistical Office of the European Union Eurostat. The three countries which had the highest share of renewable energy compared to total energy consumption were Sweden, Finland and Latvia, with 44.4 percent, 30.5 percent and 29.9 percent of renewable energy sources in total consumption respectively. The countries with the lowest share of renewable energy compared to total energy consumption in 2008 were Belgium (3.3 percent), the Netherlands (3.2 percent), the United Kingdom (2.2 percent), Luxembourg (2.1 percent) and finally Malta, where only 0.2 percent of  total energy consumption comes from renewable energy. Almost all member states of the European Union increased their share of renewable energy from 2006-2008. The top three countries with the largest increases in their share of renewable energy compared to total energy consumption were, Austria (24.8 percent in 2006 to 28.5 percent in 2008), Estonia (16.1 percent in 2006 to 19.1 percent in 2008) and Romania (17.5 percent in 2006 to 20.4 percent in 2008)."
Sweden leads the European Union on renewable energy
Independent, 14 July 2010

"Spain has opened the world's largest solar power station, meaning that it overtakes the US as the biggest solar generator in the world. The nation's total solar power production is now equivalent to the output of a nuclear power station. Spain is a world leader in renewable energies and has long been a producer of hydro-electricity (only China and the US have built more dams). It also has a highly developed wind power sector which, like solar power, has received generous government subsidies. The new La Florida solar plant takes Spain's solar output to 432MW, which compares with the US output of 422MW. The plant, at Alvarado, Badajoz, in the west of the country, is a parabolic trough. With this method of collecting solar energy, sunlight is reflected off a parabolic mirror on to a fluid-filled tube. The heated liquid is then used to heat steam to run the turbines. The mirror rotates during the day to follow the sun's movement. The solar farm covers 550,000 square metres (the size of around 77 football pitches) and produces 50MW of power."
Spain overtakes US with world's biggest solar power station
Guardian, 13 July 2010

"With electric vehicles on the horizon, it's going to take a lot more electricity generation to keep them charged. Sure, utilities could add more generators. But most are dirty, and they're expensive. Now comes one of the most obvious of ideas: turn parking lots into urban solar farms. We all want covered parking when we go to the work or the mall to keep our cars from becoming solar collectors themselves. And all that asphalted space is essentially wasted. So the answer that seems to be popping up around the world is to cover the lots with a roof of solar panels, generating electricity from sunlight that can either go directly into an plug-in electric cars parked in the lot, or fed back into the grid. Envision Solar in La Jolla, Calif., is one company giving the idea a try. It's already in demonstration at Dell Computer's facility in sun-baked Texas. A solar parking lot is also being tested as a prototype oat the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colo. The facility uses its solar for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Gizmodo says the installations can pack some punch. The solar parking lot at Dell generates 130 kilowatts of electricity."
Turning parking lots into vast urban solar farms
USA Today, 8 July 2010

"Germany could derive all of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2050 and become the world's first major industrial nation to kick the fossil-fuel habit, the country's Federal Environment Agency said today. The country already gets 16% of its electricity from wind, solar and other renewable sources – three times' higher than the level it had achieved 15 years ago. 'A complete conversion to renewable energy by 2050 is possible from a technical and ecological point of view," said Jochen Flasbarth, president of the Federal Environment Agency. 'It's a very realistic target based on technology that already exists – it's not a pie-in-the-sky prediction,' he said....Thanks to its Renewable Energy Act, Germany is the world leader in photovoltaics: it expects to add more than 5,000 megawatts of photovoltaic capacity this year to reach a total of 14,000 megawatts. It is also the second-biggest wind-power producer after the United States. Some 300,000 renewable energy jobs have been created in Germany in the last decade."
Electric cars must be taxed to pay for more power stations 'or National Grid could fail'
Guardian, 7 July 2010

"President Barack Obama announced Saturday the awarding of nearly 2 billion U.S. dollars to two solar energy companies as an effort to boost employment and solar power in the United States. 'We're going to keep competing aggressively to make sure the jobs and industries of the future are taking root right here in America,' Obama said in his weekly radio and online address. The energy companies, Abengoa Solar and Abound Solar Manufacturing, will receive the funds from 862 billion dollars in economic stimulus. Abengoa will build the 'world's largest solar plant' in Arizona, which will create about 1,600 construction jobs. The 280-megawatt Solana generating station will supply electric power to approximately 70,000 homes while avoiding more than 475,000 tons of greenhouse gases, Abengoa said. It estimated that the plant could sell 4 billion dollars worth of energy over 30 years. The power generated will be purchased by Arizona Public Service. Abound Solar is to build two new plants in Colorado and Indiana that will create more than 2,000 construction jobs and over 1,500 permanent jobs."
Obama announces 2 billion dollars in funding for solar power

Xinhua, 3 July 2010

"It might be sunny but solar panels around Britain are failing to generate any electricity because of a shortage of parts. The introduction of 'Feed-in Tariffs', that pay homeowners for electricity fed into the grid, has led to a rise in demand for solar panels. But householders who have installed the expensive technology are unable to start generating electricity because of a shortage of inverters'. The microchips are in short supply because of increased demand in Germany, the US and China. Solar panel manufacturers say the shortage is a 'blip' that will not stop the massive growth of solar in the UK in the long run."
Shortage in parts for solar panels
Daily Telegraph, 2 July 2010

"New technology for 'photosynthesising' fuel could lead to cars running on 'petrol' made from carbon dioxide and sunlight. Fuels made in this way are sufficiently similar to those currently used in cars that major redesigns of engines and refuelling stations should not be necessary. If fuels can be made entirely from atmospheric carbon, running a car on that fuel would be carbon neutral. One such machine, the Counter Rotating Ring Receiver Reactor Recuperator (CR5), created by a team of scientists at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, captures carbon dioxide from power plant exhaust fumes. In the future, however, they hope to extract it directly from the air. The system uses a giant parabolic mirror, which concentrates sunlight on to two chambers separated by spinning rings of cerium oxide. As the rings turn, the cerium oxide is heated to 1500C and releases oxygen into one of the chambers. The oxygen is then pumped away. As the ring spins, the now de-oxidised cerium moves into the other chamber. Carbon dioxide is pumped in, and the deoxidised cerium steals one of the oxygen molecules, creating carbon monoxide and cerium oxide....Another team, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, uses a similar system, but with calcium oxide, zinc oxide and steam, which can create a stream of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Their system can already use atmospheric carbon dioxide. At the moment the two reactors have problems. The New Mexico team's system currently only works for a few seconds at a time, while the Swiss model runs at a mere 10 kilowatts. But both hope to improve reliability and yield."
Car fuel made from carbon dioxide and sunlight
Daily Telegraph, 3 July 2010

"Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin are hot on the heels of a discovery that could more than double the efficiency of solar cells. The trick is to use tiny nanoscale crystals called quantum dots to capture more of the available energy in sunlight, including energy at the high end of the scale. The researchers estimate that the use of high energy sunlight could boost efficiency from its present rate of about 31% for conventional solar cells, up to a whopping 66%. What this all means is the potential for solar energy to become cost-competitive with fossil fuels at an increasingly rapid pace.  Paired with next-generation flywheels and other new energy storage technologies, intermittent sources such as solar and wind can provide an energy stream that is every bit as steady and reliable as oil, coal, or natural gas. High energy sunlight comes in the form of 'hot electrons.' Until now, that energy has been too hot to convert into electricity, and it escape as heat.  The researchers, headed by chemist Xiaoyang Zhu,  found a way to conduct the hot electrons out by using quantum dots, which have conductive properties that can be precisely controlled.  Their work is built on a foundation recently established by another team from the University of Chicago, which showed that a specific type of nanocrystal can be used to control the rate at which hot electrons cool down. Conventional quantum dots are made of toxic heavy metals, and Zhu’s research was carried out on quantum dots made of lead selenide, a crystalline form of lead. However, Zhu notes that other materials could also be used, opening up the potential to construct a high efficiency solar cell with quantum dots made of non-toxic materials.  Magnolia Solar, for example, is one company that has developed thin film solar technology based on non-toxic quantum dots.   Quantum dots made of diamond nanocrystals are also in development.  The wonder material graphene and its newly discovered mate graphane could also offer another non-toxic route."
Quantum Dots Could Boost Solar Efficiency by 100%
CleanTechnica, 20 June 2010

"A solar-powered plane is getting ready to hit the skies once again - this time, at night. It will be the first ever manned night flight on a plane propelled exclusively by solar energy. Solar Impulse will lift off from an airfield in Switzerland, on a sunny day sometime at the end of June. It will then fly around, charging the solar cells on the plane's wings, in a bid to store enough energy for the electric motors to last until dawn. The aim of the project's founders, Andre Borschberg and round-the-world balloonist Bertrand Piccard, is to show that a solar-powered craft is able to fly day and night - and eventually long-distance flights - without any fuel. 'These night flights in an aircraft propelled uniquely by solar energy are intended to demonstrate the potential of the renewable energies and the technologies that will gradually enable us to diminish our dependence on oil', said Dr Piccard..... The pilot said that for him, the most exciting part of the venture is 'being on the plane during the day and seeing the amount of energy increasing instead of decreasing as on a normal aircraft. That's what you can enjoy with this solar generator'. If the 24-hour flight is a success, it will be the first important step towards using renewable solar energy in a continuous manner."
Solar plane set for night flight
BBC Online, 15 June 2010

"The biggest problem with solar panels is that they're expensive. Solar power is actually the most expensive type of renewable energy. But a Swiss professor has just received the Millennium Technology Prize for developing low-cost solar cells that can be built into glass windows. So instead of installing solar panels on your roof; you'd just install them as windows, which you need anyway. Michael Gratzel spent two decades developing a revolutionary type of dye-sensitized solar cell called a Gratzel cell (guess where he got the name for it). The group that presented the award, the Technology Academy Finland, says this invention is a huge leap forward for solar technology. In a prepared news release, the group says, "The price/performance ratio of Grätzel's dye-sensitized solar cells is excellent. [It] is a promising alternative to standard silicon photovoltaics....This technology was first built into consumer products in 2009. A company called G24 Innovations developed a backpack that uses Gratzel cells to charge the batteries in portable electronics."
Windows that Work as Solar Cells
DiscoveryNews, 13 June 2010

"A Hong Kong-based company has introduced what it bills as the world's only solar-powered light bulb with the hope of reaching millions of people with little or no access to electricity. The Nokero N100 solar LED light bulb is meant to replace kerosene lamps as a lighting source in the developing world. The company says 1.6 billion people still lack sufficient access to electricity, and many burn fossil fuels for light, which can be dangerous and expensive. The N100 solar bulb is about the size of a standard incandescent bulb and has four small solar panels in its rainproof plastic housing. Five LEDs and a replaceable NiMH battery inside provide up to four hours of light when the device is fully charged. People hang it outside during the day and then turn it on at night."
Solar light bulb to shine on developing world
CNet News, 12 June 2010

"Unless you follow blogs such as The Wall Street Journal's excellent China Realtime Report, you probably missed the biggest global energy news in recent weeks (and no, I'm not forgetting about BP): Last week, China announced considerable subsidies for consumers who buy electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles. Beijing will pay the first $7,800 to $8,800 of the sticker price for the first 50,000 such vehicles bought in five designated Chinese cities, or roughly 31 percent, for instance, of BYD's $25,000 F3DM. The subsidies put hard action behind China's stated intentions to become the largest consumer market on the planet for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles (you can see a nice slideshow about that by Roland Berger Strategy Consultants here). Other pieces need to fall into place, such as a cleanup of China's smoke-belching semi-trucks and the well-on-its-way expansion of its cargo railroad network. But China appears to be trying on the coat and liking the notion of a wholesale shift of its energy portfolio. Why should we care? Because of the chain reaction that will follow. How future Chinese motorists drive -- whether in gasoline-powered cars, or plug-in hybrids -- will have a consequential impact on global oil demand. China's appetite for oil is going to grow whatever the case, but if Chinese motorists largely buy hybrids, the rise in the country's oil demand will not be as steep."
How China's hybrid cars could change the world
Foreign Policy, 9 June 2010

"A professor who invented low-cost solar cells that may be incorporated into energy-producing windows has been awarded the Millennium Technology Prize.Finland's Technology Academy on Wednesday awarded Swiss professor Michael Gratzel with the prize, which is said to be the biggest award in the field of technology. The award, which is given as 800,000 Euros, amounts to about $960,000. The groups says 'Gratzel cells' are significant because they are cheaper than other types of technology that seek to capture energy from the sun. 'Gratzel's innovation is likely to have an important role in low-cost, large-scale solutions for renewable energy,' Ainomaija Haarla, president of Finland's Technology Academy, says in a prepared news release on the group's website. The Technology Academy says this new form of solar cell is still 'still in relatively early stages of development,' but has made its way into some consumer products. Gratzel says windows could be made into solar panels. You would be able to see through them, but they may have a slight tint because of the solar cells....Gratzel says his panels are 'the best in terms of efficiency in ambient light.' The academy that awarded the prize said, 'the technology, often described as 'artificial photosynthesis,' is a promising alternative to standard silicon photovoltaics,' which are more expensive to make."
Solar cells: Coming to a window near you?
CNN, 9 June 2010

"First Solar, the world’s cheapest solar panel maker, is reporting that they cannot meet this years demand for solar panels, and three more major manufacturers; Suntech, Yingli and Trina are also signaling that they are sold out, according to Reuters. This is a huge turnabout. It is only a year ago that solar panels flooded the global market, driving down the cost of solar installations worldwide, after Spain suddenly eased off on its generous Feed-in Tariff, leading to a worldwide solar panel glut and a resulting 40% drop in panel prices. The benefits of that suddenly cheap solar has had a huge impact. California alone installed as much solar in the first three months as it did in all of last year, at least in part due to cheap panels. But now it appears that prices might rise again, due to ricocheting demand. First Solar is having to postpone projects in the United States to meet demand in Europe, supplying growing markets in France, Spain and Italy, as well as in China and Australia. As we enter the Peak Oil years and start the very bumpy slide down the other side of Hubbert’s Peak, this kind of increased competition for all sources of energy is increasingly likely.... Solar estimators say for every 10,000 miles that you’ll drive annually, you should plan on including about 250 extra kilowatt-hours a month for charging an electric car. So, if you drive 5,000 miles annually, you’d need 125 kilowatt-hours a month to power that Volt, LEAF, TH!INK, or whatever, or about as much as to power a swimming pool pump."
Solar Shortages Looming With Boom in Worldwide Demand : CleanTechnica
CleanTechnica, 5 June 2010

"For decades the silicon chip was the beating heart of our electronic lives but now a cheaper, more flexible and durable plastic chip is taking over.Experts believe the global market for so-called plastic electronics could exceed £300bn in less than 20 years. The technology in which flexible, ultra-thin micro-chips can be incorporated into clothing, glass or building frames is expected to generate a new industrial revolution. Now, it is thought a project aimed at co-ordinating academic research and industrial interest in advanced low-cost solar cells using plastic electronics could make the UK a world leader in micro- generation technology. The project, called Specific (for Sustainable Product Engineering Centre for Innovative Functional Industrial Coatings) will attempt to come up with new window glass and steel roofing incorporating special dye-sensitised solar cells. These are a new class of low-cost, thin film solar cell which produce much more energy than previous cells. Specific is bidding for up to £12m in financing from sources including the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Technology Strategy Board and the Welsh Assembly..... According to Professor David Worsley at Swansea University: 'Using the building envelope so it can generate its own energy is going to be crucial to meeting future carbon reduction targets, along with other renewables. All the universities involved in the project have something significant to contribute to this challenge. But we need to be able to co-ordinate this effectively, working closely with our industrial partners.' While conventional electronics uses circuits etched into solid silicon chips, plastic electronics, on the other hand, uses sheets of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic – the flexible but tough material used in the production of plastic bottles. Circuits are then printed on these sheets using ink-jet printers or techniques much like those used to print magazines and newspapers – resulting in a process that is cheap, easy to do and faster to produce. And the circuits can be printed on virtually any surface so, in the near future, breakfast cereal boxes could contain YouTube-like announcements and films."
Swansea bidding to lead ultra-thin chip research
Western Mail, 29 May 2010

"From electric cars to wind turbines, environmentally-friendly technology around the world needs rare earth metals. But China - where over 90% of these minerals are mined - is saying it now wants to keep more for its own industry. The leafy banks of the Birmingham and Worcester canal may be an unlikely place to discuss a looming industrial crisis but it was here that Professor Rex Harris of Birmingham University took me on his hydrogen-powered electric barge. The super efficient motor, like most electric vehicle motors, uses rare earth magnets. Rex gave me two matchbox sized neodymium-boron magnets, offering me £50 to push them together. His money was safe, the magnetic field was too strong. Such power is vital to green technology, so much of which is based on the efficient generation, use and storage of electricity. So we need to be sure of good supply of rare earth magnets. 'We worry about peak oil,' he says, 'we should worry about peak magnets as well.'...The Chinese motives are pretty clear. They want Western users to do their manufacturing in China and they need supplies for their own ambitious wind energy programme..... The former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping once remarked 'There is oil in the Middle East, there is rare earth in China.'....However, Professor Animesh Jha at Leeds University thinks he may have a cleaner alternative. He has discovered that titanium dioxide ore could be an important source. The purification of this chemical, commonly used in paints, leaves a residue of rare earths. He believes this could by-pass the Chinese and the environmental problems of mining. 'There are very nice deposits of titanium oxide all over the world... Norway, India, Brazil, US. They all have rare earths in them.' Combine Professor Jha's technique with the fruits of new mines and the careful recycling of rare earth metals currently in use in our laptops and mobile phones and we may be able to provide sufficient supplies in the future. But new processes take time to perfect and new mines take years to come on-stream. That still leaves a long gap when the green revolution will rely on the economic and political judgement of China's exporters."
Why China holds 'rare' cards in the race to go green
BBC Online, 19 May 2010

"Solar power could provide up to a quarter of the world's electricity needs by 2050 if countries put in place long-term policies to support early deployment and sustained technology innovation, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). The IEA yesterday (11 May) released technology roadmaps for solar photovoltaic (PV), which generates electricity using solar panels, and concentrating solar power (CSP), which collects sunlight with giant mirrors and focuses it on a liquid to produce steam that then drives a turbine. It estimates that each technology has the potential to supply more than 11% of global electricity by mid-century, offering combined savings of nearly 60 billion tonnes of CO2 per year by 2050. The IEA, however, assumes lower growth rates than the industry is expecting. Its PV roadmap estimates that the annual market growth rate will be 17% over the next decade, while the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) said last month it expected global cumulative capacity to grow by at least 40% in 2010 (EurActiv 01/04/10). Provided that the appropriate political frameworks are put in place, solar PV could become competitive with fossil fuels on residential and commercial buildings by 2020 in many regions and at utility scale by 2030 in the sunniest regions, the documents show. CSP could become competitive for peak and mid-peak loads by 2020 in the sunniest places. But rather than competing with each other, the IEA argues that the two technologies are complementary. While PV technology employing solar panels will mainly be used for on-grid distributed generation, CSP will involve utility-scale production in sunny areas, from where it can be transported to population centres."
Solar to generate 25% of world’s electricity by 2050, IEA predicts
EurActiv, 12 May 2010

"Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have successfully coated paper with a solar cell, part of a suite of research projects aimed at energy breakthroughs. Susan Hockfield, MIT's president, and Paolo Scaroni, CEO of Italian oil company Eni, on Tuesday officially dedicated the Eni-MIT Solar Frontiers Research Center. Eni invested $5 million into the center, which is also receiving a $2 million National Science Foundation grant, said Vladimir Bulovic, the center's director. The printed solar cells, which Bulovic showed at a press conference Tuesday, are still in the research phase and are years from being commercialized. However, the technique, in which paper is coated with organic semiconductor material using a process similar to an inkjet printer, is a promising way to lower the weight of solar panels. 'If you could use a staple gun to install a solar panel, there could be a lot of value,' Bulovic said. The materials MIT researchers used are carbon-based dyes and the cells are about 1.5 percent to 2 percent efficient at converting sunlight to electricity. But any material could be used if it can be deposited at room temperature, Bulovic said. 'Absolutely, the trick was coming up with ways to use paper,' he said. MIT professor Karen Gleason headed the research and has submitted a paper for scientific review but it has not yet been published. MIT and Eni said this is the first time a solar cell has been printed on paper.....The paper solar cells are one of many avenues being pursued around nanoscale materials at the Eni-MIT Solar Frontiers Center. Layers of these materials could essentially be sprayed using different manufacturing techniques to make a thin-film solar cell on a plastic, paper, or metal foils. Silicon, the predominant material for solar cells, is durable and is made from abundant materials. Many companies sell or are developing thin-film solar cells, which are less efficient but are cheaper to manufacture."
MIT researchers print solar cell on paper
CNET, 6 May 2010

"Hydrogen would command a key role in future renewable energy technologies, experts agree, if a relatively cheap, efficient and carbon-neutral means of producing it can be developed. An important step towards this elusive goal has been taken by a team of researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California, Berkeley. The team has discovered an inexpensive metal catalyst that can effectively generate hydrogen gas from water....a paper describing this work... appears in the April 29, 2010 issue of the journal Nature, titled 'A molecular molybdenum-oxo catalyst for generating hydrogen from water.' Co-authors of this paper were Christopher Chang and Jeffrey Long, who also hold joint appointments with Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley. Chang, in addition, is also an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).....Hydrogen gas, whether combusted or used in fuel cells to generate electricity, emits only water vapor as an exhaust product, which is why this nation would already be rolling towards a hydrogen economy if only there were hydrogen wells to tap. However, hydrogen gas does not occur naturally and has to be produced. Most of the hydrogen gas in the United States today comes from natural gas, a fossil fuel. While inexpensive, this technique adds huge volumes of carbon emissions to the atmosphere. Hydrogen can also be produced through the electrolysis of water -- using electricity to split molecules of water into molecules of hydrogen and oxygen. This is an environmentally clean and sustainable method of production -- especially if the electricity is generated via a renewable technology such as solar or wind -- but requires a water-splitting catalyst....Nature has developed extremely efficient water-splitting enzymes -- called hydrogenases -- for use by plants during photosynthesis, however, these enzymes are highly unstable and easily deactivated when removed from their native environment. Human activities demand a stable metal catalyst that can operate under non-biological settings. Metal catalysts are commercially available, but they are low valence precious metals whose high costs make their widespread use prohibitive. For example, platinum, the best of them, costs some $2,000 an ounce. 'The basic scientific challenge has been to create earth-abundant molecular systems that produce hydrogen from water with high catalytic activity and stability,' Chang says. 'We believe our discovery of a molecular molybdenum-oxo catalyst for generating hydrogen from water without the use of additional acids or organic co-solvents establishes a new chemical paradigm for creating reduction catalysts that are highly active and robust in aqueous media.' The molybdenum-oxo complex that Karunadasa, Chang and Long discovered is a high valence metal with the chemical name of (PY5Me2)Mo-oxo. In their studies, the research team found that this complex catalyzes the generation of hydrogen from neutral buffered water or even sea water with a turnover frequency of 2.4 moles of hydrogen per mole of catalyst per second."
Renewable Energy: Inexpensive Metal Catalyst Can Effectively Generate Hydrogen from Water
ScienceDaily, 1 May 2010

"Newly designed giant gravel batteries could be the solution to the on-off nature of wind turbines and solar panels. By storing energy when the wind stops blowing or the sun stops shining, it is hoped the new technology will boost to renewable energy and blunt a persistent criticism of the technology - that the power from it is intermittent. Electricity cannot be stored easily, but a new technique may hold the answer, so that energy from renewables doesn't switch off when nature stops playing ball. A team of engineers from Cambridge think they have a potential solution: a giant battery that can store energy using gravel. 'If you bolt this to a wind farm, you could store the intermittent and relatively erratic energy and give it back in a reliable and controlled manner,' says Jonathan Howes, founder of Isentropic and previously an engineer at the Civil Aviation Authority. The Labour government committed to cutting the country's carbon emissions by 34% by 2020 and 80% by 2050, both relative to 1990 levels. To achieve this, ministers outlined plans to build thousands of wind turbines by 2020. The only economically viable way of storing large amounts of energy is through pumped hydro – where excess electricity is used to pump water up a hill. The water is held back by a dam until the energy is needed, when it is released down the hill, turning turbines and generating electricity on the way. Isentopic claims its gravel-based battery would be able to store equivalent amounts of energy but use less space and be cheaper to set up. Its system consists of two silos filled with a pulverised rock such as gravel. Electricity would be used to heat and pressurise argon gas that is then fed into one of the silos. By the time the gas leaves the chamber, it has cooled to ambient temperature but the gravel itself is heated to 500C. After leaving the silo, the argon is then fed into the second silo, where it expands back to normal atmospheric pressure. This process acts like a giant refrigerator, causing the gas (and rock) temperature inside the second chamber to drop to -160C. The electrical energy generated originally by the wind turbines originally is stored as a temperature difference between the two rock-filled silos. To release the energy, the cycle is reversed, and as the energy passes from hot to cold it powers a generator that makes electricity. Isentropic claims a round-trip energy efficiency of up to 80% and, because gravel is cheap, the cost of a system per kilowatt-hour of storage would be between $10 and $55. Howes says that the energy in the hot silo (which is insulated) can easily be stored for extended periods of time - by his calculations, a silo that stood 50m tall and was 50m in diameter would lose only half of its energy through its walls if left alone for three years. To demonstrate how much less infrastructure his system requires, Howes uses the example of the Bath County Pumped Storage hydro-electric dam in Virginia, US. This is the biggest energy-storage system in the world, with two reservoirs covering 820 surface acres can store up to 30 GWh storage capacity. An Isentropic gravel battery of the same capacity would occupy 1/300th of the area, according to Howes. John Loughhead, executive director of the UK Energy Research Centre, said that the novelty of the Isentropic system lay in using cheap materials as the heat store, thus making a normally expensive and mechanically complex process very simple."
Giant gravel batteries could make renewable energy more reliable
Guardian, 26 April 2010

"A battery able to match the output of those used in cellphones from 1/20th of their electrode area may have you dreaming of more talk time. But putting it in your pocket would be a bad idea - it's full of molten metal. Instead, its inventors hope it will provide much-needed storage capacity for electricity grids. Grid-scale batteries would boost efficiency by allowing solar energy to be used at night, for example, or excess power from a nuclear plant to be stored for later. Engineers led by Donald Sadoway at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were inspired by the way aluminium is smelted using electricity. They created a similar but reversible process that can either consume or release energy. Their batteries are simply tanks filled with three separate layers of liquid at 700 °C that float on top of one another: the top one is molten magnesium, the bottom antimony and the one in between a salt containing magnesium antimonide, a dissolved compound of the two metals. When the battery is being charged, magnesium antimonide in the middle layer breaks down into the pure elements and so the upper and lower layers deepen. Discharging the battery reverses the process and releases electrons to provide power. Once heated up to its operating temperature, the battery generates enough heat on its own to keep the liquids molten. A small prototype provided up to 20 times as much current as a lithium-ion battery - the kind used in portable devices and electric cars - from the same area of electrode, says team member Luis Ortiz. The materials used are much cheaper than lithium (New Scientist, 12 December 2009, p 23), making scaling to up to grid scale feasible, he says."
Molten metal batteries to be clean energy reservoirs
New Scientist, 9 April 2010

"A new technique developed by engineers for producing power-conducting plastics could slash the cost of making solar panels, say researchers. With mounting concerns about global warming and energy demand, plastics could represent a low-cost alternative to indium tin oxide (ITO), an expensive conducting material currently used in solar panels, according to the researchers. 'Conductive polymers (plastics) have been around for a long time, but processing them to make something useful degraded their ability to conduct electricity,' said Yueh-Lin Loo, associate professor of chemical engineering at Princeton University, who led the research team. 'We have figured out how to avoid this trade-off. We can shape the plastics into a useful form while maintaining high conductivity,' Yueh-Lin Loo added. The area of research, known as 'organic electronics' because plastics are carbon-based like living creatures, holds promise for producing new types of electronic devices and new ways of manufacturing existing technologies, but has been hampered by the mysterious loss of conductivity associated with moldable plastics.... By allowing plastic solar cells to be manufactured using low-cost printing techniques and by replacing ITO as the primary conducting material, the plastics the team developed hold potential for lowering the cost of solar panels, said a Princeton release. These findings were published online in the March issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."
Plastic electronics can slash cost of solar panels
Sifynews, 3 April 2010

"A smart electricity management system is needed for a successful mass uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) in Britain, by smoothing out power demand and generation spikes in a future that includes more wind farms. Britain has committed to smart technology -- which supplies real-time power usage data to consumers with smart meters; and demand and generation information to network operators in the form of a smart grid -- with plans to supply all homes with a smart meter by 2020. The British government also offered financial incentives to support EV development, with Japanese car maker Nissan (7201.T) to build its Leaf electric compact car in England, and Ford (F.N) receiving a grant to develop low carbon vehicles in the UK. 'Smart grids will be critical for the mass adoption of EVs,' Rick Hanks, smart metering practice lead at consultant Accenture, said. 'A slow charging car consumes as much power as 10 plasma TV screens. But fast charging a car in 15 minutes would be the equivalent of boiling up to 96 kettles continuously and would place unsustainable stress on today's grid.' Local distribution network operators (DNO), which deliver power from large overhead cables to households, are well aware of the potential strain on the system and see smart technology as a way to mitigate demand and generation surges. A smart grid could see when wind generation was high and use this excess power to charge EVs instead of asking coal or gas power plant to switch off to stop overloading the grid. 'Generation and networks can cope perfectly well with the anticipated growth in EVs over the next 10 years provided that we are able to develop the necessary complementary `smart' controls and tariffs on the back of smart meters,' Cristiano Marantes, engineering projects manager at DNO EDF Energy Networks (EDF.PA) said."
Smart grid needed to power UK's electric car dream
Reuters, 24 March 2010

"Tougher U.S. fuel economy standards for new cars and trucks should be completed next week, Gina McCarthy, an assistant administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency, said today. Officials at the EPA, which has jointly proposed with the U.S. Department of Transportation to raise the average fuel economy benchmark to 35.5 miles per gallon, expect to establish final standards by April 1, McCarthy said in testimony prepared for a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The higher fuel economy standards are aimed at cutting carbon dioxide emissions and reducing oil consumption."
U.S. Fuel Economy Rules to Be Finished by April 1
Bloomberg, 24 March 2010

"Police and firefighters will help to test Britain’s first fleet of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, which is to be introduced in time for the 2012 Olympics. A network of hydrogen filling stations will be built across London to refuel about 150 vehicles — including 50 taxis, eight buses, and 50 cars and vans that will be used by public bodies such as the Metropolitan Police and the London Fire Brigade. The vehicles will emit only water instead of exhaust fumes, and represent the first steps towards a long-term aim to switch all motorists from petrol and diesel to renewable fuels. Unlike battery-powered electric cars, which take up to eight hours to charge, fuel-cell vehicles can have their high-pressure tanks filled with hydrogen gas in only three to four minutes. The Greater London Authority is borrowing the concept of a 'hydrogen highway' developed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governor of California. This aims to encourage manufacturers to supply fuel-cell vehicles by providing a cluster of refuelling stations. Previous attempts to introduce fuel-cell vehicles in Britain have failed because they depended on a single fuelling point — with drivers forced to return to base every time they needed to fill up."
Police and firefighters to help test hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles
London Times, 26 March 2010

"Hopes that Britain could become the hub of a global green motoring revolution were boosted yesterday when Vauxhall indicated that its Ellesmere Port plant could become the home of the new electric Ampera. The Merseyside factory is expected to go to a third shift this year when production begins — months earlier than expected — of the new Vauxhall Astra estate. But the standing of the plant would be greatly enhanced it it does become the European production base of the Ampera, the new extended-range electric vehicle that General Motors, Vauxhall’s American parent, is promoting as a big rival to the Toyota Prius hybrid. Whereas most electric cars going into production will be suitable only as city runarounds with a range of a few dozen miles, the Ampera will have a range of more than 350 miles on an electric motor fuelled by a lithium-ion battery and petrol or ethanol."
Vauxhall Ampera may make Merseyside green
London Times, 23 March 2010

"The re-emergence of the British motor industry is shifting up a gear, with £2.6 billion worth of investment flowing into the UK, safeguarding or creating thousands of jobs. Nissan is to start mass production of electric vehicles in Sunderland; Ford plants in Dagenham, Southampton and Bridgend will build the next generation of cleaner diesel and petrol engines for its cars around the world; and the Formula One team McLaren is to build supercars in Woking to rival Ferrari and Lamborghini in the retail market.....Nissan will commit £420 million to building 50,000 electric vehicles from 2013 at its base in Sunderland. It is already the country’s single biggest carmaking facility, producing 338,000 vehicles last year. Nissan has chosen Sunderland to be the third base for its Leaf model after plants in Japan and the United States....The latest Nissan initiative follows its commitment to make the lithium-ion batteries for its electric vehicles and those of its partner Renault. Nissan is now committing to producing 60,000 of the batteries a year in Sunderland."
UK car industry receives £2.6bn injection
London Times, 19 March 2010

"Dyesol is in a joint venture with British steelmaker Corus to produce Colorbond-style roofing and fencing, which doubles as giant solar panels. DSC captures sunlight even in gloomy northern hemisphere conditions. Corus is planning commercial production from July next year.Earlier this month, Dyesol announced a tie-up with US glassmaker Pilkington to produce glass flatpanels with the same energy-producing traits. And there's another collaboration in the offing, with a German carmaker (hint: there's a new subsidiary called Dyesol Automotive Bavaria). The emphasis here will be on a flexible plastic blind to recharge batteries on hybrid cars. Dyesol executive chairman Richard Caldwell says the glass tie-up takes Dyesol back to its original intention of using glass."
Solar maker secures links in steel and glass
The Australian, 18 March 2010

"US solar energy company SunEdison has announced final plans to build the largest photovoltaic (PV) power plant in the world,.. in Italy. SunEdison’s new solar PV farm will be a 72MW farm in the northern Italian province of Veneto near the town of Rovigo. It has just received final approval from the Italian government and the farm is expected to be finished and in use before the end of the year (with power generation starting in the second half of 2010). The PV farm will pass up 60MW Olmedilla Photovoltaic Park in Olmedilla, Spain to take the world title. However, China is close on its heels with a mega-project that would make this 'farm' look like a small 'potted plant'. SunEdison’s new farm 'is expected to use ground mounted solar panels that are capable of turning to track the sun’s movement,' Business Green reports. According to SunEdison, 'the system will generate sufficient energy to power 17,150 homes and avoid 41,000 tons of CO2 –the equivalent of removing 8,000 cars from the road' in its first full year of operation."
World’s Largest Solar PV Farm in Italy Soon
CleanTechnica, 14 March 2010

"One piece of the American effort to find a way to make solar energy cheap enough that everyone will want it is unfolding in a modest redbrick building in this Midwestern city once known as one of the nation's top makers of glass. Xunming Deng, a physicist, started a solar company in Ohio eight years ago as a spinoff from his research at the University of Toledo. He's attracted $40 million in venture capital, and designed and purchased manufacturing equipment. He now thinks that his Xunlight Corp. is on the brink of profitability and fast growth. It expects certification this spring and is getting ready to ramp up production. Deng's story reflects one of the innovative approaches that U.S. thin-film photovoltaic solar companies are taking to bring down the costs of solar installations for homes, businesses and utilities. All aim for a mass market with economies of scale that make solar energy comparable in price to energy from fossil fuels....Deng's work is in thin-film photovoltaic solar, an area in which there's been a great deal of innovation in recent years. Thin-film is an alternative to the crystalline silicon solar cells commercialized in the U.S. in the 1950s, the kind typically seen powering highway signs and the most widely used solar panels today. Thin-film cells cost less to make. They're essentially a layer of semiconductor material on a thin base of metal, plastic or glass. Xunlight's thin-film cells are light and flexible, making them easier to install and ship. The amount of material used in the active layers of thin-film solar cells is a tiny fraction of what goes into a conventional solar cell, so the material costs are much lower, said Joe Verrengia, a spokesman for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which is working with companies and doing its own work on thin-film research and development. Xunlight grew with the help of grants, loans and business help from Ohio's Department of Development. Ohio has one of the most ambitious renewable-energy requirements of any state: Twenty-five percent of its electricity must be produced by renewable sources by 2025. Of that total of 6,000 megawatts, 800 must be solar. The policy will make Ohio one of the top markets for solar, said Nadeane Howard, the director of the Energy Resources Division of the Ohio Department of Development... The company is developing utility-scale solar farms in California, New Mexico and Nevada. It uses cadmium telluride to make its thin-film cells. 'For us, that's the big factor to lower the costs' compared with first-generation solar, company spokesman Alan Bernheimer said. Its manufacturing process is another key. The company's cost to produce solar modules was more than $3 per watt in 2004 and now is 84 cents per watt, Bernheimer said. The company projects that costs will drop still further in the next few years. Installation costs also have declined steeply, Bernheimer said. First Solar predicts that it will match the cost of conventional electricity in four to five years."
U.S. firms working to lower cost of solar energy
Miami Herald, 14 March 2010

"Coming not so soon and probably not to a house near you is the home solar hydrogen refueling station -- Honda Motor Co's (7267.T) latest idea in its drive to make hydrogen the fuel of choice for zero emission cars. The Japanese auto giant believes hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles offer the best long-term alternative to fossil fuels and the company showed on Friday a refueling breakthrough that it says points to a home version down the road. Most major automakers have spent billions of dollars in researching hydrogen-powered fuel cells, tempted by the idea of a car that uses no gasoline and emits only water vapor. But Honda is widely seen as the hydrogen leader, while others like General Motors GM.UL put more effort into battery-powered electric vehicles like the upcoming Volt. One of the big barriers to hydrogen car deployment is the lack of refueling infrastructure, leading Honda to bet that the future lies in combining a public station network with a more modest home option. Honda's home option will comprise a solar-powered hydrogen refueling station using solar panels. 'Customers can choose how they interact with both of them based on their annual miles and their habits,' said Stephen Ellis, fuel cell manager at the Honda's North American headquarters in Torrance, California. 'The key thing to remember is that with five-minute refueling you are good for another 240 miles,' Ellis added. That range comes from the 'fast-fill' public station, of which there are just a handful in Southern California, where Honda leases 15 FCX Clarity hydrogen-powered vehicles and is set to distribute more in coming months. Eight hours of home solar refueling would guarantee a smaller range of 30 miles (50 km) or about 10,000 miles (16,000 km per year -- enough for an average commuting car. At the Los Angeles R&D center, engineers refueled the sleek FCX Clarity sedan with a new single-unit station connected to a solar array that replaces a two-unit system, cutting costs and improving efficiency by 25 percent. 'This is wonderful progress, the biggest progress,' said Ikuya Yamashita, the chief engineer of the station. The station uses a 6-kilowatt solar array, composed of 48 panels and thin film solar cells developed by a Honda subsidiary. It breaks down the water into hydrogen in what Honda calls a 'virtually carbon-free energy cycle.' The FCX Clarity's hydrogen 'stack' -- or the electricity generator -- is around the size of an attache case, tucked between the two front seats, and is a fifth of the stack size developed a decade ago. The car is likely to be sold commercially around 2018 in the luxury large sedan category, while the solar hydrogen refueling system could move beyond the research stage and into the market-ready phase around 2015. 'A lot of this work is not necessarily for today's economic situation,' said Ellis. 'This is for tomorrow, when most people feel energy prices will be higher'."
Honda drives toward home solar hydrogen refueling
Reuters, 12 March 2010

"Red tape is strangling a scheme designed to encourage millions of families to generate their own green electricity with home-mounted solar panels, wind turbines and heat pumps, according to the UK’s biggest manufacturer of central heating equipment. Starting next month, Britain’s 26 million households will be able to collect a fixed fee of up to 41p a kilowatt hour for electricity they generate from roof-mounted solar panels and sell on to the grid. Up to 34½p a kilowatt hour is available for home-mounted windmills. But Worcester Bosch says that the scheme, which seeks to kick-start a boom in so-called microgeneration, is being hobbled by a chronic shortage of certified engineers who must fit the equipment for consumers to qualify for the payments. 'To qualify as an installer, it’s expensive, onerous and full of red tape,' said Neil Schofield, head of sustainable development for Worcester Bosch, which controls 28 per cent of Britain’s boiler market and is a big supplier of solar panels and air and ground-source heat pumps. Across the UK there are about 500 certified installers of renewable energy equipment, compared with about 120,000 registered gas engineers, under the equivalent Gas Safe scheme, formerly known as Corgi."
Home power-generation dream suffers a blow
London Times, 8 March 2010

"Japanese solar-panel manufacturers are expanding capacity in spite of concerns about oversupply in the sector, as they eye long-term growth in demand for renewable energy. Mitsubishi Electric, Toshiba and Showa Shell on Monday each unveiled plans to boost their solar panel production, underscoring a renewed determination by Japanese manufacturers to hold their lead in the green technology in the face of cheaper competition from China and elsewhere. Shigeaki Kameda, president of Showa Shell’s solar subsidiary, said the company intended to become the world’s largest producer of thin-film photovoltaic panels, with the business eventually rivalling its Y3,000bn ($33.6bn) oil-refining and petrol operations in scale. The company, in which Royal Dutch Shell owns a one-third stake, is spending $1bn to convert a former Hitachi plasma-screen television factory into one of the largest solar-panel plants in the world, capable of producing 900 megawatts’ worth of thin-film photovoltaic cells a year. Mr Kameda said Showa Shell hoped to sell 70 per cent of its output outside Japan under a new global brand launched on Monday called Solar Frontier. The company is opening two overseas offices, in California and Munich, to market its technology to residential and commercial buyers. Mr Kameda said the prospect of higher oil prices over the long term combined with more government-imposed curbs on greenhouse-gas emissions justified the company’s aggressive stance."
Japanese solar power groups lift capacity
Financial Times, 1 March 2010

"PlanetSolar has unveiled the world's largest solar boat that will be powered by more than 35,000 high-efficiency solar cells and which will embark on a round-the-world tour in 2011. The boat, which was unveiled Thursday at the HDW Shipyard in Kiel, Germany, was designed using 38,000 next-generation solar cells that will operate at an efficiency of at least 22 percent, matching the best efficiency of any cells on the market. The cells will be integrated onto the skin of the boat to generate the solar energy required to power the boat.  'We are excited that the solar-powered boat is now a reality,' said Raphael Domjan, CEO of PlanetSolar. 'As we embark on the next phase of this project, we look forward to our around-the-world trip, and are confident that SunPower's proven technology will get us there.' The catamaran-style boat is also expected to be the fastest solar boat to ever cross the Atlantic Ocean during its round-the-world trip that will take place next year. During the trip the boat will be available for public display in each of its stopover sites, which will include Hamburg, London, Paris, New York, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi."
World's largest solar-powered boat unveiled in Germany
CoolerPlanet, 26 February 2010

"The Obama administration gave preliminary approval Monday for $1.4 billion in federal loan guarantees to help build what it says will be the world's largest solar power complex --  in California's Mojave Desert. The Department of Energy is offering to back the loans of California-based BrightSource Energy so it can build three solar-energy plants capable of powering 140,000 homes. It says the project could nearly double the amount of solar power generated in the United States."
U.S. backs loans to build world's largest solar power complex
USA Today, 23 February 2010

"A scientist has come up with a new method to reconfigure the way solar panels are connected, which could lead to solar arrays in the future that are more energy efficient and reliable. According to Dr Jonathan Kimball, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology, the conventional method of connecting solar panels is in a series, one after the other. 'But just as one bad bulb in a string of Christmas lights can black out the entire set, so can a single solar panel disrupt the flow of electrical current through the other panels in a series,' Kimball said. 'If one of the panels is shaded, dirty or damaged, it affects them all,' Kimball said. 'The conventional approach to solar arrays inherently limits the amount of power they produce if there's any variation in the panels,' he said. Rather than connecting solar panels in a series - where the electrical current must flow from one panel to get to the next - Kimball suggests parallel wiring for the panels. The parallel approach would connect each panel to its own power converter instead of sending the electrical current through a series of panels to a single converter."
New method may lead to more energy efficient solar panels
ANI, 21 February 2010

"CEPS AS, the Czech electricity-grid operator, said the pace of solar-power investment risks overloading the network and driving up prices for consumers. Output from solar panels may overwhelm the grid by 2011 and plants may need to be temporarily disconnected to prevent blackouts, CEPS Chief Executive Officer Petr Zeman said today. Total solar capacity may reach 3,000 megawatts in 2015, six times last year’s level and about half the country’s off-peak consumption at summer weekends, the state-run company said."
Czech Power Grid Says Solar Boom Risks Blackouts
Bloomberg, 15 February 2010
"U.S. researchers have devised a way to make flexible solar cells with silicon wires that use just 1 percent of the material needed to make conventional solar cells. The eventual hope is to make thin, light solar cells that could be incorporated into clothing, for instance but the immediate benefit is cheaper and easier-to-install solar panels, the researchers said. The new material, reported on Sunday in Nature Materials, uses conventional silicon configured into micron-sized wires (a micron is one-millionth of a meter) instead of brittle wafers and encases them in a flexible polymer that can be rolled or bent. 'The idea is it would be lower cost and easier to work with by being more flexible than conventional silicon solar cells,' Michael Kelzenberg of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, who worked on the study, said in a telephone interview. Solar cells, which convert solar energy into electricity, are in high demand because of higher oil prices and concerns over climate change. Many companies, including Japanese consumer electronics maker Sharp Corp (6753.T) and Germany's Q-Cells SE (QCEG.DE), are making thin-film solar cells using organic materials such as polymers, but they typically are less efficient at converting solar energy into electricity than conventional cells using silicon. The study is among the latest to combine the flexibility of the new organic or carbon-containing films with the high efficiency of silicon, which is heavy and stiff. Kelzenberg said the material uses about 1/100th as much silicon per cell area as a silicon wafer. 'It is potentially a route to bypass many of the costs associated with producing solar cells,' he said. He said a big problem with working with silicon wafers is they are fragile. More testing is needed but Kelzenberg said the material would be about 15 percent to 20 percent efficient, about the same level as solar cells used on roofs to heat homes. A similar effort is under way in the lab of John Rogers, a professor of materials science at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Campaign, who is working on ways to make inorganic materials more flexible. While many companies are investing in organic solar cells -- basically materials like plastic that contain carbon -- Rogers said these materials have relatively low performance, less long-term reliability and an unproven cost structure. 'We like the inorganics -- trying to adapt them and use them in non-standard ways,' Rogers said in a telephone interview. Last year, his team reported on a new manufacturing process that creates thin arrays of solar cells that are flexible enough to be rolled around a pencil and transparent enough to be used to tint windows on buildings or cars. 'We can make them stretch like a rubber band or bendable like a sheet of plastic,' he said."
A new wire twist on silicon solar cells
Reuters, 14 February 2010

"IBM researchers are developing a solar cell with an eye towards what's in the ground. Researchers on Wednesday published a technical paper in the journal Advanced Materials that describes a solar cell made of abundant materials with relatively high efficiency. The cell can convert 9.6 percent of solar energy into electrical energy, a 40 percent boost over current methods. That level of efficiency is already far exceeded in commercial silicon-based cells and even beat by thin-film solar cells, which are cheaper to make than silicon cells but are less efficient. But IBM researchers set out to make a cell that uses materials that are relatively abundant elements--copper, zinc, tin, and sulfur, or selenium (CZTS). The availability of materials for existing solar technologies limits their long-term potential, according to IBM. First Solar, which claims to have the lowest cost per watt, makes its thin-film cells from cadmium and tellurium. GE, too, plans to sell solar panels with cadmium telluride cells as early as next year as well. There are also several start-up companies, including Nanosolar, Miasole, and HelioVolt, which make cells using a combination of copper, indium, gallium, and selenide, or CIGS. The problem with these is the scarcity of materials or the environmental impact, according to IBM researchers Teodor Todorov, Kathleen Reuter, and David Mitz, who authored the paper. That means that other solar cell materials are needed to meet anticipated renewable energy demands, they said..... One of the advantages of thin-film technologies is that that not much material is needed to make a cell, compared to traditional cell manufacturing. CIGS cells can be made using high-speed fabrication techniques, such as roll-to-roll manufacturing. The technique developed by IBM uses a similar 'ink-based' method. Matthew Beard, a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratories not involved in the work, called the IBM research a 'breakthrough.' The researchers estimate that if the technology can be taken beyond its basic state right now and achieve 12 percent efficiency, it could be an economically viable alternative to current products."
IBM boosts solar cell made of abundant materials
CNET News, 11 February 2010

"Sunlight + water = hydrogen gas, in a new technique that can convert 60 per cent of sunlight energy absorbed by an electrode into the inflammable fuel. To generate the gas Thomas Nann and colleagues at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK, dip a gold electrode with a special coating into water and expose it to light. clusters of indium phosphide 5 nanometres wide on its surface absorb incoming photons and pass electrons bearing their energy on to clusters of a sulphurous iron compound. This material combines those electrons with protons from the water to form gaseous hydrogen. A second electrode – plain platinum this time – is needed to complete the circuit electrochemically. Organic molecules have been used before to perform the same feat. But they are quickly bleached by the sunlight they are collecting, rendering them inefficient after a few weeks. The inorganic materials used in the University of East Anglia's system are more resilient. Their first generation proof of concept is 'a major breakthrough' in the field, they say, thanks to its efficiency of over 60 per cent and ability to survive sunlight for two weeks without any degradation of performance. 'In fact the 60 per cent figure is probably a worst-case scenario,' says Nann. 'This is still a preliminary study.'...He and colleagues now plan to refine the system, including lowering the cost by making it with less expensive materials. 'There is no major reason for using gold or platinum,' he says: those materials were used simply because they are common in the laboratory."
Sun-powered water splitter makes hydrogen tirelessly
New Scientist, 11 February 2010

"When it comes time to refuel Honda’s FCX Clarity fuel-cell car with hydrogen, the company is letting the sun shine in. Last week, Honda announced that it had begun operating a 'next generation' solar hydrogen refueling station, using Honda’s own solar cells, at its Torrance research and development headquarters. The new solar station is small enough to fit into a Clarity owner’s garage, and that’s its intended home. 'We’ve eliminated the compressor, which was the largest and most expensive component,' said a Honda spokesman, Chris Naughton. 'The station pulls in solar energy during the day and then the customer can slow-fill with hydrogen over an eight-hour period at night.' Honda claims that its smaller station is the world’s most compact, as well as the first home unit without a compressor. The station uses 48 panels of thin-film Honda-developed cells to produce six kilowatts of electricity. It’s designed to complement the network of public stations that California has endeavored to create as part of its 'Hydrogen Highway,' but which in practice is developing slowly. Honda’s Soltec panels are also being used by Dongfeng Honda in China, the company said, providing lighting and air-conditioning at an administrative facility. According to Honda, the Chinese panels are capable of generating 100,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, and can displace 101 tons of carbon dioxide. According to Patrick Serfass, a spokesman for the National Hydrogen Association, 'One of the benefits of hydrogen is that it can be made from a variety of different sources, including both renewable and traditional fuels. We applaud Honda for producing hydrogen renewably. At this point, fossil fuels are still very cheap, so it takes a commitment to advance the installation of renewable energy.'"
Honda Opens New Solar Hydrogen Station in California
New York Times (Blog), 4 February 2010

"China vaulted past competitors in Denmark, Germany, Spain and the United States last year to become the world’s largest maker of wind turbines, and is poised to expand even further this year. China has also leapfrogged the West in the last two years to emerge as the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels. And the country is pushing equally hard to build nuclear reactors and the most efficient types of coal power plants. These efforts to dominate renewable energy technologies raise the prospect that the West may someday trade its dependence on oil from the Mideast for a reliance on solar panels, wind turbines and other gear manufactured in China. “Most of the energy equipment will carry a brass plate, ‘Made in China,’ ' said K. K. Chan, the chief executive of Nature Elements Capital, a private equity fund in Beijing that focuses on renewable energy. President Obama, in his State of the Union speech last week, sounded an alarm that the United States was falling behind other countries, especially China, on energy. 'I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders — and I know you don’t either,' he told Congress. The United States and other countries are offering incentives to develop their own renewable energy industries, and Mr. Obama called for redoubling American efforts. Yet many Western and Chinese executives expect China to prevail in the energy-technology race. Multinational corporations are responding to the rapid growth of China’s market by building big, state-of-the-art factories in China. Vestas of Denmark has just erected the world’s biggest wind turbine manufacturing complex here in northeastern China, and transferred the technology to build the latest electronic controls and generators."
China Leading Global Race to Make Clean Energy
New York Times, 30 January 2010

"Businesses in the Tees Valley are being urged to get a move on if they want to secure as much Government cash for electric cars as possible. Teesside has been chosen as a testbed area to trial the low-carbon vehicle revolution - but first a robust network of chargepoints must be installed. Stockton Council is among the organisations already signed up. Between 30 and 50 plug-in points will be installed at key locations, including car parks, community centres and supermarkets, for both authority and public use. A council spokesperson said: 'Stockton Council is committed to carbon reduction, both for its own operations and the wider community.' But time is running out for private businesses that want to help rev things up. Spending chiefs at regional development agency One North East have told company bosses if they sign up for a charging point at their premises before January 31, the Government will meet half the costs, bringing the bill down to £2,500."
Join the drive to aid electric vehicles
Evening Gazette, 25 January 2010

"Although the commercial solar-cell business dates back almost 50 years, solar panels still cannot compete with fossil fuels when it comes to generating electricity relatively cheaply. Even during periods of high oil prices, government subsidies are needed to encourage consumers and companies to install solar power, exposing the sector to sharp contractions when support is dramatically reduced, as happened in Spain in 2009 and could happen in Germany later this year. Yet 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. Manufacturers of the common crystalline variety of solar cells continuously leap-frog each other with claims of improving their product's efficiency (measured by the percentage of solar energy put into a cell that emerges as electricity). Last month, Norway's REC, together with Dutch research institute ECN, unveiled a 17%-efficient solar module, trumping Suntech, which a few months earlier had hailed its creation of a 16.5%-efficient module. Other manufacturers, like First Solar, are improving on a type of solar-cell technology known as 'thin film,' in which an energy-generating substance — usually a compound called cadmium telluride — is layered onto a glass, plastic or steel substrate. Thin-film cells are generally less energy-efficient than the crystalline variety but are potentially much cheaper to manufacture. 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

"United Nations climate talks are a bigger threat to top oil exporter Saudi Arabia than increased oil supplies from rival producers, its lead climate negotiator said on Sunday. Saudi Arabia's economy depends on oil exports so stands to be one of the biggest losers in any pact that curbs oil demand by penalizing carbon emissions.....The possibility that oil demand might peak this decade was a 'serious problem' for Saudi Arabia, Sabban said. The kingdom had looked at the assumptions behind studies that pointed to demand peaking in 2016 and saw 'some truth in it,' Sabban said. The kingdom was watching future demand projections closely and would match any future investment in capacity expansion with demand, Sabban said. 'We will continue keeping the same spare capacity but no more,' he said. Saudi had plenty of spare capacity to increase output if global demand warrants, Sabban said. Demand should grow this year with the economic recovery, he added. The kingdom completed a program to boost its capacity last year, coinciding with the global contraction in oil demand due to the economic recession, and led record OPEC output cuts, leaving it with more than double the spare capacity it targets. The kingdom has around 4.5 million bpd of spare capacity while having a policy of holding 1.5 million to 2.0 million bpd to deal with any surprise outage in the global oil supply system. The kingdom is producing around 8 million bpd. Meanwhile Saud Arabia plans to invest heavily in solar energy technology, Sabban said, and hopes to begin exporting power from solar energy by 2020. Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi has said the kingdom aims to make solar a major contributor to energy supply in the next five to 10 years."
Climate talks bigger threat to Saudi than oil rivals
Reuters, 24 January 2010

"India plans to install 20 million solar lights and 20 million square meters of solar thermal panels to generate 20,000 megawatts by 2022 as part of its National Solar Mission, formally launched Monday. 'We propose to provide up to 90 percent support for setting up solar power plants,' Renewable Energy Minister Farooq Abdullah said at the launch. 'In many other solar applications, where the initial cost is still very high, we're considering proposals for providing up to a 30 percent grant in aid,' he said. India, Asia's third-largest energy consumer, relies on coal for more than half of its power capacity. Just a small fraction of India's power currently comes from solar energy, which costs about two and a half times more than power from coal.  By installing 20 million solar lights, for example, the minister said India would save 1 billion liters of kerosene every year. As a 'first benchmark' in the next three years, India also plans to add 1,300 megawatts of solar power of which 1,100 megawatts will be grid-connected and 200 megawatts will be off-grid, Abdullah said. 'If we achieve this, achieving the remaining target will not be impossible.' Noting the high initial cost of solar energy, especially for grid power generation, Abdullah said he aims to bring down the cost 'as quickly as possible.' Abdullah said India is working in 'close coordination' with other stakeholders, particularly the United States, so India can emerge as a global solar power while making solar energy affordable in the country."
India launches National Solar Mission
United Press International, 13 January 2010

"A U.S.-based solar power company has entered into a large-scale agreement with a Chinese power equipment manufacturer that will lead to the creation of solar thermal power plants across China that will generate at least 2 gigawatts of power. The deal, which was signed last week in the Chinese State Council building, will partner U.S. solar power plant builder eSolar with Penglai Electric to make official what will become China's largest concentrating solar power project."
China solar power project will generate 2 gigawatts of solar energy
Cooler Planet, 12 January 2010

"As it moves rapidly to become the world’s leader in nuclear power, wind energy and photovoltaic solar panels, China is taking tentative steps to master another alternative energy industry: using mirrors to capture sunlight, produce steam and generate electricity. So-called concentrating solar power uses hundreds of thousands of mirrors to turn water into steam. The steam turns a conventional turbine similar to those in coal-fired power plants. The technology, which is potentially cheaper than most types of renewable power, has captivated many engineers and financiers in the last two years, with an abrupt surge in new patents and plans for large power operations in Europe and the United States. This year may be China’s turn. China is starting to build its own concentrating solar power plants, a technology more associated with California deserts than China’s countryside. And Chinese manufacturers are starting to think about exports, part of China’s effort to become the world’s main provider of alternative energy power equipment. Yet concentrating solar power still faces formidable obstacles here, including government officials who are skeptical that the technology will be useful on a large scale in China. Much of the country is cloudy or smoggy. Water is scarce. The sunniest places left for solar power are deserts deep in the interior, far from the energy-hungry coastal provinces that consume most of China’s electricity. Provinces deep in the interior have few skilled workers or engineers to maintain the automated gear that keeps mirrors focused on towers that transfer the heat from sunbeams into fluids."
China Tries a New Tack to Go Solar
New York Times, 8 January 2010

"A new study in West Africa shows how farm irrigation systems powered by the sun can produce more food and money for villagers. The study in Benin found that solar-powered pumps are effective in supplying water, especially during the long dry season. Sub-Saharan Africa is the part of the world with the least food security. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that more than one billion of the world's people faced hunger last year. Around two hundred sixty-five million of them live south of the Sahara Desert. Lack of rainfall is one of their main causes of food shortages....The researchers note that only four percent of the cropland in sub-Saharan Africa is irrigated. Using solar power to pump water has higher costs at first. But the study says it can be more economical in the long term than using fuels like gasoline, diesel or kerosene."
Solar-Powered Pumps Aid African Farmers
Voice of America, 10 January 2010

"Massachusetts is planning a new drive for solar energy in 2010 with a string of programs designed to dramatically increase the number and size of solar panel arrays in the state. The push comes as Gov. Deval Patrick, heading into an election year, hopes to make good on his pledge to turn Massachusetts into one of the nation’s renewable energy hubs. The administration is already touting what it says are its successes in helping encourage the use of solar panels — pointing to 'a nearly 15-fold increase in solar installations over Governor Patrick’s first four-year term.'....The state is also developing regulations for a third program, a new solar credit market. The program was authorized by the state’s 2008 Green Communities Act to provide predictable market support for the solar industry. The initiative is also set to begin this month. Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles said the goal of all the programs is to make Massachusetts 'a national solar energy powerhouse.'....The administration said the solar push has also translated into jobs."
Mass. planning new solar energy push in 2010
Associated Press, 1 January 2010


"Light-emitting wallpaper may begin to replace light bulbs from 2012, according to a government body that supports low-carbon technology. A chemical coating on the walls will illuminate all parts of the room with an even glow, which mimics sunlight and avoids the shadows and glare of conventional bulbs. Although an electrical current will be used to stimulate the chemicals to produce light, the voltage will be very low and the walls will be safe to touch. Dimmer switches will control brightness, as with traditional lighting. The Carbon Trust has awarded a £454,000 grant to Lomox, a Welsh company that is developing the organic light-emitting diode technology. The trust said it would be two and a half times more efficient than energysaving bulbs and could make a big contribution to meeting Britain’s target of cutting carbon emissions by 34 per cent by 2020. Indoor lighting accounts for a sixth of total electricity use. The chemical coating, which can be applied in the form of specially treated wallpaper or simply painted straight on to walls, can also be used for flat-screen televisions, computers and mobile phone displays. As the system uses only between three and five volts, it can be powered by solar panels or batteries. Lomox, which will use the grant to prove the durability of the technology, believes it could be used in the first instance to illuminate road signs or barriers where there is no mains electricity. Ken Lacey, the chief executive of Lomox, said that the first products would go on sale in 2012. 'The light is a very natural, sunlight-type of lighting with the full colour range. It gives you all kinds of potential for how you do lighting,' he said. Although organic light-emitting diodes (LEDs) have been available for several years, Mr Lacey said that concerns over cost and durability had prevented further development. He said that Lomox had developed a much cheaper process and discovered a combination of chemicals that were not vulnerable to the oxidation that shortened the operating life span of other types of organic LEDs. Mr Lacey said the technology could be used to make flexible screens that could be rolled up after use, or carried into a presentation, for example. Mark Williamson, director of innovations at the Carbon Trust, said: 'Lighting is a major producer of carbon emissions. This technology has the potential to produce ultra-efficient lighting for a wide range of applications, tapping into a huge global market...'"
Glowing walls could kill off the light bulb
London Times, 30 December 2009

"While the world's attention was tuned to the recent global climate conference in Copenhagen, in an old airplane hangar on a small Swiss airfield, a group of visionaries, dreamers and engineers was busily assembling a vehicle that is their solution to global climate change and the future of commercial aviation. This airplane uses no fossil or bio-fuels. It is a solar-powered airplane, collecting the sun's rays on 12,000 solar cells spread across its wings to charge the special lithium-polymer batteries that will continue to power the airplane from sunset till the next sunrise....Solar Impulse president Dr. Bertrand Piccard reminds those skeptics that when Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic in 1927, his airplane was only large enough for the pilot and a whole lot of fuel and it took 33 hours to cross the ocean....Piccard wants to demonstrate that solar power can be used for most modes of transport. 'If we manage to fly around the world with an airplane that takes no fuel at all,' says Piccard, 'nobody will be able to say afterwards that it is impossible for cars.' Looking like an astronaut in his pilot jump suit, Dr. Piccard conjures another famous Picard: the legendary Jean-Luc Picard, captain of the USS Enterprise on Star Trek: The Next Generation, as he takes us where no one has gone before.... The Solar Impulse airplane is not the first solar airplane to take flight. Numerous other solar airplanes have been successfully tested in the last few decades, but the Solar Impulse airplane could become the first to fly continuously day and night, and the first to fly around the world if successful. Over the past six years, Piccard has assembled a team of 70 engineers and business support staff and has raised approximately $67 million of the $105 million budgeted for the project. Major corporations like Deutsche Bank, Swiss watch maker Omega, and pharmaceutical giant Solvay are underwriting the Solar Impulse venture. If all goes according to plan, the solar airplane will take off next summer and climb to an altitude of 27,000 feet. On a 36-hour flight it will fill the batteries and run the engines all day. 'Then there is only one goal,' says Piccard: 'To reach the next sunrise before the battery dies.'"
Can a solar-powered airplane be the future of aviation?
USA Today, 29 December 2009

"A hi-tech company in Cardiff is poised to take advantage of the global growth in solar power generation with its next generation solar technology. High-efficiency solar cells are being developed by IQE in Cardiff – including one of the first photo-voltaic (PV) devices of its kind in the world using semiconductor materials. Project manager Rob Harper said the development of the world class product will position IQE for strong growth in the future, securing and creating highly skilled jobs at its Cardiff plants. The technology developed at IQE uses specially engineered layers known as multi-junctions to convert different parts of the solar spectrum into electrical energy. A higher percentage of solar radiation can be harvested using this method compared to other types of solar cells. IQE’s solar cells are already capable of converting around 40% of solar radiation into electrical power and further research is being conducted to improve this. By concentrating sunlight using inexpensive lenses and mirrors, the amount of active solar cell material can be reduced, further lowering the overall unit cost. Known as concentrating photo-voltaic (CPV) this approach is suited to large installations of 5MW and above, and works best in regions with high levels of direct sunlight. Although CPV is a new technology and accounts for less than 0.5% of currently installed PV power, a number of large CPV installations are under way in Australia, the US, Spain, Italy and Greece. CPV has substantial market potential because of its high conversion efficiencies, and industry experts anticipate a compound annual growth rate of 45% between 2009 and 2015. IQE, whose manufacturing facility and global headquarters was established in St Mellons, Cardiff in 1988, has recently produced the world’s first triple junction devices with a new, patented combination of semi-conductor materials. This is attracting the attention of CPV manufacturers worldwide because it has the potential to provide improved efficiency at lower cost."
IQE poised for growth with advanced solar technology
Western Mail, 26 December 2009

"Mayor Boris Johnson has pledged every Londoner will be no more than one mile from an electric car charge point by 2015. His £60m plan would see 22,500 charge points at workplaces, 500 on the street and 2,000 in public car parks. Mr Johnson made the announcement at a meeting of city leaders in Copenhagen. But London Assembly's Green Party said there are doubts about the environmental gains of charging vehicles using grid electricity. 'A golden era of clean, green electric motoring is upon us and London is well ahead of cities around the globe in preparing the right conditions for this,' Mr Johnson said at the conference."
Mayor's £60m electric car scheme
BBC Online, 15 December 2009

"The Japanese Government is working on a 'growth blueprint' that would exploit the prolonged weakness of the US dollar and mount a state-backed resource grab for rare technology metals around the world. If the plans, which are in their early stages, come to fruition, the Government would assist companies in buying the rights to mine rare earth minerals wherever they are up for grabs. Tokyo is understood to have placed a high economic priority on securing global rare earth rights for Japanese companies because of the looming prospect of a resource war with China. The metals most coveted by Japan are a collection of 14 lanthanides that make hybrid vehicles possible and will be critical to the future of electric cars because their strong magnetic properties allow for lighter motors....Over the past decade, Beijing has reached the point where it enjoys a 90 per cent global monopoly over the production of rare earth metals. As its high-tech industries have developed, it has consumed an increasing quantity of those produced domestically and significantly lowered export quotas to places such as Japan. Even large Japanese manufacturers have resorted to illegal quota-busting and source about a quarter of their annual supplies from illicit rare earth mines in China. As China has hardened its stance on exports, Japan has begun a frantic search for supplies elsewhere."
Government ready to back business in minerals race
London Times, 9 December 2009

"The world’s electricity industry will set out a plan on Tuesday for rolling out the technologies needed to cut carbon dioxide emissions, showing how ambitious plans to tackle global warming could be achieved.Electricity generation accounts for about a third of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions from energy use, which in turn accounts for two-thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions. This is one of the sectors in which deep cuts in emissions are most practicable – the technologies for producing electricity without emitting carbon dioxide are either in use or close to deployment. Europe’s electricity industry has already committed to going carbon-free by 2050. Electrification also offers the prospect of cutting emissions from other sectors. Electric cars look a better bet than biofuels for greening road transport. Electric heat pumps, which carry heat into the home, are an alternative to burning coal and gas for warmth. However, low-carbon power is going to be more expensive, at least initially, and will require a huge investment in infrastructure as well as a steep improvement in energy efficiency. In short, there will have to be an entirely new type of electricity grid.... Even so, any transition to carbon-free generation will take decades. Low-carbon technologies are generally more expensive than fossil-fuel plants: in the case of some, such as offshore wind, they are a lot more expensive. At the same time, power generation will not always be available. The British government, which is backing Europe’s fastest expansion of wind power, is building into its plans for 2030 a huge margin of spare generation capacity which can be used when there is no wind.  Managing demand will become crucial. Lars Josefsson, who is chief executive of Sweden’s Vattenfall, one of Europe’s biggest electricity companies, and president of Eurelectric, the industry association, says: 'The key to Europe’s low-carbon future will be on the demand side.' If power supply is inflexible, it is particularly important that demand is flexible to balance the grid. A higher cost of energy will make consumers more worried about wasting it. The electricity system will probably have to be based on a “smart grid”, which uses information technology to manage flows of power around the network. This would include smart meters – which show consumers how much energy they are using and also allow flexible pricing – devices in homes that can send information and receive instructions, and even smart appliances, that would switch off automatically when not needed."
Industry looks to green electric future
Financial Times, 9 December 2009

"The Solar Impulse prototype plane, part of a planned solar-powered circumnavigation of the globe, has left the ground for the first time.  The maiden flight was dubbed a 'flea hop' by project leaders, at 350m in length and a height of just one metre. The next flight, at the Payerne air force airfield in western Switzerland, will see the plane reach an altitude of nearly 9,000m, once more using on-board batteries. The final version of the plane will attempt a solar-powered transatlantic flight in 2012 prior to the round-the-world trip."
Record-attempting solar powered plane's first 'hop'
BBC Online, 4 December 2009

"California regulators on Thursday approved an ambitious project to beam solar energy from space starting in 2016. Under a power purchase agreement approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, utility Pacific Gas & Electric will purchase electricity from technology provider Solaren if it successfully deploys its space-based solar collectors, which would be the first of its kind. PG&E has contracted to buy 1,700 gigawatt hours per year for 15 years from Solar for its space-based solar arrays, which will have a generating capacity of 200 megawatts. That's smaller than a full scale nuclear or natural gas plant but enough to supply thousands of homes. The anticipated date of operation is June, 2016. Space-based solar, an idea that has been around for decades, is being pursued by companies and researchers around the world. Its key advantage over land-based solar or wind power is that can generate renewable energy around the clock. The California Public Utilities Commission gave the go-ahead to the project in an effort to meet the state's aggressive renewable energy goals."
California gives green light for space-based solar
CnetNews, 3 December 2009

"Mazda, EnerDel, Think Global, and others are partnering on a test project that will pair all-electric cars with stationary storage units as charging stations, EnerDel and Mazda announced this past week. Mazda plans to convert some of its Mazda2 vehicles (known as the Mazda Demios in Japan) to all-electric cars running a Think drivetrain with EnerDel lithium ion batteries. The cars will be offered to Japanese customers through a rental car program, called the Tsukuba Environmental Style Test Project, which should be up and running by March 2010 in Tsukuba City, Japan, near Tokyo, according to Mazda. U.S. battery manufacturer EnerDel has described the test project as the Japanese equivalent to Zipcar in the States, a program in which customers join a car club that offers car rentals on an hourly or daily basis. Instead of recharging stations tapping directly into a smart grid, those in the Tsukuba test project will use stationary grid storage units also developed by EnerDel. The stationary storage units will enable the rapid charging of the all-electric Mazda2 cars, while avoiding the possibility of having to tap into a smart grid during peak usage hours. 'The unique combination of on-site battery storage with rapid charging allows the use of direct current throughout the system, sharply reducing the amount of time needed to charge a vehicle,' according to a statement from EnerDel. The recharging stations, which will draw from solar panels as well as grid power, will be located at Family Mart convenience stores in the Tsukuba City area."
Mazda, Think, EnerDel partner on electric rentals
CNet News, 2 December 2009

"Egypt, which plans to start its first solar power unit in 2010, said on Tuesday it wanted to expand solar power production for export but that costs of the technology would need to fall first to make it feasible. The North African country, a gas and oil producer, aims to generate 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. It already has installed wind capacity of 430 megawatts and is adding 120 megawatts by mid 2010. Wind farms are expected to meet 12 percent of Egypt's power needs by 2020 but solar power projects have lagged. 'Solar energy is four times as expensive as energy generated from combined cycles so when this figure starts going down to three or two times as much, this is when we will see developing countries go heavily into the business,' Electricity and Energy Minister Hassan Younes told Reuters. 'Exports are in our plan, but taking into consideration the development of suitable technology and its spread so that the price goes down,' he added. Egypt, whose population is concentrated on just 10 percent of its land, has ample desert areas to set up solar power units. The most populous Arab country is also situated in the sun belt where sunshine is available all year round for power generation."
Egypt eyes solar power exports, costs too high now
Reuters, 1 December 2009

"The cost of installing and owning solar panels will fall even faster than expected according to new research. Tests show that 90% of existing solar panels last for 30 years, instead of the predicted 20 years. According to the independent EU Energy Institute, this brings down the lifetime cost. The institute says the panels are such a good long-term investment that banks should offer mortgages on them like they do on homes. At a conference, the institute forecast that solar panels would be cost-competitive with energy from the grid for half the homes in Europe by 2020 - without a subsidy....Dr [Heinz] Ossenbrink says 40-year panels will be on the market soon. A key goal for solar is what is known as grid parity. That is the point when it is as cheap for someone to generate power on their homes as it is to buy it from the grid. It varies from country to country depending on electricity prices, but the institute estimates that Italy - which has a combination of sunny weather and relatively high electricity prices - should reach grid parity next year. Half of Europe should be enjoying grid parity by 2020, it estimates. Cloudy northern countries like the UK could wait further, possibly up to 2030. But the day would come when solar panels on homes would be cost-competitive without a subsidy, even in Britain. Dr Ossenbrink says: 'Basically everything (in the industry) is bound to grow still further. Growing further means less cost. Less cost means grid parity.' Professor Wim Sinke, from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, who leads the solar umbrella group the European Photovoltaic Technology Platform, says the industry has even greater ambitions. 'The target of the sector as a whole is to reach grid parity in almost all of Europe over the next 10 years. So by 2020 we should have grid parity in most of Europe,' he told BBC News.... It will take much longer for solar to match fossil fuel power at the point of generation, the institute says, as wholesale electricity prices are much lower than retail prices."
Solar panel costs 'set to fall'
BBC Online, 30 November 2009

"Sun Catalytix, a company that's trying to develop a revolutionary clean-energy system, has finished a round of seed funding and secured a technology license from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Cambridge, Mass.-based company was formed about one year ago to commercialize research from MIT professor Daniel Nocera in which he attempts to mimic the process of photosynthesis. Polaris Ventures finalized a $3 million seed round of funding for Sun Catalytix and expects to raise a series A round next year, said Polaris' Bob Metcalfe, who is also on the board. The core of the company's technology, which Nocera has sought to patent, is a low-cost catalyst for an electrolyzer, a device that splits water to make hydrogen. That hydrogen can be used with a fuel cell to make electricity. Or the hydrogen could be combined with other materials to store energy in a liquid fuel, such as methanol or ammonia, Metcalfe said. Nocera envisions that homes would be equipped with solar panels to produce hydrogen from water during the day. At night, the stored hydrogen could power a home without releasing carbon emissions. The key difference with the Sun Catalytix electrolyzer is that it is being designed to be made with cheap materials and work with all sorts of water, said Metcalfe. 'Splitting water to make hydrogen is as old as the hills. The breakthrough here is that it's dirt cheap. They operate in dirty water like water from the Charles River and they've used salt water from the Boston Harbor,' he said. The catalyst that splits the water molecules uses cobalt phosphate, which is cheap and abundant compared to expensive metals such as platinum, Metcalfe added. So far, the five-person company has built a number of prototypes made from PVC plastic. A fully functioning system would take a number of years to develop and depend on other components being cheaper, including solar panels and hydrogen storage, Nocera has said. But Metcalfe said that Polaris believes the company can commercialize the technology 'in the short attention span of a venture capitalist.' Typically, venture capitalists expect to generate a big return in five to seven years."
Sun Catalytix secures money for low-cost solar fuel
CNet, 22 November 2009

"A shingle that generates solar energy was named one of the 50 Best Innovations of 2009 by Time magazine. Dow Chemical, the Powerhouse Solar Shingle's inventor, will make the shingles commercially available by the middle of next year. Dow's technology 'will make affordable renewable energy a reality now and for future generations,' said Dow Solar Solutions managing director Jane Palmieri. The Powerhouse design includes thin-film cells of copper indium gallium diselenide. Dow notes the cells' low cost relative to other solar technologies. And, on top of low cost, Dow's new shingle has other advantages. The company reports that the installation process is no different than that of traditional shingles, making Powerhouse shingles attractive to contractors. And in addition to saving money for homeowners by cutting energy use, the shingles are anticipated to make a lot of money for Dow - up to $10 billion a year by 2020. The Powerhouse Solar Shingle was number 13 on Time magazine's list."
New solar energy technology wins accolades
Cooler Planet, 16 November 2009

"If every south-facing building in the UK fitted solar panels, the country would have all the electricity it needs, an expert has claimed. Tim Bruton, chief technology officer of the New and Renewable Energy Centre (Narec), in Northumberland, was speaking ahead of a national conference in County Durham that will highlight the business opportunities photovoltaics – solar power – could bring. The North-East is putting foundations in place to become a European centre for renewable energy expertise, bringing with it scores of jobs and new industries, with photovoltaics (PV), alongside wind power, electric vehicles and green energy, playing a major part. Mr Bruton, a fellow of the Institute of Physics who has published over 70 papers in the PV field, believes the North-East is on the verge of 'something very exciting'. He said: 'The University of Northumbria carried out a study for the Department of Trade and Industry looking at the existing south-facing buildings in the UK. All we have to do is take the things we have already built and put solar panels on them and we can generate all the electricity we need.' Rather than being the technology of the far future, Mr Bruton believes it is only two to three years away from being widely used in the UK. He said: 'If you look at what has happened in Germany, Spain and California where you have the right subsidy structure from the government, the market has taken off.' Mr Bruton pointed out that a similar subsidy scheme was due to be introduced by the Government in this country in April. It is then that the new Renewables Feed In Tariff (FIT) system comes into force, offering both domestic and business customers using technology such as photovoltaics for electricity, payback rates of up to 40p per kWh."
'Solar panels could solve energy crisis'
Northern Echo, 11 November 2009

"Every two weeks, the sun pours more energy onto the surface of our planet than we use from all sources in an entire year. It is an inexhaustible powerhouse that has remained largely untapped for human energy needs. That may soon change in a big way. If a consortium of German companies has its way, construction of the biggest solar project ever devised could soon begin in the Sahara desert. When completed, it would harvest energy from the sun shining over Africa and transform it into clean, green electricity for delivery to European homes and businesses. Prospects for the project, called Desertec, have blossomed over the past year, and this month 20 major German corporations are expected to announce the formation of a consortium that will provide the €400 billion needed to build a raft of solar thermal power plants in north Africa. They include energy utilities giants E.ON and RWE, the engineering firm Siemens, the finance house Deutsche Bank and the insurance company Munich Re. The current plan, outlined by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) in a report to the federal government, envisages that the project will meet 15 per cent of Europe's electricity needs by 2050, with a peak output of 100 gigawatts - roughly equivalent to 100 coal-fired power stations. Preliminary designs in the German report show electricity reaching Europe via 20 high-voltage direct-current power lines, which will keep transmission losses below 10 per cent (New Scientist, 14 March, p 42). Trans-Mediterranean links will cross from Morocco to Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar; from Algeria to France via the Balearic islands; from Tunisia to Italy; from Libya to Greece; and from Egypt to Turkey via Cyprus....But is this really the best use of such a colossal amount of money? Critics are lining up to point out the project's shortcomings. They say it could make Europe's energy supply a hostage to politically unstable countries; that Europe should not be exploiting Africa in this way; that it is a poor investment compared to covering Europe's roofs with photovoltaic (PV) solar panels; and that, while deserts have plenty of sun, they lack another less obvious but equally indispensable resource for a solar thermal power plant - water. Is Desertec really the model of future power generation, as its promoters would have us believe, or is it politically misconceived and a monumental waste of money?.... Solar thermal energy is now coming to the fore, as it proves itself to have several advantages over PV. Among these is its ability to produce electricity in power-station quantities, without the complex organisation that distributed generation entails. What's more, it can feed electricity into the grid at night as well as by day. This is done by storing the heated fluid in an insulated container and releasing it hours later when the energy is required. Storing energy from PV panels would require a new generation of high-capacity batteries - still a research project in its infancy for the scale needed. The clincher is cost. Building a power-station-scale solar thermal installation costs only a fraction of PV generators with the same output. As a result, an army of new solar thermal plants are being planned for the US, China, Australia and Israel....PV cells have one clear advantage, however. Solar thermal requires direct sunlight, and so a cloudy day will slash power output to near zero, whereas PV cells will generate at least some power until night descends. But the intensity of sunshine blasting the Sahara desert more than compensates for this. Every year, each square metre of the Sahara receives more heat from the sun than would be obtained by burning two barrels of oil. Desertec reckons that a patch less than 600 kilometres across could meet the entire world's electricity needs today and that all of Europe's electricity could be made in an area 250 kilometres across.....Out in the Sahara, however, another problem has to be solved. Like a regular coal or oil-fired plant, a solar thermal generating station requires large amounts of cooling water to condense the steam after it goes through the generator's turbines, and there are inevitable losses from evaporation. The solar trough plant in the Mojave desert consumes around 3000 litres of water for every megawatt-hour of electricity it produces, and others are likely to need similar amounts. That's a lot of water to find in a desert. A typical Saharan solar farm would be expected to deliver abount 120,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year per square kilometre. That equates to some 350 million litres of water,or enough to flood its area to a depth of 35 centimetres - not much less than would be needed to irrigate a crop of wheat....Switching to air cooling for thermal solar power stations would cut water demand by up to 90 per cent, but brings problems of its own. Air cooling is less efficient than water cooling, so the installations would require more land and more mirrors, adding to the capital and running costs. David Mills, whose company Ausra in Palo Alto, California, wants to build an air-cooled solar thermal plant in the Nevada desert, says air cooling involves about a 10 per cent penalty in terms of cost or performance.....If the argument comes down to cost, how do the numbers stack up? In terms of capital cost, large-scale solar thermal installations are the clear winner. Building the plant now operating in Spain has cost €1670 for each megawatt-hour of electricity it produces each year. Jeremy Leggett, who heads Solar Century, a London-based company which sells PV technology, says that installing PV panels would eat up more than double that, at €4000 per megawatt-hour per year. But capital cost is not the end of the story. While a solar thermal power plant requires a round-the-clock crew, PV installations pretty much run themselves. What's more, PV power plants can grow piecemeal: they can start generating power for the grid from the day the first panel is installed, while solar thermal mirrors are useless until the entire power station is completed. For Desertec, there is also the small matter of getting Desertec's electricity from Africa to Europe. With this many variables in the equation it becomes hard to make realistic comparisons between the available options. To fill the gap, Anthony Patt of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, a think tank in Laxenburg, Austria, is conducting a detailed feasibility study of solar thermal power generation. He reckons that Desertec is unlikely to be competitive with coal-fired power generation for at least two decades, during which time it will swallow between €20 and €50 billion, similar in scale to Germany's expected subsidy for PV cells over the same period. And then there are the tricky political issues that arise from a plan that will exploit land in Africa, and possibly Asia too, to generate electricity for Europe. Desertec says that two-thirds of the potential solar resource in north Africa and the Middle East lies in Algeria, Libya and Saudi Arabia. Europe, like the US, wants to reduce its reliance on energy imported from distant lands with an unpredictable political future. Why create a new hostage to fortune? The stage is set to recreate an uncomfortable parallel with western dependency on oil from Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq."
Solar superpower: Should Europe run on Sahara sun?
New Scientist, 26 October 2009

"Solar incentives seem to be working to both increase the number of solar installations in the U.S. and bring down the initial cost, according to a report released Wednesday by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. ' that, after a three-year plateau, costs decreased by 3.6 percent from 2007 to 2008, marking a pivotal year for the American solar industry,' said the report (PDF). Broken down into real 2008 dollars, the report estimated that the actual cost of installing photovoltaic solar systems--excluding tax credits or financial incentives--was $10.80 per watt in 1998 versus $7.50 per watt in 2008. That initial cost to the installer dropped significantly once incentives and tax credits were factored in. Last year, the average cost of installation was $2.80 per watt for residential photovoltaic, when incentives and tax credits are counted, and $4.00 per watt for commercial...the report did include outside data for comparison of markets. It showed that the recent growing popularity of solar is not just a U.S. phenomenon. About 5,948 megawatts of photovoltaic were installed globally in 2008 compared to 2,826 megawatts in 2007. Spain was the largest photovoltaic market in terms of installation in 2008, followed by Germany and then the U.S., according to the report. Undoubtedly, the global installation figure will increase even more dramatically in the coming years. China alone has announced plans for large-scale photovoltaic installations ranging from 500 megawatts in Baotou, Inner Mongolia to 2,000 megawatts in Ordos City, Inner Mongolia. In the U.S., First Solar has been given rights to develop a 550-megawatt plant in California."
Solar really is getting cheaper, report says
CNet News, 22 October 2009

"The U.S. military is tackling a new mission in the field of alternative energy, moving to power up a 500-megawatt solar facility at Fort Irwin's sprawling desert complex in California....The project, located at the Army's largest training range in California's Mojave Desert, could grow as large as 1 gigawatt in the future. The companies will finance and build the plant in exchange for leasing of the military land. The project, planned for five sites over 13 years, could cost $2 billion. The solar power plant is part of the Army's mission to meet a federal mandate that calls for it to cut its energy use by nearly a third by 2015 and get a quarter of its energy needs from renewable resources by 2025."
U.S. Army to build 500 MW solar power plant
Reuters, 15 October 2009

"California is heating up its push for clean energy, as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger approved a new subsidy for solar power on Monday and joined forces with the federal government to fast-track renewable energy projects. California has the most aggressive renewable energy goals in the United States, which Schwarzenegger increased last month when he ordered that the state get a third of its electricity from renewable resources by 2020. FBR Capital Markets analyst Mehdi Hosseini said the new subsidy for solar generation could be 'explosive' on top of the existing investment tax credit for installing solar systems. 'This is above and beyond the subsidies that are already in place,' Hosseini said. Feed-in tariffs set a higher price for renewables, and in Germany, such tariffs have pushed the country to be the world's market leader in solar power. California's new solar program guarantees that utilities will pay owners of commercial solar systems -- up to 3 megawatts in size -- a higher price for solar electricity, a subsidy meant to spur development of solar rooftop systems. Currently, if utilities want to charge more than the retail price for such systems they have to ask for permission from regulators. Now the California Public Utilities Commission will set the price. Hosseini estimates the tariff could be between 15 and 17 cents per kilowatt hour and could help drive as much as 500 MW worth of new commercial rooftop systems in 2010."
California heats up incentives for solar power
Reuters, 12 October 2009
"The European Commission is expected to introduce a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that directs the largest slices of €50 billion available for research and development to solar power and capturing and burying emissions from coal plants. The plan, to be released on Wednesday, is partly intended to show that the European Union is taking the additional steps needed to meet ambitious goals to cut greenhouse gases before a summit meeting in Copenhagen in December on reaching a new global agreement to curb climate change. But the plan also signals the need for a reordering of the bloc’s industrial priorities by requiring governments to spend significantly greater sums of money on clean energy even as the world emerges from a deep financial crisis. 'Markets and energy companies acting on their own are unlikely to be able to deliver the needed technological breakthroughs within a sufficiently short time span to meet the E.U.’s energy and climate policy goals,' the commission said in a draft of the plan obtained by the International Herald Tribune. Introducing low-carbon technologies also 'represents a major challenge in the context of the financial crisis, where risk-aversion is higher and investment in new, riskier technologies is not high in investors’ priorities,' the draft said. European Union commissioners are expected to seek agreement on the final sums to be allocated to low-carbon power industries at a meeting on Wednesday. The recommendation is from the European Commission, the E.U.’s executive arm. The plan is at an early stage of development, mostly because governments still would need to agree to finance it. The bloc, with 27 member countries, already operates a costly cap and trade system to regulate greenhouse gases, and some countries also tax carbon dioxide emissions associated with heating homes and running cars. Under the plan, the solar sector would receive the largest amount, €16 billion, or $23.5 billion, over the next decade. By allocating the second-highest sum, €13 billion, to carbon capture and storage of greenhouse gas emissions, the commission said it was aiming to make the technology commercially feasible in all power plants that go into operation after 2020."
E.U. Plan to Curb Carbon Dioxide Would Favor Solar Power
New York Times, 6 October 2009

"Dow Chemical Co (DOW.N) said on Monday it would begin selling a new rooftop shingle next year that converts sunlight into electricity -- and could generate $5 billion in revenue by 2015 for the company. The new solar shingles can be integrated into rooftops with standard asphalt shingles, Dow said, and will be introduced in 2010 before a wider roll-out in 2011. 'We're looking at this one product that could generate $5 billion in revenue by 2015 and $10 billion by 2020,' Jane Palmieri, managing director of Dow Solar Solutions, told Reuters in an interview. The shingle will use thin-film cells of copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS), a photovoltaic material that typically is more efficient at turning sunlight into electricity than traditional polysilicon cells. Dow is using CIGS cells that operate at higher than 10 percent efficiency, below the efficiencies for the top polysilicon cells -- but would cost 10 to 15 percent less on a per watt basis. Dow Solar Solutions said it expects 'an enthusiastic response' from roofing contractors for the new shingles, since they require no specialized skills or knowledge of solar systems to install. The new product is the latest advance in 'Building Integrated Photovoltaic' (BIPV) systems, in which power-generating systems are built directly into the traditional materials used to construct buildings. BIPV systems are currently limited mostly to roofing tiles, which operate at lower efficiencies than solar panels and have so far been too expensive to gain wide acceptance. Dow's shingle will be about 30 to 40 percent cheaper than current BIPV systems. The Dow shingles can be installed in about 10 hours, compared with 22 to 30 hours for traditional solar panels, reducing the installation costs that make up more than 50 percent of total system prices."
Dow to sell solar shingle, sees huge market
Reuters, 5 October 2009

"China launched on Wednesday the country's biggest on-grid solar power project with electricity capacity of 10 megawatts in Shizuishan of Ningxia, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The project, run by the China Energy Conservation Investment Corp, was only the first phase of a total 50-MW project, Xinhua said. 'After the completion of the first phase, construction for the second and third phases will be finished by 2011,' it added."
China launches 10-MW on-grid solar power project
Reuters, 30 September 2009

"Google Inc is in the early stages of looking at ways to write software that would fully integrate plug-in hybrid vehicles to the power grid, minimize strain on the grid and help utilities manage vehicle charging load. 'We are doing some preliminary work,' said Dan Reicher, Google's director of Climate Change and Energy Initiatives. 'We have begun some work on smart charging of electric vehicles and how you would integrate large number of electric vehicles into the grid successfully. 'We have done a little bit of work on the software side looking at how you would write a computer code to manage this sort of charging infrastructure,' he said in an interview on the sidelines of an industry conference. Google, known for its Internet search engine, in 2007 announced a program to test Toyota Prius and Ford Escape gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles that were converted to rechargeable plug-in hybrids that run mostly on electricity. One of the experimental technologies that was being tested by the Web search giant allowed parked plug-ins to transfer stored energy back to the electric grid, opening a potential back-up source of power for the system in peak hours. Google has pushed ahead in addressing climate change issues as a philanthropic effort through its arm. Reicher said Google has been testing its fleet of plug-in hybrids 'pretty intensely' for the last couple of years. 'One of the great things about plug-ins is this great opportunity for the first time to finally have a storage technology,' he said. Reicher said the company is trying to figure out how to manage the impact of having millions of future electric vehicle owners plugging in their vehicles at the same time. 'We got to be careful how we manage these things,' he said. 'On a hot day in July when 5 million Californians come home, you don't want them all plugging in at the same moment.' Reicher laid out a scenario where power utilities, during a time of high demand, could turn on or off the charging of electric vehicles. The owner of these vehicles, who have agreed to such an arrangement, would get a credit from the utility in turn. 'The grid operators may well be indifferent to either putting 500 megawatts of new generation on or taking 500 megawatts off,' he said. 'The beauty of plug-in vehicles is that with the right software behind them, you could manage their charging.' Apart from plug-in hybrids, Google also is working on other green technologies such as developing its own new mirror technology that could reduce the cost of building solar thermal plants by a quarter or more, and looking at gas turbines that would run on solar power rather than natural gas. The often-quirky company also said in late 2007 that it would invest in companies and do research of its own to produce affordable renewable energy -- at a price less than burning coal -- within a few years, casting the move as a philanthropic effort to address climate change."
Google working on 'smart' plug-in hybrid charging
London Times, 29 September 2009

"Only in California, some observers are saying, but solar enthusiasts see the solar electric car charging stations as the wave of future. A joint venture between Foster City-based SolarCity and San Carlos-based Tesla Motors, the solar charging stations will be placed at four specific Rabobank locations (Salinas, Atascadero, Santa Maria and Goleta) along the 101 route from San Francisco to Los Angeles, one of the most heavily traveled roadways in the world. Rabobank, another participant in the revolutionary endeavor, is an international financial services provider located in 16 countries with headquarters in the Netherlands. Together, the three entities now offer solar charging venues to Tesla drivers. Next year, according to SolarCity spokesman Jonathan Bass, the company will refit the charging stations to correspond to standards established by the Society of Automotive Engineers, making them available to drivers of other electric vehicles as well. The solar charging stations are part of a marketing strategy, of course, but they also represent the companies’ focus on reducing the use of fossil fuels and the attendant emissions that contribute to global warming....Funding for the project came from the California Air Resources Board, which in 2007 provided a grant to Tesla of $641,000, according to Tesla spokeswoman Rachel Konrad. Part of that grant went into the cooperative development, with Auburn-based EV supplier Clipper Creek, of a fast-charging unit that Tesla has named the 'High Power Connector'. This unit delivers up to 70 amps (240 volts) of electricity, which can charge the Tesla Roadster in as few as 3.5 hours....The High Power Connector comes with a price tag of $3,000, but can be installed in any garage or carport with a 15-amp circuit. Tesla cars can also be charged with any 110-volt outlet, but this process can take up to 1.5 days."
California Highway 101 Gets Solar Power Car Chargers
Cooler Planet, 28 September 2009

"Marc Zakian - I am cruising the outskirts of London in a vehicle that could turn white van drivers green. Green with envy, as a tank of diesel costs £100 compared with our £5 fill-up; and environmentally green because the van I am steering is electric. The curved-nosed box-van can carry up to two tonnes (think Transit, but longer and taller). It is made by Modec, a Midlands-based company set up in 2004 by the former chairman of Manganese Bronze – makers of the iconic London taxi. After a £30m development, the Modec was launched in 2007. Driving the Modec is a contradictory experience. Perched in its cabin, you command the road, and yet the ride is extraordinarily quiet; with none of the shake and rattle or the whiff of diesel of a traditional van – only the squeaks from the chassis and the beehive hum of the electric motor let you know you are driving. With no noise pollution or tailpipe emissions, the electric van should be the bright green future for commercial transport. But if the Zev (Zero Emission Vehicle) is to replace Britain's 3m diesel vans it will have to satisfy two demands: the distance it can travel on one charge, and its price....It is once the Zevs are on the road that savings are made. 'We spend £25 a week charging an electric van, compared with £200 on a diesel equivalent,' says Nick Murray, TNT's communications manager. 'After three years an electric van works out cheaper than diesel.' As well as costing less in fuel, electric vans don't need an MOT, are zero-rated for road tax and have no oil or filters to change. And with only four moving parts in the engine – compared with more than 1,000 on an internal combustion engine – electric vehicles are cheaper to maintain and suffer fewer breakdowns....Although electric HGVs are starting to make an appearance – last May the port in Los Angeles started using electric trucks to move sea containers – they are short-range vehicles. Electric vans recharge on the move, generating power when the vehicle brakes and returning that power to the battery. So the stop/start rhythms of a delivery van are well-suited to electric power. Long-distance trucks drive for hours without stopping, way beyond the current 100- to 150-mile battery range. One potential solution is already incorporated into the Modec van. The battery is exchangeable. This future-proofs the vehicle, so that as technology improves, vehicles can be retrofitted with the latest batteries. Currently this swap takes about 15 minutes. But if the exchange were speeded up, it would pave the way for a relay of 'battery stations' around the country, with electric vans or trucks swapping spent batteries for charged ones, giving them an infinite range. This potential is being exploited by Project Better Place, who with Renault and Nissan are planning an electric car battery station network which they plan to deploy by 2011. But Dan Jenkins, from Smiths Electric Vehicles, believes the eventual solution will be improved battery technology. 'Lithium ion battery technology is only at the beginning of its performance curve,' he stresses. 'In the next few years we will see the range being extended to 200 miles and beyond. And in the long term, batteries using ultra-capacitors should mean you can fast-charge in minutes.' In the meantime, for the newly greened white van driver the Zev is good news. Goodbye to the bone-battering rattle of the diesel engine, and hello to the gearless, silent, stress-free world of the electric van."
Electric vans are a viable cleantech alternative
Guardian, 23 September 2009

"India wrong-footed the United States and other rich nations yesterday by agreeing for the first time to set numerical targets for curbing its greenhouse gas emissions. The move added to pressure on the Obama Administration to deliver on its own climate change pledges even as senior Democrats warned that US legislation may face severe delays....The announcement marks a breakthough in international talks, which have stalled over whether emissions curbs in a new UN climate treaty should apply to developing nations as well as to the developed countries covered by the Kyoto Protocol.... India has long refused to commit itself to any cuts on the ground that its per capita emissions are far lower than developed countries’ and any caps would hamper its economic development. Mr Ramesh said that in Copenhagen, India would stick to its long-standing commitment to keep per capita emissions below those of developed nations – and would not agree to any internationally binding cuts. He added, however, that India was drafting legislation that would set its own targets for mitigating carbon emissions through various domestic initiatives, such as a massive plan to promote solar energy. Carbon emissions in India are set to soar as its economy expands rapidly and industrialisation gathers pace. The new targets would be consistent with an annual growth rate of 8 to 9 per cent for India’s GDP, Mr Ramesh said. The announcement was designed to improve India’s image in the West as an obstacle to climate change talks and to put the onus on the developed world to commit to deeper emissions cuts."
India challenges US by agreeing to impose limits on carbon emissions
London Times, 18 September 2009

"BrightSource Energy Inc. today said it has scrapped a controversial plan to build a major solar thermal power facility in eastern Mojave Desert wilderness that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.) wants to transform into a national monument. The announcement ended a long-running dispute between backers of renewable energy and environmentalists strongly opposed to the idea of creating an industrial zone within 600,000 acres of former railroad lands that had been donated to the Department of Interior for conservation."
Controversial plan for solar thermal power facility in Mojave Desert dropped
Los Angeles Times, 17 September 2009

"California is on track to more than double its power generated by solar panel installations in 2009, going against a downward global trend, according to research released on Wednesday. Research house iSuppli Corp also expects the Golden State's hot-streak to continue in 2010, when California's photovoltaic installations, in terms of megawatts of power generated, would increase another 68 percent, while solar panel installations around the world grow 54 percent. The solar power industry has suffered in the credit crisis, which has dried up available financing for new projects and a dramatic fall in solar panel prices has cut into companies' profits."
California to more than double solar power in '09
Reuters, 16 September 2009

"A solar-powered house built by a group of Texas students offers a blueprint for recession-hit U.S. families to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions and their electricity bills without busting their budget. The Zerow House, built by students at Rice University in Houston, will compete against other solar homes in Washington D.C. in October as part of the Solar Decathlon sponsored by the U.S. Energy Department. But unlike some of its competitors, which are integrating high-concept, high-price features like tricked-out home entertainment systems and moving solar arrays that track the sun, the Rice team's aim is affordability...The house, about the size of a New York-style efficiency apartment, is a case study in frugality, and could easily be built in Houston for about $100,000, Sanchez said....Thanks to strong government incentives, Germany is the world's biggest solar market and is expected to remain so until 2013, when the United States will become its equal. China will be slightly behind, according to research firm Lux Research."
Cheap solar? Texan house aims low to win contest
Reuters, 16 September 2009

"Since its founding in 2002, Nanosolar has raised a lot of money – half a billion dollars to date – and made a lot of noise about upending the solar industry, but the Silicon Valley start-up has been a bit vague on specifics about why it’s the next big green thing. On Wednesday, Nanosolar pulled back the curtain on its thin-film photovoltaic cell technology — which it claims is more efficient and less expensive than that of industry leader First Solar — and announced that it has secured $4.1 billion in orders for its solar panels.  Martin Roscheisen, Nanosolar’s chief executive, said customers included solar power plant developers like NextLight, AES Solar and Beck Energy of Germany. The typical Nanosolar farm will be between 2 and 20 megawatts in size, Mr. Roscheisen said in an e-mail message from Germany, where he was attending the opening of Nanosolar’s new factory near Berlin. 'This is a sweet spot in terms of ease of permitting and distributed deployment without having to tax the transmission infrastructure.' Nanosolar, based in San Jose, Calif., has developed a solar cell made from copper indium gallium (di)selenide. The semiconducting materials and nanoparticles are contained within a proprietary ink that makes it possible to print flexible solar cells on rolls of cheap aluminum foil."
$4.1 Billion in Orders for Thin-Film Solar
New York Times, 13 September 2009

"Chinese officials have signed a deal with America’s First Solar, the world’s largest manufacturer of solar cells, to convert a remote desert area of inner Mongolia into a giant power station. First Solar, based in Arizona, said that the plant would be the largest solar station on the planet and would eventually involve carpeting 25 square miles of the remote Chinese province — an area roughly the size of Manhattan — with gleaming panels. Once completed, in 2019, the site will generate 2,000 megawatts of electricity — equivalent to nearly double the output of the Dungeness nuclear power station and enough to power three million Chinese homes. Mike Ahearn, the chief executive of First Solar, said that construction of a pilot project would begin by June 2010. A further three phases will gradually boost power generation at the site from 30 to 2,000 megawatts.... He added that a solar plant of this size would cost $5 billion (£3 billion) to $6 billion in the US, but that it would be cheaper to build in China. While some of the details have not yet been worked out, the plant will be located within a huge new development zone that is eventually expected to generate nearly 12 gigawatts of renewable energy from wind, solar, biomass and hydroelectric power. Beijing is eager to position China as a world leader in renewable energy. It plans to generate 15 per cent of its energy from green sources by 2020 and a variety of government incentives have been introduced. First Solar will provide about 27 million thin-film panels for the site by 2019 and is considering building a factory to support the project."
Mongolia poised to become a world leader in solar power
London Times, 10 September 2009

"A joint US-China plan to 'take over the world' in low-carbon technology will be revealed tomorrow at a meeting of Davos's World Economic Forum in Dalian. The sweeping initiative to secure the opportunities arising from tackling climate change is based on top-level business collaboration between the two superpowers, with some deals already done. One obstacle, however, will be growing trade friction over clean technology. Leading industrialists, entrepreneurs and financiers from the world's two biggest polluters have marked out the development strategy for a trillion dollar 'greentech' market for inclusion in a bilateral climate agreement that is expected to be signed by the two governments when Obama visits China in November. The global clean technology market would get a major boost from any deal at the global climate summit in Copenhagen in December. Under the plan, cash from the two nations and private sector acumen would be used to massively expand China's solar, wind, carbon capture and smart-grid markets in a move that could be as groundbreaking as the commercialisation of the internet. The authors of the plan, which was six months in the making, sketched out their proposal at a gathering of business executives in Shanghai today. 'This is a coming-out party for China's 'greentech' initiatives,' said Ming Sung, of the Clean Air Task Force. 'China and the US can takeover the world on low-carbon technology.' Executives from Boeing, General Electric and other major US firms talked to counterparts from China, including senior figures from Suntech, the solar cell maker, and BYD, a manufacturer of hybrid and electric cars. Rod Quinn, a regional director of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, was among those leading the charge for collaboration on 'clean coal' technology. 'I'm very upbeat,' he said. 'Two great nations. One great plan. That's what we hope for.' Chinese policymakers noted the government's focus on improving energy efficiency but were positive about the prospects for shared research in the fields such as gasification of coal for cleaner burning and the capturing and storing of carbon dioxide emissions. These two expensive technologies are expected to play a central role in minimising the impact of coal on global warming – both the US and China are heavily dependent on coal.The perception that technology development in China relies on western ideas – and a loose view of patents – is also changing. Progress was made in Shanghai last month on what has been billed as the world's biggest and most efficient carbon capture and storage project. The facility is expected to capture carbon at a cost of $40 (£24) a tonne, compared to $100 a tonne at less-advanced facilities in the US. Its operating utility, Huaneng has already signed a commercial deal with Duke Energy, one of the biggest oil companies in the US. Chinese policy advisers said 105 geological sites, mostly saline aquifers and empty oil shafts, had been identified for possible carbon sequestration. China is also taking the lead in coal gasification technology, known as Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) technology."
US and China to unveil joint plan to 'take over' cleantech market
Guardian, 9 September 2009

"Google Inc is disappointed with the lack of breakthrough investment ideas in the green technology sector but the company is working to develop its own new mirror technology that could reduce the cost of building solar thermal plants by a quarter or more. 'We've been looking at very unusual materials for the mirrors both for the reflective surface as well as the substrate that the mirror is mounted on,' the company's green energy czar Bill Weihl told Reuters Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit in San Francisco on Wednesday. Google, known for its Internet search engine, in late 2007 said it would invest in companies and do research of its own to produce affordable renewable energy within a few years. The company's engineers have been focused on solar thermal technology, in which the sun's energy is used to heat up a substance that produces steam to turn a turbine. Mirrors focus the sun's rays on the heated substance. Weihl said Google is looking to cut the cost of making heliostats, the fields of mirrors that have to track the sun, by at least a factor of two, 'ideally a factor of three or four.' 'Typically what we're seeing is $2.50 to $4 a watt (for) capital cost,' Weihl said. 'So a 250 megawatt installation would be $600 million to a $1 billion. It's a lot of money.' That works out to 12 to 18 cents a kilowatt hour. Google hopes to have a viable technology to show internally in a couple of months, Weihl said. It will need to do accelerated testing to show the impact of decades of wear on the new mirrors in desert conditions."
Google plans new mirror for cheaper solar power
Reuters, 9 September 2009

"The rise of the mobile phone has left the streets of Madrid littered with increasingly redundant telephone booths. But these underused installations are now set to play a key role in Spain's electric car revolution under government plans to make them part of a network of electric charging stations for vehicles. Some 30 telephone boxes have been earmarked to form part of a test network of 546 state-subsidised recharging points in Madrid, Barcelona and Seville. Phone boxes are often ideally placed close to the curbs of pavements and already have their own electricity supply, making them relatively easy to adapt. The Spanish government will spend €10m (£8.7m) on kick-starting the use of electric cars over the next two years, with €1.5m going on recharging points. Madrid city council said that telephone boxes were a possibility, but that it was still in the process of identifying the recharging spots it planned to build....Electric vehicles would fit in well with Spain's extensive network of wind-powered generators. Wind turbines remain operative during periods of low demand at night, which is when car batteries could be charged up."
Madrid reverses the chargers with electric car plan
Guardian, 8 September 2009

"In a nation known more for its belching smokestacks, solar water heaters are on nearly every roof in some cities. Manufacturers are eyeing foreign markets, including Southern California....Before her family bought a solar water heater, Liu Yan would bathe the way many working-class Chinese have for generations: boil water, dampen a rag and wipe away the dirt. Today, the 40-year-old mother and her family shower every day and wash their dishes with hot water. The stainless steel heater affixed to her red-tiled roof cost about $220. The device has become a symbol of China's rising standard of living and its leap into the era of clean energy. In the seaside city of 2.8 million where Liu lives in Shandong province, 99% of households use solar water heaters. The mattress-sized contraptions dominate Rizhao's skyline, resting haphazardly on almost every residential rooftop. In the global race to develop green technology and stem climate change, China has quickly become a leading producer of solar panels and wind turbines. It also dominates the lesser-known technology of solar water heaters. Using principles of solar heating more than a century old, the humble, low-cost devices consist of an angled row of cola-colored glass tubes that absorb heat from the sun. The most common models fill the tubes with cold water. As it heats, the water rises into an insulated tank where it can remain hot for days....The technology's gains here lie in its affordability, the dearth of residential natural gas service and the modest expectations of consumers, many of whom had never enjoyed hot water at home before. The starting price for one of the clunky devices is around $220, about the same as an electric heater in China. In the United States, where labor costs are higher and systems tend to be larger and more elaborate, solar water heaters can easily cost $1,500 or more. 'The key to the success in China is that the low price enables people to have an instantaneous payback,' said John Perlin, a solar energy historian and author of 'From Space to Earth: The Story of Solar Electricity.' A thriving, hyper-competitive industry of 5,000 manufacturers has grown up in the last decade or more, driving costs down and widening the range of quality. 'The market is huge, but the competition is fearsome,' said Bi Bangquan, president of Ri- zhao Gold Giant Solar Power, one of 150 manufacturers based in the city."
China, green? In the case of solar water heating, yes
Los Angeles Times, 6 September 2009

"The technological breakthrough that led to digital cameras was the charge-coupled device, or CCD. The equivalent for electric cars is the lithium-ion battery, or Li-ion. Just as CCDs were used first in specialist applications, such as television cameras, so Li-ion batteries have been used in laptop computers and mobile phones. By 2003, however, their price had dropped to a level where Elon Musk, an entrepreneur who had helped launch PayPal, an online payments service, thought that they might be cheap enough to form the basis of an all-electric sports car. The 'killer app' of this car would be its acceleration. Unlike internal-combustion engines, electric motors have full torque, as pulling-power is called, from zero revs. They are thus predisposed to go like a bat out of hell without the aid of a gearbox. Mr Musk’s brainchild is known as the Tesla Roadster (pictured above). The sports version goes from zero to 100kph (62mph) in 3.7 seconds—not much slower than a top-line Ferrari. The desire for acceleration at any price ($121,000, since you ask) is a niche market, but niche markets are the classic way in for a disruptive technology. Tesla’s next vehicle, the Model S, is a more mainstream family car. At about $50,000 it will still not be cheap, but it should be cheap enough to appeal to those who like to think of themselves as early adopters, but who also have spouses and children to worry about.   Another reason for the high price of Tesla’s cars is their range. According to its maker, the Roadster can travel almost 400km between charges. The Model S should be able to do even better. But cheaper electric cars have to make a trade-off between range, price and convenience. Since batteries can be recharged only slowly (the process takes hours, not minutes), a car’s effective range is limited by the size of its battery. And batteries are expensive. A lot of researchers are working on making them cheaper and faster to charge, of course. In the meantime, though, there are three approaches to the trade-off, each of which has its champions. One is to accept the range limit and design small, thrifty vehicles specialised for city use. This has the virtue of simplicity and the vice of inflexibility. The second is to add a petrol-driven generator known as a 'range extender'. This complicates the mechanics, but provides the driver with a security blanket, for he knows he will never be stranded if he can find a petrol station. The third answer is to keep the car all-battery, but to introduce a network of battery-exchange stations similar to the existing network of petrol stations, so that someone who is running out of juice can pull in, swap over and pull out. A leading contender in the first category is Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV, which should go on sale next year. Its initial price will be ¥4.6m ($49,000), although that is expected to be cut in half once the car goes on sale outside Japan. That halving (and potential quartering) of price compared with a Tesla Roadster is achievable because the i-MiEV’s battery has only 88 Li-ion cells, rather than the Tesla’s 1,800. It uses its limited resources well, however. Its quoted range is 160km. Other electric city cars are expected from firms such as Fiat and Toyota. And in November Daimler (which also owns 6% of Tesla) plans to start producing a Li-ion-powered version of its Smart Fortwo. In Germany, a full charge will cost about €2 ($2.80) and keep the vehicle going for around 115km—although there is room in the car, as the name suggests, for only two people....The third answer, though, is perhaps the most radical. Instead of a petrol engine, with its widespread infrastructure of filling stations providing the security blanket, why not build new infrastructure to refuel cars with new, fully charged batteries? The leading proponent of this idea is Better Place. This firm, which is based in California, has been scouring the world for car markets that are, in its terminology, 'islands' and offering to fit them with networks of car-charging and battery-swapping stations that will use robots to exchange exhausted batteries for fully charged ones in seconds. Better Place defines an island as a place with an edge that motorists rarely cross, and the first to be picked by Shai Agassi, the firm’s founder, was Israel. Though more of the country’s edge is land than sea, few cars leave by either route. Israel is now being fitted out with the Better Place infrastructure. Meanwhile, Nissan is tooling up to start building cars with batteries of the appropriate dimensions, for sale starting next year, and Tesla plans to offer swappable batteries on the Model S. Other 'islands' that Better Place has signed deals with include Denmark, Hawaii and Australia. The firm also has a partnership with Tokyo’s largest taxi operator, Nihon Kotsu, to provide swappable batteries for a new fleet of electric taxis which will take to the streets of the Japanese capital. With some 60,000 taxis in Tokyo, this could turn into a huge market. Besides providing drivers with secure refuelling, the Better Place approach has a second advantage. Separating ownership of the battery from ownership of the car changes the economics of electric vehicles. If you rent the battery rather than buying it, that becomes a running cost (like petrol) and the sticker price of the car drops accordingly. This might not matter to a sophisticated economist, who would amortise the battery cost over the life of the vehicle. Many people, though, are swayed by the number they write on the cheque that they give to the dealer. Better Place, indeed, plans to go further. It will charge for its services (battery and electricity) by the kilometre travelled. The cost per kilometre will be lower than for petrol vehicles, and if you sign up for enough kilometres a month, it will throw in the car for nothing....That is possible in part because electric cars are efficient. According to Bosch’s calculations, a conventional internal-combustion-engined car can travel 1.5-2.5km on a kilowatt-hour (kWh) of energy. A hybrid with a combined electric and diesel engine would go up to 3.2km. But a battery-powered car can travel 6.5km. On top of that, the energy put into them is cheaper. Owners with garages or driveways can top up at night using the domestic supply. The long recharge time will thus not be an issue, and the electricity will be cheap, off-peak power. Even if more expensive daytime power is needed (some office and supermarket car parks are already being fitted with recharging points, in anticipation of mounting demand), the cost of such juice is still favourable compared with petrol. Only for garageless owners does recharging become complicated. They will need street-based electrical infrastructure, and a lack of this will limit the spread of electric vehicles to start with. That said, the batteries are expected to get better quite fast. No one is talking of Moore’s Law—a doubling of capacity every 18 months or so. But an improvement of about 8% a year into the foreseeable future is on the cards. A doubling in a decade, in other words. Bosch, for example, calculates that a car fitted with a 40kW motor capable of speeds of up to 120kph would need a Li-ion battery with a capacity of 35kWh. Today such a battery might cost around €17,000. With the technology and economies of scale Bosch expects to be available in 2015, that could drop to €8,000-12,000. As Ford recently pointed out, if the industry were to move towards a common standard for battery packs, this would help boost production volumes and so bring prices down even more. Bosch reckons that for electric cars to become universally popular, a threefold increase in energy density and a fall of two-thirds in the price of batteries will be needed. To that end, it has set up a joint venture with Samsung of South Korea to develop and produce Li-ion batteries for automotive use. Indeed, battery firms, both old and new, are coming up with innovations that add up to the 8% annual gains. These involve changes to the lithium chemistry of batteries, their mechanical properties and the electronics that control them. Among the newcomers are two American firms, A123 Systems and Boston Power, both of which are based in Massachusetts. A123 was founded in 2001 and is backed by General Electric. It uses nanoscale materials to boost the performance of its batteries (making an electrode out of nanoparticles increases its surface area, which in turn decreases the battery’s internal resistance and improves its ability to store and deliver energy). Its batteries are already used in power tools, and the company has formed alliances to supply Chrysler and SAIC Motor Corporation of Shanghai with car-sized versions. Its batteries were also being considered for the Volt, but GM eventually picked ones made by LG Chem, a South Korean firm.... Some carmakers are forming partnerships with battery-makers to ensure supplies and gain access to technology. Others are building their own battery factories. And some are doing both: Nissan has formed a joint venture with NEC to produce advanced Li-ion batteries that use a laminated structure to improve cooling. The firm is planning to put the batteries in a new five-seater family car called the Leaf that it intends to launch late next year in Japan and America as part of its alliance with Renault. The group plans to build 200,000 a year, the most ambitious production target so far for a pure-battery car. The Leaf will be powered by an 80kW electric motor and will have a range of at least 160km on a full charge. It can be charged to 80% capacity in 30 minutes with high-powered quick chargers which Nissan hopes will be installed in petrol stations and other public places.  At least one battery-maker, though, has loftier ambitions than merely supplying carmakers with its wherewithal. BYD, a Chinese firm, seems to have Panasonic’s success in the world of cameras in mind. Earlier this year it launched the first of what it promises will be a range of electric cars that will undercut those made by American and European producers, in part by using a novel material in the batteries’ electrodes."
The electric-fuel-trade acid test
Economist, 3 September 2009

"The number of cars in the rich world will grow only slowly in the years ahead, but car ownership elsewhere is about to go into overdrive. Over the next 40 years the global fleet of passenger cars is expected to quadruple to nearly 3 billion. China, which will soon overtake America as the world’s biggest car market, could have as many cars on its roads in 2050 as are on the planet today; India’s fleet may have multiplied 50-fold. Forecasts of this kind led Carlos Ghosn, boss of the Renault-Nissan alliance, to declare 18 months ago that if the industry did not get on with producing cars with very low or zero emissions, the world would 'explode'. Cars already contribute around 10% of the man-made greenhouse gases that are responsible for climate change. In big cities, especially those in fast-developing countries in Asia and Latin America, gridlocked traffic is responsible for health-threatening levels of local air pollution. To its credit (and under increasing pressure from legislators), the car industry is heeding Mr Ghosn’s call. Biofuels have fallen out of favour because of concerns that those produced in rich countries are not particularly green; but huge efforts are being made to develop cleaner conventional engines and, at the same time, move beyond them to electric, battery-powered vehicles, which produce fewer emissions even when the generation of the electricity needed to charge them is taken into account. By the end of next year, in addition to the increasing number of petrol-electric hybrids on offer, it will be possible for the first time to buy proper cars from mainstream manufacturers that are propelled solely by electric motors (see article). Among them will be Nissan’s Leaf and Chevrolet’s Volt. The Leaf will rely on battery power alone and will have a range of about 160km (100 miles) before it needs to be plugged in for a fresh charge. The Volt will have a small petrol-engine generator to recharge its batteries on trips of more than 65km. Both are medium-sized cars offering decent performance, practicality and safety—and neither looks off-puttingly weird. Electric cars from other mainstream manufacturers are not far behind. Problem solved, then? Alas, electric cars still face several roadblocks. The Leaf and the Volt will be expensive, costing around twice as much as comparable petrol-engined cars. That is because of the high cost of batteries, and because other components must be redesigned for electric vehicles. In an industry driven by scale, small volumes lead to high costs. A further problem is that the Volt and the Leaf must be plugged into the mains every night—fine if you have your own garage or driveway, but a bit tricky otherwise. All this could limit the appeal of electric cars to affluent greens living in leafy suburbs. Carmakers cannot overcome these problems on their own. Governments must also do their part, and not just in order to cut greenhouse-gas emissions. A switch to electric vehicles, along with better public transport, would also reduce choking air pollution in the developing world’s megacities. And most governments would prefer to be less dependent on imported oil: no country has embraced electric cars with more enthusiasm than Israel."
Electric cars: Charge!
Economist, 3 September 2009

"The electric car, so long promised, may finally be pulling into your driveway. In the U.S., a humbled General Motors just showed off one of its rare rays of light — the plug-in Volt, which GM says will get 230 miles per gallon when it hits roads in late 2010. Daimler is trialing an electric version of its baby Smart car and claims to get the equivalent of 300 m.p.g. In Japan this month, a confident Carlos Ghosn said that Nissan's upcoming, all-electric Leaf will get 367 m.p.g. Compared with those experienced players, Chinese manufacturers are like teenagers just getting their car keys. When it comes to electric, though, that could be an advantage. Beijing knows that promoting electric vehicles could be a way to stem the country's rising dependence on foreign oil and clear its polluted air. At the same time, Chinese battery companies like Lishen and Shenzhen-based BYD are looking to leverage their technology and leap into electric cars. Foreign automakers may have a century-long head start on conventional cars, but Chinese companies can compete on new electric technology today — on cost and on performance. 'When it comes to electric and hybrid cars, China is challenging the automotive industries in the Western industrial countries,' writes Wolfgang Bernhart, a consultant with Roland Berger who estimates that electrics and plug-ins could account for more than half the auto market in China by 2020. 'The race for electric mobility is just getting under way.'....the government in Beijing has made it very clear that it considers electric and plug-in vehicles a priority for Chinese companies, and it's willing to spend. The Chinese State Council announced in January that it would spend $1.6 billion over the next three years to develop alternative fuels, and there's already an $8,800 subsidy for local governments and taxi companies that buy electrics and hybrids — which is more than the U.S. government offers. And China already makes more lithium-ion batteries — the energy-dense technology key to new electric cars — than any other country on the planet. 'This is a priority for the Chinese government,' says Kelly Sims Gallagher, author of the book China Shifts Gears: Automakers, Oil, Pollution, and Development. 'They see it as a pathway to a more energy-secure future.'...'The Chinese customer is just getting off a bike, so they're not worried about not being able to drive six hours without a recharge," says Philip Gott, a director for automotive consulting at research firm IHS Global Insight. 'China has the chance to work out the kinks in its own backyard.'...Chinese companies don't have a hundred years of auto manufacturing to unlearn before they tackle electrics. Just as the country skipped ahead on mobile phones, it could do the same on electric cars. 'Electrics could be a way for Chinese automakers to leapfrog the rest of the globe,' says Perkowski. If automakers in the U.S. and elsewhere aren't worried about losing the race for the next great technology to the Chinese, they should be. On Aug. 5, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a long-awaited $2.4 billion in government grants to support the manufacture of electric cars and batteries. 'I don't want to just reduce our dependence on foreign oil and then end up dependent on foreign innovations,' Obama told an audience in the economically depressed state of Indiana. 'I want the cars of the future and the technologies that power them to be developed and deployed right here, in America.' U.S. automakers will need to move fast — China is already pulling away."
Electric Cars: China's Power Play
TIME, 31 August 2009

"Nearly a century ago, American engineer Frank Shuman erected five immense, trough-shaped mirrors in Meadi, Egypt. The parabolic reflectors directed sunlight onto a tube suspended above their 200-foot lengths. Water inside the tubes boiled and created steam. The steam powered a 65-horsepower engine, which pumped 6,000 gallons of water per minute from the Nile River to nearby cotton fields. It was the world’s first concentrated solar power (CSP) plant. Now CSP is poised for a second – or third, depending on when the count begins – renaissance. And this time, say experts, it’s here to stay. World CSP capacity is forecast to increase nearly 18-fold in the next five years, from its current 588 megawatt potential to around 10.5 gigawatts. (Very roughly, 100 megawatts is enough energy to power 80,000 houses.) More than half of that new CSP capacity will be installed in the United States. Several factors are driving the CSP boom. Although utility companies have long viewed CSP as an option for generating electricity from the sun, they’ve hesitated to commit to the technology. That’s partly because CSP becomes efficient and cost-effective only at the megawatt (MW) scale. Photovoltaics, by contrast, can be installed piecemeal on the kilowatt scale – a panel here, another there. And that’s why photovoltaics have so far dominated the solar market. Now, the specter of carbon regulation has shifted attention back toward CSP. The prospect of large-scale solar plants is again attractive. The “renewable portfolio” standard – which requires increased production of energy from renewable sources – has also encouraged investment in CSP. And the investment tax credit – a potential 30 percent credit on qualifying solar projects – has made investors more willing to risk capital in CSP ventures.... For their part, power companies like CSP for old-fashioned reasons. For one, it uses a technology – steam-driven turbines – that is familiar after decades of use in coal-fired plants. CSP plants also have thermal inertia. That means that, if a cloud passes overhead, they can continue operating for a time with the heat already gathered, and that’s without storage. Assuming no rechargeable batteries, photovoltaic fields, by contrast, stop producing electricity when clouds arrive. Technology for storing heat in molten salts, meanwhile, promises to extend CSP plants’ generating capacity well into the night.... Earth has a natural 'sun belt,' a swath of relatively empty subtropical deserts including the US Southwest, the Sahara, the Middle East, and much of Australia. By one estimate, installing CSP plants in just 1 percent of the world’s deserts – an area slightly larger than Ireland – could supply all the world’s electricity. The German Aerospace Center calculates that, assuming high voltage, transmediterranean transmission lines, just 6,023 square miles of CSP in North Africa could keep all of Europe electrified..... The real challenge is making CSP technology competitive with coal. Currently, CSP costs about 14 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), within striking range of current combined-cycle natural-gas plants, in which a gas turbine generator generates electricity and a steam turbine uses the waste heat to generate more. A combined-cycle natural-gas plant produces electricity for about 12 cents per kWh. Pulverized coal plants, on the other hand, generate electricity for 6 cents per kWh – less than half CSP’s cost. But, says Mr. Mehos, if you assume that future coal-fired plants will require carbon sequestration, then that cost moves up to about 10 cents per kWh. That means CSP prices still need to drop by nearly one-third to be competitive with future coal plants. A plethora of CSP companies are racing to innovate and reduce costs. At this point, CSP technology comes in four general 'flavors,' each with different perceived strengths and weaknesses....which technology will dominate and how it will store heat is still very much an open question."
Sunrise for solar heat power
Christian Science Monitor, 18 August 2009
"If all goes as expected, solar panel sales people across Australia will at some point this week uncross their fingers and toes and crack open the champagne. Among the immediate winners when the renewable energy bill becomes law will be the 100 staff at Solar Shop Australia, who have been told their jobs depend on it. The solar industry has been without Government support since the $8000 rebate was axed in June. The replacement, a solar credit scheme expected to yield between $4000 and $6000, has been in limbo for two months since the renewable energy bill was deferred to a committee. The result has been the plummeting sales of rooftop panels. Beyond boosting the solar industry, the renewable energy target - requiring that 20 per cent of electricity comes from clean sources by 2020 - is expected to increase electricity prices by 4 per cent compared with what would otherwise have been expected."
Sun to shine again on solar
The Age (Australia), 17 August 2009
"Sumitomo, the Japanese trading house, has struck a landmark deal with Kazakhstan's state nuclear power company in a bid to secure supplies of rare earth metals — the 'green' minerals whose global supply is dominated by China and which are used to make environmentally friendly products such as wind turbines. Sumitomo's plan is to establish a refinery operation at Kazatomprom's nuclear facilities — uranium ore is one source of rare earth metals, and the Kazakh facility is refining that at its plant to extract the uranium. The country is also temptingly full of abandoned Soviet-era uranium mines, over which Japan and China are expected to tussle. The move is expected to spark tit-for-tat dealmaking by Beijing, which has moved quickly to crush any assault on its 98 per cent worldwide monopoly on rare earth production. It may also create a 'gold rush' for Kazakhstan's crumbling Soviet-era uranium mines. A resource war is now inevitable, say observers in Tokyo. Governments and consumers around the world may be getting excited about the dawning of the era of the electric car, but the proposition depends on minerals which, increasingly, China is making sure stay at home. The rare earth metals comprise a group of 14 'lanthanide' minerals essential to almost all environmental technology: they are used in products ranging from low-energy light bulbs and solar panels to hybrid motors and wind turbines. Critically, their powers of magnetism means they are needed to make electric motors at a weight that makes them commercially viable for electric cars. The two most important, neodymium and dysprosium, are thought to be abundant in Kazakhstan's ores. Every year during the past decade, just as Toyota, Mitsubishi and others have boosted production of hybrid cars and worked on the development of fully electric vehicles, China has cut its export quotas of rare earth metals by about 6 per cent annually. Japan expected to be allotted only 38,000 tonnes in 2009 — the amount consumed by Toyota and Honda alone. Mining experts in Australia, where China has been buying rare earth mines, have predicted a wider supply crunch within three years as global rare earth demand surges beyond existing refinery and extraction capacity. The Sumitomo deal, said trading house analysts in Tokyo, marked the first serious Japanese gambit in what was tipped to be a long and fiercely-fought resource war: initially between China and Japan, but expected to soon embroil other nations with strong manufacturing industries. Toyota Tsusho, the resource buying arm of the world's biggest car company, is also poised to join the fray with a Y40 billion (£255 million) investment in rare earth metal mining ventures in Indonesia and Mongolia. China's near stranglehold on the world supply of rare earth metals has already spawned a vast smuggling network as Japan and others cheat Beijing's draconian export quotas."
Sumitomo in deal with Kazakhstan to supply rare earth minerals
London Times, 12 August 2009
"Every now and again there comes along a new technology that changes civilization. Gunpowder, steam engines, electricity, internal combustion, nuclear energy, transistors, and the integrated computer circuits readily come to mind. Looming just over the horizon is the possibility that another such disruptive technology may, and I emphasize may, be in the offing. This technology would be a capacitor with the ability to store large amounts of high-voltage electricity as a static charge in a relatively small and inexpensive device. No chemical reactions - just electrons in and electrons out. Should such a technology become available, the implications would be immense for the worldwide production and use of energy. Starting with intermittent energy sources such as wind and solar, a cheap and reliable means of storing the electric power would make such sources far more useful. Electricity storage devices stationed along smart power distribution networks could lead to major efficiencies in the distribution of electrical energy; and inexpensive home storage devices could make rooftop solar and wind efficient, competitive with centralized generation of power. The most immediate impact, however, could be on transportation. If a car or truck could be built at modest cost with a 250 mile all electric range, instantly rechargeable, and a long life, the automobile and petroleum industries would be transformed forever. This of course all sounds too good to be true and skeptics that large paradigm-changing capacitors can be built abound. Here the matter would rest except for a small firm down in Texas called EEStor that from all indications has been working diligently on the development of a high-voltage, high energy density capacitor for several years....One of the more fascinating aspects of the story is that EEStor has an agreement with a tiny Canadian manufacturer of low-speed neighborhood electric cars called Zenn Motors that gives the Canadians an exclusive license to manufacturer small electric cars powered by EEStor's capacitor technology and a promise that Zenn will be the first to receive working capacitors. To further confuse skeptics, EEStor has an agreement with Lockheed Martin to handle government sales of the capacitor. A few weeks ago a lengthy and candid interview with the founder of EEStor, Dick Weir, made its way onto the internet. During the interview, Weir discusses many of the steps and details involved in the development of his new dielectric material, Composition Modified Barium Titanate powder. Weir said EEStor has completed the development of the material and now has a small production line in place to produce the dielectric material which is the key to the device. He further says that pre-production electricity storage devices built to the specifications of Zenn Motors and other customers currently are being fabricated and will be available for testing and certification next month....There would seem to be too many reputable people and organizations involved with and certifying milestones in this project for EEStor to be a total fraud. Lockheed Martin has had their scientists examine the project in detail and concluded that 'while we cannot guarantee that the technology will work as intended, we see no reason why it won't.' It is unlikely that EEStor would be making arrangements to take the device to Underwriters Laboratories for electrical certification unless there has been sufficient integration and testing to insure that it actually works. When and if the EEStor battery works and is publically displayed, the Lithium-ion battery industry and many recently announced automobiles based on them could be in trouble. Unlike lithium which is in limited supply, barium is plentiful and can be mined domestically. If EEStor's CEO is to be believed, it is relatively easy and inexpensive to build production lines for his device as compared to building lithium batteries."
Tom Whipple - The Peak Oil Crisis:A Disruptive Technology
Falls Church News-Press, 12 August 2009
"Tesla Motors turned profitable for the first time in July, when the electric car manufacturer shipped a record 109 vehicles, the company said Friday. A surge in sales and reduced manufacturing costs of Tesla's Roadster 2 sports car helped boost the company to $1 million in earnings and $20 million in revenue. 'There is strong demand for a car that is unique in offering high performance with a clean conscience,' said Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk, in a prepared statement. 'Customers know that in buying the Roadster they are helping fund development of our mass market electric cars.' The Roadster has a range of about 244 miles per charge -- the first production electric vehicle to cross the 200-mile mark, according to the press release. The Roadster is the only highway-capable electric vehicle for sale in North America or Europe, and the company says it is faster than a Porsche and twice as energy-efficient as a Toyota Prius. In June, privately owned Tesla borrowed $465 million from the Department of Energy to fund development of an all-electric sedan called the Model S -- slated to sell for $49,900, or about half the price of the Roadster. Tesla has also partnered with Daimler to develop an electric version of mini vehicles called Smart cars. The company said it plans to launch a test fleet of 1,000 electric Smart cars in late 2009."
Electric roadster maker making money
CNN, 7 August 2009
"Want to know why the Obama administration’s announcement of $2.4 billion in electric vehicle grants could be very important? It’s simple: The commitment show that Washington may be getting serious about keeping batteries from becoming the new oil. Right now, overseas manufacturers, primarily in Asia, are the world leaders in the mass production of advanced vehicle batteries. Even US-made hybrids such as the Ford Fusion have a foreign battery at their core. But the White House and many lawmakers in Congress say they don’t want to swap reliance on Saudi oil for reliance on South Korean batteries as part of the nation’s green energy future. Thus the administration has steered $1.5 billion of the $2.4 billion in electric technology development funds to battery manufacturing projects. 'I don’t want to have to import a hybrid car,' said President Obama at an appearance in Warakusa, Ind., Wednesday. 'I want to build a hybrid car here.' If you think the comparison between oil and batteries is overblown, consider that IHS Global Insight predicts that by 2020 some 47 percent of the vehicles sold in the US will have some kind of battery power at their core, either coupled with small sparked engines in hybrids, or alone in full electric cars and trucks."
The real reason for Obama’s $2.4 billion electric car grants
Christian Science Monitor, 5 August 2009
"For centuries Hindus have revered the sun god, Surya, as a source of health and prosperity, building lavish temples and holding festivals in his honour across a country with more than 300 days of sunshine a year. Now India is putting its faith in the sun in a more literal sense by revealing what experts describe as the world’s most ambitious plan to develop solar energy over the next three or four decades. Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister, will chair a meeting today to decide whether to approve a National Solar Mission designed to curb India’s carbon emissions and ease its crippling power shortages. It proposes boosting India’s solar power generation capacity from almost zero to 20 gigawatts (20 billion watts) by 2020, 100GW by 2030 and 200GW by 2050, according to a draft seen by The Times. The entire world can generate about 14GW of solar power today. India’s plan also proposes reducing the price of solar power to the same level as that from fossil fuels by 2020, according to the draft, dated April 29. Solar power in India currently costs about 15 rupees (20p) per kWh, compared with an average 3.5 rupees per kWh for electricity from the national grid, which is largely produced by coal-fired thermal power plants. Other targets include forcing all government buildings to have solar panels by 2012 and developing micro-financing to encourage 20 million households to install solar lighting by 2020. The plan also outlines a system — similar to Germany’s — of paying households for any surplus power from solar panels fed back into the grid. To achieve these and other goals, the mission proposes that the Government invest 920 billion rupees (£11.5 billion) in developing, manufacturing and installing solar technology over the next 30 years. The mission is primarily designed to improve India’s energy security as it has abundant supplies of coal — the dirtiest of the fossil fuels — but has to import 70 per cent of its crude oil and half its natural gas. It is also meant to ease a chronic power shortage that has left 400 million Indians without electricity, causes daily blackouts in cities, and represents one of the biggest obstacles to economic growth."
India looks to the sun for ambitious surge in green power
London Times, 3 August 2009
"Without a way to store their power, no number of solar panels will free a home from the electrical grid. Researchers at Utah-based Ceramatec have developed a new battery that can be scaled up to store 20 kilowatt-hours—enough to power an average home for most of a day. An easy sell for solar users, but it could also allow the grid-bound to stockpile energy during less expensive off-peak hours. The new battery runs on sodium-sulfur—a composition that typically operates at greater than 600 F. 'Sodium-sulfur is more energetic than lead-acid, so if you can somehow get it to a lower temperature, it would be valuable for residential use, Ralph Brodd, an independent energy conversion consultant, says. Ceramatec’s new battery runs at less than 200 F. The secret is a thin ceramic membrane that is sandwiched between the sodium and sulfur. Only positive sodium ions can pass through, leaving electrons to create a useful electrical current. Ceramatec says that batteries will be ready for market testing in 2011, and will sell for about $2000."
The Key to the Battery-Powered House
Popular Mechanics, July 2009
"It's a simple idea: cure Europe’s addiction to fossil fuels by connecting its electricity-hungry consumers to the deserts of north Africa that are rich in solar energy. Simple, but surely this is straight out of science fiction? There may be plenty of sun power in the Sahara, but the cost and political problems in creating an infrastructure to harvest it are daunting. Some serious players, however, have joined together to see if the obstacles can be overcome. Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurance group and a leader among financial institutions on climate change, brought together 12 finance and energy companies in Munich a fortnight ago to seek a solution. The reinsurer, which has had to make high payouts in recent years for damage caused by erratic weather, believes solar power in north Africa could deliver 15% of Europe’s electricity by 2050. The concept of harnessing solar power from the deserts has long been promoted by Desertec, a European network of scientists and engineers, but this is the first time that commercial companies have come together to discuss how to turn it into reality.Deutsche Bank, Eon, Siemens and ABB attended the meeting, along with representatives from Desertec, the European Union and the League of Arab States. Delegates agreed to fund a three-year feasibility study and set up a consortium, with all 12 members having pledged to contribute to the $2.5m (£1.5m) running costs for the first year. So what is the likely price tag for a scheme that would provide the 15% specified by Munich Re? $560 billion. 'We believe that the technology is available but we want to see if the concept can be realised from a political and economic point of view,' said the reinsurer. The plan would depend on an enormous expansion of concentrated solar power (CSP) plants in countries such as Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. CSP plants use mirrors to direct sunlight into a small area and generate heat. That creates steam, which drives a turbine to generate electricity (see graphic above). The advantage over photo-voltaic solar panels is that it does not need expensive silicon to generate power. CSP needs lots of direct sunlight, making it unsuitable for European countries but ideal for deserts. Power generation can continue at night, using spare heat that has been held over from the daytime and stored in tanks filled with melted salts such as sodium nitrate or potassium nitrate, or in blocks of concrete. This enables generators to offer a constant power supply and match the peak demand that occurs in the evenings. Desertec claims that the world’s present electricity needs could be met by covering just 1% of the world’s deserts with CSP. Cost is a problem. Electricity generated by CSP costs about €0.15 per kilowatt, compared with €0.06 per kilowatt for electricity generated from coal or nuclear stations. Supporters of the Desertec plan believe the price of CSP can be brought down to the same level as fossil fuels if European governments provide subsidies for 10 to 15 years. These would probably take the form of feed-in tariffs, which would give CSP generators a guaranteed price above market rates for a fixed time. These subsidies would cost anything between €50 billion (£43 billion) and €250 billion, according to a study by the Vienna-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, which presented its findings at the Copenhagen global warming conference in March. At least another €200 billion would be needed to build the CSP plants and invest in a transmission grid that could bring the power to European countries. The institute’s Anthony Patt believes that north African countries are cautiously supportive of the Desertec concept, provided local energy needs are also met. 'I’m confident that a deal can be struck that is good for north Africa,' he said....The plan is not without its critics. Hermann Scheer, head of the European Association for Renewable Energy (Eurosolar), has said the initiative is unviable, claiming its proponents have underestimated the technical and political challenges and the likely cost."
Desert sun power pulls in the big guns
London Times, 26 July 2009

Homeowners who install solar panels and wind turbines will be paid for any electricity that they feed back into the National Grid, the Government confirmed yesterday. The payments will be based on a fixed price per unit of electricity and will be set high enough to encourage hundreds of thousands of homes to invest in renewable sources of power. Local energy suppliers will adjust the bills that they issue according to the number of units fed back into the grid. Homeowners with low energy consumption and a solar panel could receive net payments from their energy company. Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said that the ‘feed-in tariffs’ would be available from next April.”
Money back for homeowners with solar panels and wind turbines
London  Times, 15 July 20099

“The world's most ambitious green energy project is about to take shape. It is a plan for a chain of mammoth sun-powered energy plants in the deserts of North Africa to supply power to Europe's homes and factories by the end of the next decade. In a few days' time a consortium of 20 German firms will meet in Munich to hammer out plans for funding the giant €400bn (£343bn) project, named Desertec. The scheme is being backed by Chancellor Angela Merkel's government and several German industry household names including Siemens, Deutsche Bank, and the energy companies RWE and E.ON. The Munich meeting will also involve Italian and Spanish energy concerns, as well as representatives from the Arab League and the Club of Rome think-tank. Energy experts have calculated that Desertec could meet at least 15 per cent of Europe's needs, and be up and running by 2019. By 2050, they estimate the contribution could be between 20 and 25 per cent. Although no host countries have been named, Desertec envisages a string of solar-thermal plants across North Africa's desert. The plants would use mirrors to focus the sun's rays, which would be used to heat water to power steam turbines. The process is cheaper and more efficient than the usual form of solar power, which uses photovoltaic cells to convert the sun's rays into electricity. The project also envisages setting up a new super grid of high-voltage transmission lines from the Mahgreb desert to Europe. Hans Müller-Steinhagen, of German Aerospace, has researched the project for the German government. He said that although the idea behind the scheme had been around for several years, investors had been deterred by the high costs of setting up the infrastructure. .. Germany's largest solar energy company, SolarWorld, argues that North Africa is too risky a location. ‘Building solar power plants in politically unstable countries opens you to the same kind of dependency as the situation with oil,’ said Frank Asbeck, the firm's managing director. Other critics claim that by singling out comparatively poor North African countries as a location for a sophisticated European solar energy project amounts to a form of ‘solar imperialism’.”
€400bn energy plan to harness African sun
Independent, 12 July 2009

"It may take a little bit of color to create cheaper solar energy. Israeli start-up 3GSolar says it has developed the world's first commercial-size solar energy system that uses colored dyes to turn sunlight into electricity. The technology emerged from a relatively new field in solar energy that uses simple organic dyes instead of rare or costly materials, like silicon, which scare many consumers away from solar power. Energy companies have been struggling for years to make dye-sensitized solar cells (DSC) large enough to be used in commercial-size systems. Such next generation cells could be used in cutting-edge applications, like windows that turn passing sun rays into electricity. Japanese electronics conglomerate Sony Corp said last year it had developed dye-sensitized cells with an energy conversion efficiency of 10 percent, a level seen necessary for commercial use, but that its technology was still in the research and development stage. A 1.5 square meter (16 square foot) prototype, boasting red panels, stands on the rooftop of the 3GSolar's Jerusalem laboratories. The company's founder, Jonathan Goldstein, says it is by far the largest in the world. It transforms just seven percent of the sunlight it absorbs into electricity, but he said that its efficiency would increase steadily in the coming years. Scaling up the size of solar panels has been hampered by problems of metal corrosion in their grids. 3GSolar would not disclose the exact process it used to overcome the obstacle. 'These cells, each individual one of 225 square centimeters (34 square inches), we believe are the largest of this type in the world and give a record-breaking current,' Goldstein said. Dye-sensitized solar cells are also known as Graetzel cells, after Michael Graetzel, a professor at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland, who discovered them about 20 years ago. He found that sunlight excites the dye and creates and electronic charge without the need for pricey semiconductors, similar to the way a plant uses chlorophyll to turn sunlight into energy through photosynthesis. Graetzel told Reuters the dye-based technology has been gaining momentum in the renewable energy market. He said there were key advantages over other systems. These included lower costs, its ability to create electricity in cloudy areas or in non-peak sunlight, and the smaller amount of energy needed to manufacture the panels, which leaves a smaller carbon footprint. '3GSolar came up with a solution. They report to have a collector that doesn't corrode,' Graetzel said. He added that the company has shown promising results from durability tests on their panels carried out over 1,500 hours at 85 degrees Celsius....3GSolar says its first system -- with two solar panels, a charge controller and a battery -- will hit the market in two years. It will target the off-grid market in developing countries, where many villages still depend on candlelight. The Brussels-based Alliance for Rural Electrification estimated the off-grid market at $1.5 billion. 3GSolar said its system will have a lifespan of about seven years and have an output of 110 watts, enough to power many types of refrigerators.It will cost $400, less than similar silicon-based systems, when produced locally. That translates into 30 cents per kWh, which is still much higher than fossil fuels. The company expects the price will come down as the lifespan increases and production costs drop."
Colored dyes offer cheap solar power: Israeli firm
Reuters, 9 July 2009
"On June 26, a prototype of the world's latest solar-powered airplane was unveiled at an airfield in Dubendorf, Switzerland, by company co-founders and future pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg. The Solar Impulse HB-SIA is designed to fly both day and night without the need for fuel and without producing any pollution. The plane, which is scheduled to make its first flight later this year, was built to stay airborne for several days operating just on the power emitted by the sun and captured by its solar panels. The goal and challenge of the craft is to show the viability of renewable energy. 'If an aircraft is able to fly day and night without fuel, propelled solely by solar energy,' says Piccard, 'let no one come and claim that is impossible to do the same thing for motor vehicles, heating and air conditioning systems, and computers'"
Soaring ambition for solar aircraft
CNET News, 3 July 2009
"The solar energy industry will grow faster than expected during the next few years as American utilities invest heavily in large-scale solar farms, analysts with Barclays Capital said Tuesday in a research note. Barclays analyst Vishal Shah noted that demand for utility-scale solar projects could eventually make up half of the U.S. market. Major utilities could install about 5 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic projects during the next three years, the analyst said. Solar power is still a tiny player on the American electrical grid, however. The utility-scale projects currently in operation in the U.S. provide 444 megawatts of energy to the grid according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. That's enough to power 2.8 million homes, and it's only a fraction of the power generated by another alternative energy source, the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station near Phoenix. That amount is expected to jump more than 12-fold in the next few years, however, with dozens of new solar plants under development in California, Arizona, Florida and Hawaii."
Solar industry to see faster than expected growth
Associated Press, 23 June 2009
"Britain could become a booming market for solar power from next year when the UK introduces a support system used successfully by dozens of other countries. Last week 240 MPs signed a parliamentary motion supporting the mass rollout of solar photovoltaic (PV) power. The support was the biggest of any such motion introduced in this parliament. Colin Challen MP, who tabled the motion, said: 'There is an enormous opportunity to drive forward this technology through the forthcoming feed-in tariffs.' Feed-in tariffs (FITs) work by paying a guaranteed, above-market price for any electricity fed into the grid for a period of 20-25 years. They have been designed to offer returns close to 10%, thereby reducing payback times for any household investing in a PV system to 10 years or less."
Sunnier times ahead for solar energy as MPs back tariff boost for photovoltaic power
Guardian, 15 June 2009
"The desolate, sun-baked deserts of southwestern Bolivia are poised to become the energy battleground of the 21st century, with China and Japan staking early and aggressive claims in the great lithium land-grab. Japan, observers say, may have won the first round, but, with its mainstream resource ambitions thwarted on the Rio Tinto deal, China could redouble its efforts to gain a foothold in the salt flats of South America and the all-important technology metals. The flurry of ruthlessly competitive diplomatic and corporate overtures to Bolivia from both Tokyo and Beijing is driven by the same dream: ultimate control of the future global market for electric vehicles. An ample supply of lithium, at least using current technology, is the critical weapon in that quest and Bolivia is to lithium what Saudi Arabia is to oil, say geologists. Masao Kando, director-general of the metals strategy department of the Japanese Government, told The Times: 'We all know that China is becoming the world's biggest car producer and we see them as our biggest rival. Looking at the Rio Tinto case, we see that China is moving to secure resources by throwing incredibly abundant capital at the effort and it is sometimes hard to compete with that.'...At present, Chile is the world's biggest annual producer of lithium, but half the planet's known reserves of the metal are thought to lie under the Salar De Uyuni in Bolivia. The right relationship with La Paz will hold the key to everything, according to senior Japanese officials. For the two rival Asian economic giants, control of lithium supplies - or at least a firm guarantee of stable future flows - is vital. For Japan, whose export-led economy is dominated by the lithium-hungry auto and electronics industries, it is a fight for survival of the status quo. With reliable long-term sources of lithium, Japanese companies can continue producing batteries for the world's laptops, digital cameras and mobile phones. With the same guarantee, Japanese car companies will be able to convert their manufacturing prowess to mass production of electric vehicles. Yet for China the motivation for lithium dominance is even more compelling: the United States, Germany and Japan led the world in the development of petrol-driven cars in the 20th century and it would take many years for Chinese carmakers to match that expertise. Electric vehicles, on the other hand, represent a blank slate: these are pioneering days in the post-combustion engine era and a potentially huge opportunity for China to lunge for early leadership, increasingly nervous Japanese automaker executives believe....China, whose lands hold about a tenth of the estimated global reserves of lithium, is the world's third-largest producer and several of its companies have rapidly grown to become substantial global players in lithium battery production. Beijing's efforts to butter-up the authorities in La Paz have included a donation of cash to help to build a school in the town where President Morales was born and a gift of about 50 military vehicles, including two ships."
Japan and China fight it out for right to mine lithium under Bond's battlefield
London Times, 15 June 2009
"U.S. demand for residential solar power installations is surging despite an economic recession, thanks to government financial incentives, some easing in credit availability, and increasing public recognition of its environmental benefits, industry executives said on Tuesday. Companies represented at the PV America solar conference in Philadelphia said the volume of their installations as much as tripled in 2008 and they see further gains this year as more people recognize that they can cut their electricity bills by at least 15 percent with an array of solar panels installed on the roof of their homes....Faced with a cost of about $50,000 for installation of a 7-kilowatt system on a typical 2,500-square-foot house, a New Jersey homeowner can defray the expense with a $12,500 rebate from the state and a federal tax credit of $11,000, Naik said. After the first year, the homeowner can also expect a refund check for about $3,200 from the local utility in return for installing the solar panels, Naik said. The owner can expect to save about $1,700 a year in electricity bills, and should recoup the initial investment within five to eight years, he said. According to industry trade group the Solar Energy Industries Association, there was an overall 16 percent increase in solar capacity, including commercial installations, in 2008. Jeffrey Wolfe, chief executive of Vermont-based installer groSolar, said the market has also been boosted by lower prices for solar panels due in part to an increase in the supply of the polysilicon, the raw material used for their construction. Wolfe argued the industry is benefiting from a cultural change that is more accepting of the need to find alternatives to fossil fuels, in part because of last year's surge in gasoline prices to more than $4 a gallon. 'People have seen what energy prices can do, and they have come to the end of their rope in denying climate change,' Wolfe said. Companies are also getting creative in bringing the upfront costs of solar power down for customers. groSolar, for one, is providing financing to customers who are unable to front the $40,000-$50,000 price tag for a typical solar installation. Wolfe's company now operates a lease program requiring a down payment of $1,000 and then regular monthly payments for use of the system. In California, Arizona and Oregon, SolarCity installs systems without any down payment from the customer, who then pays a lease fee which typically ranges from $25 to $60 a month, said David Arfin, vice president of customer financing. The company owns and maintains the system but the homeowner benefits from the reduced utility bills, he said."
U.S. demand for residential solar rising in '09
Reuters, 9 June 2009
"China said it will introduce a preferential tariff it will pay energy companies that use solar power for their generating capacity, as part of the government's push for greater use of clean technology. The preferential tariff -- the price that China's two state-owned electricity transmission and distribution companies will pay energy companies for their solar power -- aims to make solar power competitive against traditional fuels, such as coal..."
China to Encourage Solar Use
Wall St Journal, 3 June 2009
"The U.S. solar market is poised to triple next year as federal stimulus funds become available and access to financing for renewable energy projects is unfrozen, Suntech Power Holdings Co Ltd Chief Strategy Officer Steven Chan said on Tuesday. Despite the weak economy, Chan also said he expects the solar market in the United States to be about flat in 2009 compared with 2008. At the same time, Suntech expects to double its U.S. market share to 20 percent this year from 10 percent last year. 'The prospects for 2010 and beyond are quite significant,' Chan told the Reuters Global Energy Summit via phone. 'Next year, I wouldn't be surprised if the U.S. market tripled off of this year.'"
Suntech sees U.S. solar tripling in 2010
Reuters, 2 June 2009
"President Barack Obama Wednesday announced over $467 million from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to expand and accelerate the development, deployment, and use of geothermal and solar energy across the United States. The funding is intended to help the solar and geothermal industries overcome technical barriers, demonstrate new technologies, and provide support for clean energy jobs. 'We have a choice,' said the President, addressing armed services personnel and legislators at Nellis Air Force Base. We can remain the world’s leading importer of oil, or we can become the world’s leading exporter of clean energy. We can hand over the jobs of the future to our competitors, or we can confront what they have already recognized as the great opportunity of our time: the nation that leads the world in creating new sources of clean energy will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy. That’s the nation I want America to be."
Obama Invests $467M in Solar and Geothermal Development
Environment News Service, 28 May 2009
"Europe should scrap its support for wind energy as soon as possible to focus on far more efficient emerging forms of clean power generation including solar thermal energy, one of the world’s most distinguished scientists said yesterday. Professor Jack Steinberger, a Nobel prize-winning director of the CERN particle physics laboratory in Geneva, said that wind represented an illusory technology — a cul-de-sac that would prove uneconomic and a waste of resources in the battle against climate change. 'Wind is not the future,' he told the symposium of Nobel laureates at the Royal Society. Instead, he said, technologies such as solar thermal power — for which parabolic mirrors reflect the Sun’s rays to generate heat and electricity — represent a more promising way of supplanting fossil fuels. 'I am certain that the energy of the future is going to be thermal solar,' he told The Times. 'There is nothing comparable. The sooner we focus on it the better.' Professor Steinberger said that all known reserves of fossil fuels would be depleted within 60 years and that a network of solar energy farms in the Sahara could reliably supply nearly 80 per cent of Europe’s energy needs by the middle of this century. He called for European governments to fund a big pilot project in North Africa linked to Europe via high-voltage undersea cables. Solar thermal power was already economic and on the brink of big advances that would place it way ahead of rival forms of wind, geothermal, wave and tidal energy, he said. 'Governments need to focus on this area right now.' A 3-3.5 gigawatt solar thermal project in North Africa, which would generate enough electricity to supply two million homes, would cost £20 billion to build. 'I am certain you could make electricity and ship it to Europe at a price equivalent to fossil fuels.' He said that intermittent energy sources, such as wind, required back-up power generation, which undermined their contribution to emissions reductions. In contrast, solar thermal power could generate heat energy that could reliably generate 24-hour electricity. Britain has made wind energy a priority in reducing carbon emissions by 34 per cent by 2020. The Government plans to build 33 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2020, which the professional services organisation Ernst & Young estimates will cost more than £100 billion. Professor Steinberger said that it would cost about £440 billion and take 30 years for Europe to remove its reliance on fossil fuels, which supply 80 per cent of its energy needs, but that governments needed to make bold decisions about which technologies to support. Commercial-scale solar thermal power plants were operating in Spain, the US and Germany, but further research was needed to refine the technology and cut costs, he said."
Solar power should replace wind energy, says Jack Steinberger
London Times, 27 May 2009
"The government intends to make mandatory the use of solar heating systems in all functional buildings under the first phase of the proposed National Solar Mission. To be implemented between 2009 and 2012, the Mission proposes to make it compulsory for all hospitals, guest houses, hotels and nursing homes to install solar water heaters. This will be applicable to residential complexes too if a minimum plot area of 500 square metres is available...The Mission also proposes to further expand the solar lighting system to provide access to lighting for 3 million households by 2012 in urban and rural areas. The setting up of solar charging stations are also proposed for solar lanterns currently being distributed on a large scale in the rural areas. This is estimated to cost Rs.1,200 crore."
Mandatory use of solar heating system
The Hindu, 25 May 2009
"Solar power stations that concentrate sunlight could generate up to one-quarter of the world's electricity needs by 2050, according to a study by environmental and solar industry groups. The technology, best suited to the desert regions of the world, could also create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and save millions of tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. Concentrating solar power (CSP) uses mirrors to focus sunlight onto water. This produces steam that can then turn turbines and generate electricity. It differs from photovoltaics, which use solar panels to turn sunlight directly into electricity and can operate even on overcast days. CSP only works in places where there are many days with clear skies and is a proven, reliable technology. At the end of 2008 CSP capacity was around 430MW, and worldwide investment in the technology will reach   €2bn (£1.8bn) this year, according to Sven Teske of Greenpeace International and co-author of the report. He said investment could increase, under a relatively moderate scenario, to €11.1bn by 2010 and provide 7% of the world's generating capacity by 2030. By 2050 investment could reach €92.5bn, creating almost 2m jobs by 2050 and saving 2.1bn tonnes of CO2 every year. 'Due to the feed-in tariff in Spain and a few schemes in the US, this technology is actually taking off and we wanted to highlight that we have a third big technology to fight climate change — wind, photovoltaics and now CSP,' said Teske. Spain is leading the field on CSP: more than 50 solar projects in the country have been approved for construction by the government and, by 2015, it will generate more than 2GW of power from CSP, comfortably exceeding current national targets. Spanish companies are also exporting their technology around the world. Environmentalists argue that many countries in the 'sun-belt' around the equator would benefit from CSP technology — including desert regions in the southern United States, north Africa, Mexico, China and India. The new study, carried out by Greenpeace International, the European Solar Thermal Electricity Association and the International Energy Agency's (IEA) SolarPACES group, looked at three scenarios of future growth in CSP. The first was business-as-usual reference scenario that assumed no increases at all in CSP; the second continued the CSP investments seen in recent years in places such as Spain and the US; while the advanced scenario was most optimistic, removing all political and investment barriers to give figures for the true potential of CSP. Under the third, most optimistic, scenario there could be a giant surge in investments to €21bn a year by 2015 and €174bn a year by 2050, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. In this case, solar plants would have installed capacity of 1,500GW by 2050 and provide 25% of the world's electricity capacity. Even in the second scenario, which sees only modest increases, the world's combined CSP capacity could reach 830GW by 2050, representing up to 12% of the world's energy generation needs. Teske acknowledged that these estimates were far higher than official figures from the IEA. It says that by 2050, CSP would provide only0.2% of global power generation. But Teske added that the IEA analysis does not assume any increases in production capacity in the next few decades, hence CSP forms a very small part of the overall energy mix. The new report also said that CSP technology was improving rapidly, with many new power plants fitted with storage systems for steam so that they could continue to operate at night. In addition it said the cost of the electricity produced , currently at €0.15 to €0.23 a kilowatt, would fall to €0.10-€0.14 by 2020 if governments continued to support the technology with incentives such as feed-in tarriffs."
Concentrated solar power could generate 'quarter of world's energy'
Guardian, 26 May 2009
"Australia plans to build the world's largest solar power station with an output of 1000 megawatts in a A$1.4 billion (US$1.05 billion) investment, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said on Sunday.The plant would have three times the generating capacity of the current biggest solar-powered electricity plant, which is in California, Rudd said during a tour of a power station. Tender details will be announced later in the year, and successful bidders will be named in the first half of 2010. Rudd said the project was aimed at exploiting the country's ample sunshine, which he called 'Australia's biggest natural resource'' It was also aimed at helping the country become a leader in renewable, clean energy, he said....The project should eventually lead to a network of solar-powered stations across the country, Rudd said, with locations chosen to fit in with the existing electricity grid and ensure good access to sunshine....Rudd also said Australia would become a full member of the International Renewable Energy Agency, which will have its first global meeting in June."
Australia to build world's largest solar energy plant: PM
Reuters, 17 May 2009
"San Francisco took a major step today toward building California's largest solar photovoltaic system -- a plan that would more than triple the city's solar energy output by carpeting the rooftop of its biggest reservoir with almost 25,000 panels. Recurrent Energy, a San Francisco firm, will install and operate the 5 megawatt array atop the reservoir, an area roughly the size of 12 football fields. Standing atop the Sunset Reservoir -- so named because it lies in the city's Sunset District -- Newsom signed an ordinance into law this morning that enables the installation project and a 25-year contract with the distributed power firm Recurrent Energy to go forward."
San Francisco Moves Ahead with Plans to Build 5MW Solar Farm
Reuters, 15 May 2009
"New York wants to install up to 100 megawatts of solar photovoltaic power at public and private facilities to help meet the state's aggressive renewable mandate, the governor said in a release Friday. Specifically, the state-owned power generating company, the New York Power Authority (NYPA), will seek parties interested in entering into public-private partnerships with the state to install the solar arrays. The solar power generated by the arrays would power about 15,000 homes, according to NYPA. Proposals are due by July 7. The state said any proposals it selects would likely start in 2010.The solar power would help the state meet the governor's 45-by-15 program. By 2015, the governor wants New York to receive 45 percent of its electricity through energy efficiency and renewable power. The state has estimated the 45-by-15 program would create about 50,000 new jobs. Officials at the governor's office were not immediately available for comment. The state did not estimate how much it would cost to build 100 MW of solar power. Solar photovoltaic power is one of the most expensive types of generation. A kilowatt costs an estimated $6,000, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. It could cost about $600 million to build 100 MW of solar photovoltaic power. Wind power, meanwhile, costs about $1,900 per kilowatt to build onshore and $3,800 per kilowatt offshore, while combined cycle natural gas-fired generation costs about $1,000 per kilowatt and coal-fired generation costs about $2,000 per kilowatt. Unlike natural gas and coal-fired generation, wind and solar power are only available about a third of the time."
NY wants to install 100 MW of solar power
Reuters, 15 May 2009

"Declaring it a record total, Pacific Gas & Electric on Wednesday announced an expansion of solar-power contracts with Oakland's BrightSource Energy for a total of 1,310 megawatts of electricity — enough to power 530,000 California homes during peak hours of noon to 7 p.m. The power purchase agreements, which will now include seven power plants, add to a previous contract the two companies struck in April 2008 for up to 900 megawatts of solar thermal power. BrightSource called it the largest solar deal ever. The company now has 2,610 megawatts under contract, which it said is more than any other solar thermal company and represents more than 40 percent of all large-scale solar thermal contracts in the United States."
PG&E strikes huge solar power deal with BrightSource
Mercury News, 13 May 2009

"The Mohave Sun Power company is planning a project in Mohave County that could begin construction in the fourth quarter of 2010. It will use 4,000 acres of land and employ concentrating solar power. Molten salt will be the storage medium. Mitchell Dong, the company's CEO explained the technology, 'It's a parabolic trough, or a 'U'-shaped mirror that reflects or concentrates the sunlight by a factor of 100 to this thin tube of transfer fluid. In this case, it's a synthetic oil heated to 800 degrees by the sun's light. There are rows and rows of these collectors and this 800 degree oil is pumped to a central power block, a central location where that hot oil goes to a boiler. It makes steam and drives a single steam turbine. Of course the whole installation would use many arrays of parabolic troughs. Energy generated by the plant would be purchased by California, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado. If the planning and construction processes go smoothly the plant could starting producing electricity by 2013. The planning actually has been going on for some time: 'We have been working on this for over a year,' said Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson. (Mohave County has already had a different 200 MW project planned for construction.) This larger one will depend upon federal stimulus money for financing. If approved and funded, the project could generate an estimated 1,500 jobs during the construction phase, and require 100 employees when operational. Such a large plant would also generate local tax revenues. Construction cost is estimated at two billion dollars."
World's Largest Solar Thermal Plant Planned for Arizona
Reuters, 13 May 2009

"Samsung Electronics plans to invest a massive amount of money to develop new businesses ranging from green energy to healthcare, such as solar cells and biopharmaceuticals. The 23.3 trillion Korean won (US$21 billion) investment is aimed at developing five new businesses that the company expects to create 45,000 new jobs and generate 50 trillion won in annual revenue for affiliate companies by 2020, Samsung said in a statement Tuesday. 'Governments around the world are now investing in green industries to address the issues of depleting energy resources and the protection of our planet's environment, which present pressing challenges to the global community,' Samsung said. The company has earmarked 6 trillion won of the amount for solar cells, using crystalline silicon technology and thin film technology. Another 5.4 trillion won will be used for rechargeable batteries for hybrid electric vehicles and 8.6 trillion won will go to LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology for a range of power-saving applications, from computer screen backlights to car electronics and indoor/outdoor lighting."
Samsung to invest US$21 billion in solar cells, LEDs, more
Bloomberg, 11 May 2010

"The Department of Energy is funding a series of projects that marry concentrating solar power with storage, which offers the potential of solar power plants that operate 18 hours a day. The DOE said Friday that it has made $62 million available to 13 companies to test equipment and materials, such as molten salts, to add storage to solar power systems that use heat to produce electricity. Concentrating solar power, in which the sun's heat creates steam to drive an electricity turbine, is seeing a renaissance because it can be used for large-scale power plants in deserts. Adding storage can extend the time these plants supply electricity to the grid and can potentially improve the economics of solar versus fossil fuels. The DOE's target is to extend the output of concentrating solar power systems to 18 hours, covering the peak times of electricity usage. The top three recipients are Abengoa Solar, eSolar, and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, each of which received more than $10 million for molten-salt research."
DOE funds to stretch solar power via salt storage
CNET, 10 May 2010

"Calling Silicon Valley 'the most innovative place in the world,' Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday told an audience of solar technology executives and industry representatives that 'we need to find ways to reduce our use of fossil fuel and use what we have in abundance in California — the sun.' 'I'm a big believer in solar technology,' he told about 350 people attending a daylong 'solar summit' in San Jose meant to accelerate the state's solar economy. 'We want to make this state the solar state.' Schwarzenegger has already played a major role in pushing for solar in California. At his direction in 2006, the California Solar Initiative created a $3.3 billion, 10-year program to put solar panels on 1 million roofs in the state. The program includes state renewable energy incentives and a rebates program. But he is frustrated by the public's capricious reception to solar energy, the popularity of which seems to fluctuate with gas prices. 'You've got to look ahead 20 to 30 years,' he said. 'Every time oil prices go down, we abandon that vision. '... You've got to have a plan and stick with that plan.' The conference focused on developing standards to reduce installation time and costs for solar-power systems."
Schwarzenegger touts solar technology in San Jose
Mercury News, 8 May 2009
"Solar company Konarka has developed a transparent solar cell that it hopes will be built onto electricity-generating windows. The Lowell, Mass.-based company on Tuesday said it has reached an agreement with Arch Aluminum & Glass to use Konarka's plastic solar cells in building materials, including windows. Under its Arch Active Solar Glass development, the company has built prototypes of windows with the solar cells between two panes of glass. The photovoltaic cells can be tinted different colors.....But these organic photovoltaics aren't very efficient at converting sunlight to electricity and won't last as long as a rooftop solar panel, which is typically under warranty for 25 years. Konarka said late last year that it achieved 6 percent efficiency in its labs but that's not yet available in its products. A high-efficiency silicon solar cell, the most common cell material, can be over 20 percent. Konarka's factory is turning out red solar cells but has started making the transparent cells in limited runs for prototypes and development, according to a representative. Although Konarka has raised over $100 million and has signed a number of partnerships, there are many people who are skeptical that the company can be profitable. 'The real key will be to see if they can make building-integrated products that can stand the weather for 20-plus years,' clean-tech venture capitalist Rob Day from @Ventures told Greentech Media in December last year. Konarka also faces growing competition in the building-integrated photovoltaics field. Thin-film solar manufacturers, including Heliovot, also make flexible cells that can be fitted onto glass or building structures such as awnings but are more efficient. Nanosolar's cells made from CIGS (copper indium gallium selenide), for example, are in the 9 percent to 10 percent range."
Transparent plastic solar cells fitted into windows | Green Tech
CNET News, 8 May 2008
"Cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells, once hailed by President George W. Bush as a pollution-free solution for reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, will not be practical over the next 10 to 20 years, the energy secretary said Thursday, and the government will cut off funds for the vehicles’ development. Developing those cells and coming up with a way to transport the hydrogen is a big challenge, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in releasing energy-related details of the administration’s budget for the year beginning Oct. 1. Dr. Chu said the government preferred to focus on projects that would bear fruit more quickly. The retreat from cars powered by fuel cells counters Mr. Bush’s prediction in 2003 that “the first car driven by a child born today could be powered by hydrogen, and pollution-free.” The Energy Department will continue to pay for research into stationary fuel cells, which Dr. Chu said could be used like batteries on the power grid and do not require compact storage of hydrogen."
U.S. Drops Research Into Fuel Cells for Cars
New York Times, 7 May 2009
"Just as we already have a problem with peak oil having caused last year's massive price spike at the pumps, there may be a similar paucity in the world's capacity to produce lithium, the miracle metal key to so many automakers' future plans for hybrid and electric vehicles.This lightest metal in the periodic table was used primarily in the production of ceramics and high-temperature glass, not to mention anti-psychotic drugs. But, about two decades ago, it started gaining prominence as a material used for battery production, thanks to the relatively high energy density and comparatively light weight of lithium ion cells. Virtually all cellphone and laptop batteries use lithium as a core constituent. The much-ballyhooed but seldom-seem Tesla electric roadster uses more than 6,000 computer-sized batteries all mashed into one package. But whether they are the lithium cobalt batteries used in portable devices -- not very useful for automotive use because of their reputation for overheating -- or the newer lithium phosphate or lithium manganese formulations developed for cars, all use a base of lithium metal, which is most easily extracted from salt brine....Now there may be problems with how much lithium the Earth holds and how quickly it can be mined. On the pessimistic side, there is William Tahil, author of the research paper The Trouble with Lithium, who estimates the world's lithium reserves at about four million tons. He claims the production of hybrid and electric cars will soon tax the world's production of lithium carbonate. At the other end of the spectrum is Keith Evans, who has released An Abundance of Lithium, a report estimating there are 28 million tons of the base metal to be had, plenty enough to go around. Somewhere in the middle of these two opposing viewpoints is the United States Geological Survey's somewhat dated estimate of 11 million tons. Part of the discrepancy is due to how economical and easily each group thinks the mining of lithium will be, dividing their estimates between 'reserves' (think of easily obtained Saudi Arabian oil literally bubbling to the surface) and the more difficult to process 'base reserves' (think Canada's Athabasca Oil Sands). Even the optimistic Evans allows that, like oil, his more generous prediction is based on the price of lithium rising in order to make increased mining cost-effective. This is not good news to automakers since it's estimated that these new high-tech batteries already cost as much as US$10,000. While existing mining levels are able to cope with current demand, there is no consensus on how many lithium-powered electric cars can be produced. Tahil says any more than 1.5 million GM Volt-type vehicles annually would strain current production. SQM S. A., Chile's largest producer of lithium carbonate, says there is plenty for about five million electric vehicles. Evans predicts there's enough lithium for far more.Bob Kruse, GM's executive director of Global Vehicle Engineering, also notes that some of the lithium in his company's new Chevy Volt will be recyclable, thereby reducing demand. The discrepancies owe as much to the types of electric cars being produced -- fully electric cars need bigger batteries and, therefore, more lithium than hybrids -- as to the exact amount of the world's lithium stocks. However, virtually everyone readily agrees that the world's current production of lithium -- approximately 20,000 tons -- is woefully short of what's needed if electric car production really takes off. Argentina, Australia and Chile account for more than 50% of the world's lithium production; Russia also produces significant amounts.But the real power player in the lithium market is Bolivia. Whether you take the pessimistic or optimistic estimate of its reserves, the South American country's Salar de Uyuni salt desert has about 40% of the world's lithium, so far untapped. Mitsubishi, which thinks electric car production will outstrip lithium supply as early as 2015, is already in talks with Bolivia about sourcing its lithium. Ditto Toyota, one of the few automakers producing its own batteries."
The problem with lithium
National Post (Canada), 1 May 2009
"Consumers are to be offered incentives of up to £5,000 to purchase an electric car under government plans to be unveiled today that will also see the creation of electric car cities across the UK and the launch of large-scale experiments with ultra-green vehicles. The proposals are part of a £250m strategy, seen by the Guardian, spelling out a revolution in Britain's road transport network based on ultra-low carbon vehicles. It will be launched today by Geoff Hoon, the transport secretary, and Lord Mandelson, the business secretary, with the aim of kickstarting the market for cleaner road vehicles and slashing the UK's CO2 emisisons."
Labour's £5,000 sweetener to launch electric car revolution
Guardian, 16 April 2009
"A leading American power company is hoping to turn science fiction into reality by supporting a project to set up solar panels in outer space and beam the electricity generated back to Earth. Pacific Gas and Electric Company, which serves San Francisco and northern California, has agreed to buy electricity from a startup company claiming to have found a way to unlock the potential power supply in space. The firm, Solaren Corp, says it will launch solar panels into orbit and then convert the power generated into radio-frequency transmissions, which will be beamed back down into a depot in Fresno, California. The energy would then be converted into electricity and fed into the regular power grid, PG&E said....PG&E announced this week that it had agreed to buy 200 megawatts of electricity from Solaren starting in 2016. The deal has yet to be approved by California state government regulators and PG&E has not put any money into Solaren, but the promise alone has turned the notion of space based solar power from fantasy to reality. 'There is a very serious possibility they can make this work,' said PG&E's spokesman Jonathan Marshall. Unlike on earth, with its cycle of nights and days and where there can be clouds, sunshine in space is practically constant – aside from a few days around the spring and autumn equinoxes. That means the space-based solar panels could potentially produce a steady supply of electricity. The sunlight hitting solar panels 200 miles in space would be 10 times as powerful as the light filtering down to Earth through the atmosphere. The satellite would then convert the energy into radio waves and beam them down to a receiving station on Earth. Spirnak did not give details of how this would work but said the technology was based on that now used by communications satellites, describing it as 'very mature'. He added that power losses via the radio-wave route are lower than transmission cables used on Earth. Another advantage of the plan is that it does not require large amounts of real estate. Ground-based solar installations require huge tracts of land."
US power company to tap solar energy in space

Guardian, 16 April 2009
"Toshiba Corp is ready to mass-produce a quick-charging lithium ion battery for hybrid vehicles with the highest electrical output for a battery of this kind, the financial daily Nikkei said in its Tuesday edition. The paper said Toshiba has quadrupled the output density of its Super Charge ion Battery, or SCiB, to 3,900 watts. Output density is the power output per kilogram of the battery's weight. It said the battery can be charged in as little as 90 seconds, making it suitable for plug-in hybrids, and can be recharged more than 10,000 times. Nikkei said Toshiba has started shipping the battery to major Japanese, U.S. and European automakers on a trial basis. It said Toshiba has also developed a lithium ion battery with a high energy density aimed at electric vehicles that will be able to discharge power over a long duration and hopes to start sample shipments in the fall. Nikkei said Toshiba now makes 150,000 SCiBs a month but plans to start building a plant this fall that would make about 2 million batteries a month on start-up, with hopes for expansion to about 10 million by about 2015."
Toshiba has quick-charge hybrid car battery: Nikkei
Reuters, 13 April 2009
"The U.S. solar energy industry expanded in 2008, but the recession has cut demand for some solar installations, according to a solar trade group. Solar capacity in the United States rose about 9 percent, or 1,265 megawatts, to 8,775 megawatts last year, the Solar Energy Industries Association said in a summary of an annual report to be released on Thursday. Solar panel capacity rose 78 percent from 2007, as solar water heater installations increased 50 percent. But the housing crisis led to a 3 percent decline in shipments of solar pool heating systems -- the largest segment of the sector by capacity. The recession has brought financing problems to some solar companies, the association said. 'Many companies report that although consumers continue to express interest in solar, concerns about personal finances and tight credit have reduced sales,' the association said."
Recession cools solar energy growth
Reuters, 18 March 2009
"New technology that was developed in Sydney and allows solar panels to capture more sunshine is expected to influence panel production around the world. The technology is about to be demonstrated at the University of NSW. A world-first silicon solar cell production line will be built at the university, using funds from a German energy corporation and the Federal Government....The pilot program at the university will demonstrate new production techniques that allow traditional panels to catch more light from the blue end of the spectrum, the short wavelengths. The problem with many existing solar cells is that the shorter wavelengths of light are reflected back by a layer of phosphate ducting within the panel. The new technique allows the phosphate ducts to be better aligned, so more light can be absorbed without adding to production costs. It will also deploy new laser-cutting techniques that allow greater precision when cutting the edges of wafer-thin silicon and aligning it to the metal frames that conduct electricity from the panel to the battery. The work will be done at the university's new Solar Industrial Research Facility, which will focus on applying Australian research to commercial production. 'There have been a lot of people looking at solutions to these problems around the world for a long time, but I think we've got it,' said Dr Richard Corkish, the head of the university's School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering."
Uni's solar panel captures more light
Sydney Morning Herald, 16 March 2009
"European countries could transform their electricity supplies within a decade by investing in a giant network of solar panels in the Sahara desert, an expert told a global warming conference in Copenhagen today. Dr Anthony Patt of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Africa said some £50bn of government investment was needed over the next decade to make the scheme a reality. That would convince private companies that power from the Sahara was both feasible and an attractive investment, he said. In the long term, such a plan, combined with strings of windfarms along the north Africa coast, could 'supply Europe with all the energy it needs'. He said technological advances combined with falling costs have made it realistic to consider north Africa as Europe's main source of imported energy. 'The sun is very strong there and it's very reliable. There is starting to be a growing number of cost estimates of both wind and concentrated solar power for North Africa....that start to compare favourably with alternative technologies. The cost of moving [electricity] long distances has really come down.' He said only a fraction of the Sahara, probably the size of a small country, would need to be covered to produce enough energy to supply the whole of Europe. The results are the first findings of a major research effort, together with experts at the European Climate Forum and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, to judge whether such a Sahara solar plan is realistic. Patt said the team was looking at questions of security and governance, as well as ways to pay for the technology. The full results will be presented to governments later this year. He said sunshine in the Sahara is twice as strong as in Spain and is a constant resource that is rarely blocked by clouds even in the winter. The scheme would use mirrors to focus the sun's rays onto a thin pipe containing either water or salt. The rays boil the water or melt the salt and the resulting energy used to power turbines. Unlike wind power, which usually has to be used immediately because of the cost of storing the electricity generated, the hot water and salt can be stored for several hours. Trials of such concentrated solar power plants are planned for Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and Dubai, but Libya and Tunisia could also be considered."
£50bn of European investment needed to kick-start Saharan solar plan
Guardian, 11 March 2009
"The people of the world will drive some two billion cars by 2030, up from roughly 700 million today. One of the leading hopes for avoiding greenhouse gas overload from all those tailpipe emissions is electric cars. From the Chevy Volt to the Tesla Roadster, cars that run on battery power rather than gasoline are fueling hopes for a cleaner transportation future. Even if we switched all U.S. cars to run on electricity from coal-fired power plants we'd emit less than we do now, according to a study from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. But, in terms of economics, are we trading peak oil for peak lithium? Lithium is, obviously, a primary component of the lithium ion batteries powering the first generation of electric cars. The bulk of it is found in Bolivia. Even worse, according to some, most of these advanced batteries are made in Asia. In fact, General Motors selected a battery from Korean company LG over American start-up A123Systems for its initial Volt. But GM, assuming it survives, is also investing in a battery manufacturing plant in Michigan and there are deposits of lithium in the U.S. as well. Peak lithium may yet become a concern but first there would have to be a lot more electric cars on the road."
Electric Cars and Peak Lithium
Scientific American, Podcast 12 March 2009
"The day after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Emanuel Sachs decided that it was time to get back into the solar-energy business... To Sachs, September 11 was a reminder of the perils of an oil-dependent U.S. energy policy. The events that transpired that day were jarring enough to prompt him to restart his solar research. Nearly eight years later, he is chief technical officer at 1366 Technologies, a company formed two years ago to commercialize the work he had done at MIT....The 20-person start-up has an ambitious economic target: to make solar cheaper than coal in three years. That means producing silicon solar cells at less than $1 per watt, cutting the current costs by about half. More than a few people believe that 1366 Technologies has a shot at being one of the first companies to hit the long-pursued goal of undercutting fossil fuel electricity on price. Among those impressed with the technology and management team is Ethernet co-inventor and energy tech venture capitalist Bob Metcalfe, who is on the company's board. Metcalfe's firm, Polaris Ventures, led a $12.4 million round in the company last year. And last month, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded 1366 Technologies a $3 million grant for low-cost solar manufacturing....The name 1366 Technologies comes from the solar constant, or the amount of solar energy that hits Earth's surface: 1,366 watts per square meter. That focus on keeping to the basics, and trying to do it affordably, are what executives hope will set them apart from the solar-tech pack. The company's headquarters--a one-story brick building among a dozen nondescript offices in an office park outside Boston--reveal a bare-bones operation. A full-size solar panel hanging on the wall serves as artwork in an otherwise-spartan office. A bank of cubes fronts a small factory floor crammed with solar-manufacturing machinery bearing obscure names like a 'diffusion furnace' and a 'plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition' system. This is where engineers are now producing small numbers of solar cells that put Sachs' ideas to work. The modest building may not be where you'd expect the solar industry to finally break through the $1-per-watt cost barrier for silicon cells. First Solar earlier this month claimed to crack the $1 cost barrier for its thin-film cells, made from alternative material cadmium telluride, but 1366 Technologies wants to hit that price using silicon--a more common and abundant material. To get there, Sachs and company engineers say they have four innovations they intend to perfect one by one....At the company's ribbon-cutting ceremony last fall, Sachs, in a soft but direct manner, implored local politicians and employees assembled to act, rather than talk, about greening the economy. 'The science is understood, the material abundant, the product works,' he said. 'All that is left is to build the biggest manufacturing industry in the history of human kind. Time is a-wasting.'"
Making solar cheaper than coal
Cnet News, 6 March 2009

"Solar panels provide a cheaper and more effective way to power buildings. 'If you had one of these arrays on your home,' says Vaguhn Prost of Missouri Solar Applications, 'it would produce about half of your electricity that you'd need for your average home.' This array is Columbia's solar panel, which provides a small amount of electricity to Columbia's electric grid. But Prost's company, which built the panel, will soon be bringing solar energy to Columbia's rooftops in another form. 'In the coming years, I think that people will look at solar shingles on their house as something as normal as having plumbing inside their house,' says Prost. His company has teamed up with the Dow Chemical Company to produce solar shingles. 'The solar market in Columbia is getting going,' says Connie Kacprowicz of Columbia Water and Light. 'It's still going to be a few years before we see a huge amount of production, but I think it's important that we're developing a renewable resource right here in Columbia.' The solar shingles would collect the energy and send it through a series of wires and transformers and into the home or power grid. While estimated costs are high right now, Prost says he is confident that demand will drive prices down once the shingles are on the market. 'It's going to be a little higher to start with, but you've got to try and work it and find ways to get the price down, and eventually it will get down,' he says. The solar shingles aren't scheduled to be sold until 2011. Prost said that part of the $50 million project will include test roofs in the same location as the current Columbia solar panel."
Solar Shingles Provide New Energy
Komu (Missouri), 17 February 2009

"Dow Chemical Co. says it aims to start selling power-generating roof shingles by 2011. The Midland-based chemical giant has been at work for the past year on a $50 million project called Dow Solar Solutions. The company's scientists and engineers are working to develop a product to sell thermoplastic solar roof shingles throughout North America. Dow Chemical is collaborating with three home builders -- Lennar Corp. of Miami, Pulte Homes Inc. of Bloomfield Hills and Prost Builders Inc. of Jefferson City, Mo. -- and with Tucson, Ariz.-based Global Solar Energy Inc., a maker of flexible materials. The researchers have conducted numerous tests in preparing the shingles for market, said Robert J. Cleereman, senior director of solar development for Dow Chemical. 'We've thrown everything you can imagine at them from (simulated) hail to fire to see how they react,' he told The Saginaw News. "One day, a person would no more think about buying a house without solar shingles than they would buy a house without plumbing. That is our hope, at least."
Dow Chemical plans to sell solar shingles by 2011
Associated Press, 15 February 2009
"Beginning on March 1, residents of Gainesville, Florida with newly-installed solar photovoltaic systems will be able to receive $0.32 per kilowatt hour of electricity produced by their system and added to the regional grid. Yawn, right? Wrong. The so-called feed-in tariff will guarantee payment for any power produced over the subsequent 20 years. For some, the feed-in tariff is a long time coming. Advocates see the immediate potential the policy mechanism can have on growing renewable energy generation, as well as the impact said growth can have on the burgeoning solar, wind, and other clean energy industries.Feed-in tariffs have been responsible for meteoric rise in renewable energy generation and the industries supporting it in Germany, Spain, and Denmark, but they have yet to take hold in the U.S., largely because of the fragmented nature of our electricity generation and transmission."
Florida City Passes First Solar Feed-in Tariff in US
Red, Green, and Blue, 6 February 2009
"A Pennsylvania-based marketing firm, The Information Network, recently published a report projecting that the nanomaterials for solar cells industry is expected to grow by 44 percent in 2009, after a growth rate of 47 percent in 2008. The report, 'Nanomaterials for Solar Cells, Displays, Sensors, Lighting, and RFID Marketing Analysis and Driving Forces,' says that Copper Indium Gallium diSelenide (CIGS) solar cells pushed the market as manufacturers developed unique deposition methods and substrates using nanomaterials. According to Dr. Robert Castellano, president of The Information Network, '[C]ompeting with GICS are traditional crystalline and polycrystalline cells made with silicon wafers. On the horizon is a new nanomaterial that promises to cut solar cell prices.' Dr. Castellano describes a steel based on nanotechnology that would allow solar wafer manufacturers to reduce the amount of waste, or kerf, when slicing silicon wafers. This development could save the industry US$866 million, and drive down the price of solar cells."
Nanomaterials for Solar Cells Expect to Grow Another 44% in 2009
Meridian Institute, 5 February 2009
"The United States overtook Germany as the biggest producer of wind power last year, new figures showed, and will likely take the lead in solar power this year, analysts said on Monday. Even before an expected 'Obama bounce' from a new President who has vowed to boost clean energy, U.S. wind power capacity surged 50 percent last year to 25 gigwatts (GW) -- enough to power more than five million homes....German wind power capacity reached nearly 24 GW, placing it second ahead of Spain and fourth-placed China, which doubled its installed wind power for the forth year running, said the Brussels-based Global Wind Energy Council....Obama wants to double U.S. alternative energy output over three years."
U.S. becomes top wind producer, solar next
Reuters, 2 February 2009
"Renewable energy industry sectors have begun campaigning to secure the feed-in tariff levels they believe will be necessary to support their technologies in the domestic, business and community sectors, writes Rachel Johnson. The drive has been kicked off by the solar sector, with a 'We Support Solar' campaign, launched last week by the UK Solar PV Manufacturers Association. The London based solar firm Solarcentury hand-delivered 500 letters to MPs in Parliament as part of the campaign, urging them to support solar technology ahead of the implementation of the new feed-in tariffs. Feed-in tariffs are long-term contracts that will be offered to small-scale generators of renewable electricity to provide an incentive for householders, schools, hospitals and other organisations to invest in micropower technology. The government gained the powers to set feed-in tariffs for renewable energy projects below 5MW in size through last year's Energy Act (see this New Energy Focus report).The solar campaign, which has the support of 30 MPs so far, as well as campaign groups, solar manufacturers, businesses and industry bodies, is aiming to promote solar at a what it sees as a critical time for the development of the industry, with feed-in tariffs (FIT) expected to be launched by April 2010. Michael Meacher MP, a former environment minister, gave his support to the drive, saying: 'Ed Miliband's decision to introduce a feed-in tariff for solar PV and other small-scale renewable electricity technologies is potentially a real turning point for the UK solar PV sector. It gives the UK a vital new policy tool that should help to maximise the contribution from solar PV to our demanding renewable energy target.'"
Solar industry launches campaign for feed-in tariff support
NewEnergyFocus, 2 February 2009
"For all the hope and hoopla surrounding the largest public works program since the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s, the share spent on long-term 'green' investments is surprisingly small. Most of the stimulus package goes to temporary measures, such as tax cuts, emergency aid to the states, and the extension of unemployment benefits. Nearly a third of the $550 billion Congress is set to allocate in direct spending is called 'green,' including money to modernize electricity transmission and experiment with a 'smart grid.' But just $8 billion is destined for renewable power and electricity-related spending, according to an analysis by FBR Capital Markets. Another $16 billion in tax credits – of $275 billion of overall tax credits – is devoted directly to green-energy development. Is that green investment of $24 billion enough to meet President Obama’s goals of creating tens of thousands of new jobs and doubling renewable-energy capacity in three years? No, say renewable-energy advocates. They see the stimulus as only a down payment on green-energy development that will be fulfilled in a separate energy bill not yet formulated. Even the success of the stimulus’s 'down payment' will depend crucially on how details of the plan are implemented, especially renewable energy tax credits, they add. 'In order to achieve President Obama’s goal of doubling energy in three years, we will have to triple utilization of these tax credits,' says Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association. That’s tricky, unless the industry can find a way to let companies trade credits for cash. 'Without the tax-credit market, it’s going to be difficult to achieve that.'...As of 2007, renewable energy sources supplied only a tiny sliver of US energy supplies, about 7 percent. (Petroleum supplied 40 percent, coal 22 percent.) Of that renewable sliver, energy from biomass (such as corn ethanol) accounted for 53 percent, hydroelectric 36 percent, geothermal 5 percent, wind power 5 percent, and solar energy 1 percent. The Obama administration has set ambitious goals for the energy portion of the stimulus plan. Of the 3.7 million jobs that the plan is supposed to create or save, about 460,000 would come from energy-related expenditures. A large but undetermined portion of those jobs would be in the renewable-energy sector....The most crucial piece involves tax credits. In the past, investment banks and other deep-pocketed investors could spend huge amounts on wind farms and other renewable-energy projects and then reap production tax credits, which they could use to offset taxes on profits elsewhere. But the severe economic downturn has reduced profits and the number of major renewable-energy investors from 20 to about five. Thus, the tax credits are far less valuable than they were. So, wind and solar industries want essentially to convert those tax credits into grants from the US Department of Energy. In legislation last week, the House version of the stimulus bill allowed the switch; the Senate version did not. 'A couple of things in the House measure are going to alarm fiscal conservatives – and one of those is loan guarantees being replaced by explicit payments,' says Kevin Book, vice president for energy policy, oil, and alternative energy with FBR Capital Markets. 'If Congress approves this, it absolutely will have investors looking at this as a green light' to invest in green-energy projects, he says. In other areas, the House and Senate are in lock step. Both would provide $13 billion to extend the important 'production tax credit' for wind power for another three years. Without it, credits would be unavailable for projects not completed by the end of this year. Another provision in both bills is a 30 percent investment tax credit that had been given only to solar and will now be extended to wind, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, and landfill gas. That would enable the latter projects to get a tax credit in just one year rather than a production tax credit over 10 years. Some $8 billion from the Department of Energy would also be available for loan guarantees for clean-power projects. But it’s not yet clear if those projects must be 'advanced' and 'innovative.' If not, this could give a boost to wind and solar. Such a boost would be key to achieving the president’s goal of doubling renewable-energy capacity nationwide within three years. Much of that plan is yet to come in an expected energy bill. And there is reason to believe the jobs Obama wants to see can indeed be created, experts say. 'The stimulus package would turbocharge our efforts to use energy more efficiently and build more renewable electricity facilities,' says Daniel Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress, who has analyzed the stimulus provisions."
‘Green’ energy a tiny share of stimulus plan
Christian Science Monitor, 27 January 2009
"Abu Dhabi's Masdar said on Thursday it is building the Middle East's largest solar power plant for the carbon-neutral Masdar City. Half of the 10 megawatt photovoltaic plant's solar panels will be supplied by First Solar Inc (FSLR.O), the U.S.-based company said in a statement. Its shares rose 6.5 percent following the announcement. The $22 billion Masdar City -- the green city in the desert -- will be home to 50,000 people and 1,500 businesses. No cars will be allowed...The $50 million solar plant will begin producing power in 2009 and will supply any excess energy to the Abu Dhabi power grid, Masdar said....Masdar was set up by the Abu Dhabi government to develop sustainable and clean energy. "
First Solar to help power Masdar, UAE's green city
Reuters, 15 January 2009
"Toyota Motor Corp. plans to launch as many as 10 new gas-electric hybrids in the next five years, including the third-generation Prius and an all-new Lexus hybrid, the HS 250h, that it will unveil at the Detroit auto show. The Japanese automaker also said it would market an electric city car with a roughly 50-mile range by 2012, and it will show an electric concept car, the FT-EV, at the 2009 North American International Auto Show to give an idea of what type of vehicle it has in mind....In addition to the new Prius scheduled to hit U.S. dealer showrooms late this spring, Toyota confirmed that it would start deliveries of 500 Prius plug-in hybrids equipped with lithium-ion batteries to lease-fleet customers in late 2009. It said 150 would be delivered to U.S. fleet customers...General Motors Corp. plans to bring its plug-in, the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle, to the market by late 2010. It will be powered by lithium-ion batteries, which are more powerful than nickel-metal-hydride and most other batteries."
Toyota amps up hybrids, plans an electric city car by 2012
Detroit News, 10 January 2009
"An electric car costing only $25,000 could be on sale in Australia within three years. The Japanese car maker used the 2009 Detroit motor show to unveil the FT-EV, a concept car that previews a new battery-electric 'urban commuter' vehicle set to go on sale globally in 2012. US media is reporting the diminutive FT-EV could wear an affordable price tag of about US$20,000 (about $25,000). The FT-EV will see Toyota join the growing number of manufacturers who in the early years of the next decade will offer vehicles that run on electricity. The FT-EV is based on Toyota's iQ micro-car that landed in European and Japanese showrooms in 2008, though swaps that car's 1.0-litre petrol engine for a 45kW electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery pack. Toyota says the three-metre-long, four-seater FT-EV has a cruising range of 80km and a targeted top speed of 112km/h. It takes between 2.5 and 7.5 hours to recharge the FT-EV, depending on the voltage of the power supply. The company says the FT-EV will broaden its range of alternative-fuel vehicles as the world faces dwindling oil supplies, and will be aimed at city residents who would use the battery-electric car to commute between home and work, or to drive to other forms of public transport such as railway stations. 'Last year's spike in the price of petrol was no anomaly,' says Toyota Motor Sales group vice president, environmental and public affairs, Irv Miller. 'It was a brief glimpse of our future. We must address the inevitability of peak oil [when the world's oil supply starts a permanent decline] by developing vehicles powered by alternatives to liquid-oil fuel, as well as new concepts, like the iQ, that are lighter in weight and smaller in size. This kind of vehicle, electrified or not, is where our industry must focus its creativity.'"
Affordable electric car to 'hit streets in 2012'
Sun-Herald, 11 January 2009
"Toyota Motor Corp. is secretly developing a vehicle that will be powered solely by solar energy in an effort to turn around its struggling business with a futuristic ecological car, a top business daily reported Thursday. The Nikkei newspaper, however, said it will be years before the planned vehicle will be available on the market. Toyota's offices were closed Thursday and officials were not immediately available for comment. According to The Nikkei, Toyota is working on an electric vehicle that will get some of its power from solar cells equipped on the vehicle, and that can be recharged with electricity generated from solar panels on the roofs of homes. The automaker later hopes to develop a model totally powered by solar cells on the vehicle, the newspaper said without citing sources."
Toyota Secretly Developing Solar Powered Green Car
Associated Press, 1 January 2009
"Two Chinese companies have proposed a massive, 1-gigawatt solar photovoltaic power plant in China's northwest, one that would be the worlds biggest if it's completed....The project in Qinghai's Qaidam Basin will start out in 2009 with a more modest initial goal of 30 megawatts at a cost of 1 billion Yuan ($146 million), and will combine crystalline silicon and thin-film solar panels, the firm reported. The timeline and projected cost of the entire 1-gigawatt project were not disclosed.But if built, it would be almost twice the size of the largest solar photovoltaic power project announced so far, a 550-megawatt thin-film power plant to be built in San Luis Obispo, Calif."
China Plans World's Largest Solar Power Plant
Greentechmedia, 31 December 2008

"Iran has announced the opening of its first ever solar power plant in the town of Shiraz in the Southwest of the country. Energy Minister Parviz Fattah told reporters that the facility was constructed using Iranian materials and expertise. Speaking to the Iranian News Agency he said, 'The country backs the use of alternative and renewable energy sources. In future alternative energy sources will be greatly developed in the country. The growth of investments in this sphere is expected.' According to Fattah, the Shiraz solar plant employs parabolic mirrors to direct energy from the sun’s rays into its solar receivers. At this stage, it appears that the plant is a pilot project intended to test the viability of future larger-scale projects. Any movement towards the development of domestic renewable energy supply is likely to be welcomed by many of the countries suspicious of Iran’s ambitions to develop nuclear power."
Iran Opens its First Solar Power Plant
CleanTechnica, 29 December 2008

"At a time when politicians are targeting 'green jobs' as a source of economic growth, New Jersey's only manufacturer of solar panels has announced a temporary shutdown. Just weeks after it began production at a new manufacturing plant in Germany, EPV Solar Inc. will shutter its manufacturing and research facilities in Lawrence and Hamilton for two weeks starting tomorrow, leaving a local work force of about 400 with an unexpected unpaid holiday vacation. EPV described the shutdown of its Mercer plants as a cost-cutting linked largely to a tight credit market, which has made it difficult for customers to obtain financing for solar panel purchases. 'The demand (for solar panels) is still absolutely there,' Tom Werthan, EPV's chief financial officer, said last week during a tour of the company's manufacturing facility off South Gold Drive in Hamilton. 'Banks are telling our clients they are analyzing the prospects of the solar industry before financing more projects, but that takes time. So there is a domino effect,' Werthan said. He added that prospects for the company's unique thin-film solar panels are very strong, but EPV needs assistance in getting through the next few months."
Solar firm to suspend work
The Times of Trenton News, 21 December 2008
"Aiming to mass-produce a lithium battery for vehicles, 14 U.S. companies with expertise in batteries and advanced materials have formed an alliance with a government laboratory, the lab said on Thursday. The alliance, which includes battery industry giants such as 3M (nyse: MMM - news - people ) Co and Johnson Controls (nyse: JCI - news - people )-Saft, intends to secure $1 billion to $2 billion in U.S. government funding over the next five years to build a manufacturing facility with an 'open foundry' for the participants to pursue the goal of perfecting lithium-ion batteries for cars."
US gov't lab, 14 firms team up on lithium battery
Reuters, 18 December 2008
"An electric transport company is to install thousands of recharging points for electric cars across Israel ready for commercial use by 2011 in the first such nationwide network. The firm, Better Place, showed off its first charging spot yesterday at a car park above a shopping centre in Ramat Hasharon, near Tel Aviv. In a pilot project, it will install 500 of the charging points by the end of this year in cities, including Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem. It expects to have 500,000 charging points by the time the first cars are marketed. Moshe Kaplinsky, head of Better Place Israel, said the firm believed it presented a fundamental challenge to petrol-driven cars. 'This vision is to stop this addiction to oil,' he said....It expects a lithium-ion car battery to last for 106 miles. Given Israel's small size, the company expects relatively little need for changing batteries. A return trip from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, for example, covers 75 miles. For longer journeys, battery changing stations will be set up across the country and would replace a car battery within minutes. Payment for the service would be through a monthly account, similar to a mobile phone bill. No prices have been announced, but Kaplinsky said the cost of buying the car and paying for recharging would be less than the costs incurred with petrol-driven cars. 'We intend that by 2020 almost all the cars in Israel will be electric vehicles,' he said."
Israel pilots electric car network
Guardian, 9 December 2008
"Hawaii is to become the first US state to create a transport infrastructure that will allow cars to run almost entirely on electricity. The plan involves building up to 100,000 charging stations in car parks and streets by 2012 and importing electric vehicles manufactured by a joint venture between Nissan and Renault. Motorists who buy the cars will be able to purchase mileage plans — including recharging services and battery swaps — or use the charging stations on a pay-as-you-go basis. Linda Lingle, the Governor of Hawaii, said that the programme would help the six large islands in the state to meet the goal of reducing the use of fossil fuels by 70 per cent within the next 30 years. About 1.3 million people live in Hawaii, most of them in Honolulu. The islands import 90 per cent of their oil from countries such as Saudi Arabia, an arrangement that costs an estimated $7 billion (£4.7 billion) a year. 'Today is a part of the execution of our energy independence [strategy], and our getting off the addiction to oil,' Ms Lingle said. Most of the infrastructure will be provided and funded by Better Place, a Silicon Valley company — although the $75 million-$100 million cost of the project has yet to be raised. It will build the charging stations and provide charged batteries. The electricity is expected to come from renewable sources, such as wind power. All of this will require a significant investment, however, because Hawaii has limited wind power and there are no transmission lines to carry electricity between the islands. Shai Agassi, the founder and chief executive of Better Place, said electric cars would cost the same as petrol vehicles but that over time they would become cheaper because they used half as many parts as cars with internal combustion engines."
Electric cars put Hawaii on the road to independence
London Times, 4 December 2008
"The cracks in the future supply of the 'picks and shovels' of green technology, scientists and financial analysts argue, have begun to show. In the case of lithium, the metal on which the vision of the electric car is based, the level of worldwide reserves may prevent more than a few tens of thousands of units of the hotly anticipated Chevrolet Volt ever being produced. Since the commercialisation of lithium ion batteries in the early 1990s, production and use of the technology has soared. The metal - difficult to extract and with reserves skewed to certain pockets of South America - has been seized on by the global electronics industry as the answer to its prayers. The power of the lithium battery drives personal information technology, from iPods and mobile phones to laptops and BlackBerrys. Between 2003 and 2007, industrial demand for lithium doubled and now consumption stands at about 80,000 tonnes a year: give or take 18 months of global downturn, the growth rate for lithium demand is soon expected to return to about 25 per cent per year. However, some experts say, the present calculations of lithium reserve usage do not take sufficient account of the potential demand from the car industry if it truly plans to convert the world to cleaner, emission-free electric cars. The sort of batteries large enough to power a car use about 100 times more lithium than a laptop and, according to William Tahil, research director of Meridian International Research, there is not enough commercially extractable lithium in the world to meet the sort of demand implied if motoring goes electric. By his calculations, world reserves of lithium - that is, the quantity that can be extracted economically - are about four million tonnes. Mr Tahil told The Times that production of lithium cannot possibly be expanded to meet the ambitions of the car industry. Even highly productive lodes of the material, such as the deposits at the Salar de Atacama salt lake in Chile, may be past their peak already. Although Mr Tahil's warnings are not universally accepted by industrial users and producers of lithium, actions speak louder than words. Toyota is said to have scrapped plans to use a lithium battery in its 2009 Prius hybrid and will stick with the heavier, less efficient, nickel battery. The company said recently that it did not believe that future lithium supply would be able to sustain the dual demands from the electronics and car industries."
Grand plans for global energy are under threat - but from unexpected sources
London Times, 29 November 2008
"Electric cars will be in widespread use by 2020 as part of measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the head of the Committee on Climate Change, the government advisory body, said yesterday. Transforming private transport from reliance on the internal combustion engine to electric and hybrid cars was highlighted as one of the most effective ways of reducing fossil fuel consumption. Lord Turner of Ecchinswell, the chairman of the committee, said that such measures were necessary to enable Britain to meet ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a third over the next decade. Electric and hybrid vehicles are expected to form up to 40 per cent of cars on the road by 2020....The committee published its first report, Building a Low-Carbon Economy, as the United Nations conference on climate change opened in Poznan, Poland. The conference is seeking ways of reaching an international agreement that will replace the Kyoto Protocol to ensure that global warming is combated with reductions in greenhouse gases worldwide."
Britain’s cars may go electric by 2025
London Times, 2 December 2008

"Using computer modeling, researchers at MIT are working to boost the output and efficiency of solar cells while lowering the cost of solar power. A team of MIT physicists and engineers say they have been able to boost the output of solar cells by as much as 50% by adding a combination of antireflection coatings and multilayered reflective coatings to silicon films on the cells. The research team said that the advancement could dramatically reduce the cost of using solar power because the amount of very pricey high-quality silicon traditionally used is slashed down to 1% of the normal amount."
MIT researchers boost the power of solar energy
Computer World, 1 December 2008

"The biggest single rooftop photovoltaic solar project in California was officially opened on Monday by electric utility Southern California Edison at a warehouse 50 miles east of Los Angeles. Over the next five years, SCE plans to install 250 megawatts of solar panels atop 2 square miles of commercial roofs in 150 separate projects in its service territory of southern, central and coastal California, as long as state regulators approve passing the $875 million cost on to customers....First Solar sold 33,700 thin-film solar panels to SCE, which paid a contractor to install them over 600,000 square feet of rooftop at a ProLogis PLD.N distribution warehouse in Fontana. It can generate enough electricity at peak -- 2 megawatts -- to serve 1,300 average homes, SCE said. Its cost was $10 million, which comes in at $4,200 per kilowatt, compared to $7,000 per kilowatt average for photovoltaic solar in California, SCE said. The utility told the Public Utilities Commission when it presented its five-year plan that it would bring the cost down to half -- $3,500 per kilowatt -- of the state average. Craver said that by the time the first few projects are in place, it could realize that target. 'We believe that one of the benefits of the program is to drive economies of scale, which will benefit our projects and also lower the cost for everyone,' said Craver in a telephone interview."
Utility SCE opens biggest solar rooftop in Calif
Reuters, 1 December 2008
"Britain roads would become green, clean and silent if the plans to be set out by the government’s Committee on Climate Change tomorrow were realised. It will warn that motorists must get rid of their dependence on the internal combustion engine and switch in large numbers to vehicles powered by electricity, hydrogen and other low or zero-emission fuels. The recommendation will be contained in Building a Low Carbon Economy - the UK's Contribution to Tackling Climate Change, the inaugural report of the committee, chaired by Lord Adair Turner. The 500-page report will set out what Britain needs to do if it is to achieve the 80% target for cutting emissions it has set itself. It will say that, currently, Britain generates the equivalent of 10-12 tons of CO2 annually per person - about 700m tons in total. This must be cut to two tons a person by 2050, equivalent to about 12lb of CO2 per person each day. The report will warn such cuts are impossible while internal combustion engines are the main means for propelling cars. A typical family car emits 11-13lb of CO2, a day’s 'allowance', in 25 miles of motoring. Last month, Professor Julia King, a committee member, told the Royal Society that the days of the internal combustion engine were numbered. 'In the long term, CO2-free road transport fuel is the only way to decarbonise road transport,' she said. 'That means electric vehicles, with novel batteries charged by zero-carbon electricity or hydrogen produced from zero-carbon electricity.' King believes a concerted effort could see cars that emit 50% less CO2 than today’s dominating Britain’s roads by 2025. Most of them would be plug-in hybrids with an electric system incorporating a small internal combustion engine."
Britain’s cars may go electric by 2025
London Times, 30 November 2008
"Saudi Arabia on Saturday cited $75 a barrel as a 'fair price' for oil, the first time in years that the world's biggest exporter has identifed a target for crude prices. Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said oil prices needed to return to $75 to keep the more expensive new projects at the margins of world supply on track. His comments may come as a relief to consumer nations fearful of a return to $100-plus oil. U.S. crude was valued at $55 late on Friday. 'There is a good logic for $75 a barrel,' Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi, OPEC's most influential voice, told reporters in Cairo, where the producer cartel was meeting. 'You know why? Because I believe $75 is the price for the marginal producer. If the world needs supply from all sources, we need to protect the price for them. I think $75 is a fair price,' he said. Saudi King Abdullah announced $75 as a fair price in an interview with Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Seyassah."
Saudi targets 'fair' oil price at $75
Reuters, 29 November 2008
"In reality, today's bulky and expensive solar panels capture only 10% or so of the sun's energy, but rapid innovation in the US means that the next generation of panels will be much thinner, capture far more of the energy in the sun's light and cost a fraction of what they do today. They may not even be made of silicon. First Solar, the largest manufacturer of thin panels, claims that its products will generate electricity in sunny countries as cheaply as large power stations by 2012. Other companies are investigating even more efficient ways of capturing the sun's energy, for example the use of long parabolic mirrors to focus light on to a thin tube carrying a liquid, which gets hot enough to drive a steam turbine and generate electricity. Spanish and German companies are installing large-scale solar power plants of this type in North Africa, Spain and the south-west of America; on hot summer afternoons in California, solar power stations are probably already financially competitive with coal. Europe, meanwhile, could get most of its electricity from plants in the Sahara desert. We would need new long-distance power transmission but the technology for providing this is advancing fast, and the countries of North Africa would get a valuable new source of income."
The 10 big energy myths
Guardian, 27 November 2008
"The marginal cost of producing a barrel of oil is about $50. This is how much it costs the average oil company to drill, dig, pump and deliver a barrel of crude to market. If the price falls below this level, some producers will be pumping oil at a loss. So, with the oil price close to its marginal cost of production, Questor believes now is the right time to buy oil. Most of the world's easily pumped oil has been found; probably all of it. Most new oil discoveries are located in deepwater environments, such as those recently identified by Brazil's Petrobras. This oil is much more expensive to produce than oil from more conventional locations, such as Saudi Arabia's Ghawar field. Other new sources of oil include the Canadian tar sands in Alberta. This oil also costs significantly more to turn into crude than traditional sources – maybe as much as $75-$80 a barrel. This is because the tar sands are extremely viscous. They do not flow like normal oil, so they have to be strip-mined or injected with steam. This uses significantly more energy and water. So, with the oil price now at $54, many producers will be feeling severe pain – especially when they have become accustomed to receiving massive piles of petrodollars throughout the oil price spike. According to research by Deutsche Bank, Venezuela needs to see oil at $95 a barrel to balance its current account. Saudi Arabia needs oil at $55. The falling oil price is also crippling the Russian economy, so much so that the country may even start co-operating with Opec in a formal basis....The credit freeze has certainly had a dramatic effect on the oil market. In October, Goldman Sachs said: 'A combination of fear, de-stocking and disruptions across the supply chain owing to frozen credit markets is currently depressing oil demand far below where underlying economic fundamentals would suggest."
Investing in crude oil could be a slick move
Daily Telegraph, 27 November 2008
".....some of the best minds in the energy business insist that this latest bear market is only baiting the trap for a huge price run-up that will likely come around 2015. And – despite all of the current turmoil – they may end up being right....I’ve spent a good bit of time over the past couple of months talking to two of the sharpest analysts in the oil business: Peter Wells and Charley Maxwell. And both are convinced that peak oil is real, it’s coming, and the pain that will accompany its arrival will be severe. Who are these guys? Wells has a Ph.D. in geology and three decades of experience in the global oil industry. He has worked extensively in the Middle East, Russia, West Africa, and Europe, and is an expert on the oil politics and geology of Iran and Iraq. He spent 12 years with Shell International, 4 with BP, and 6 with LASMO, the British oil and gas independent, where he led the company’s business development efforts in the Mideast, including Iran. In 2001, he helped start Neftex, a British oil consulting firm. Since 2005, he has been a consultant to Toyota, developing world oil supply and price forecasting models. I have known Wells since 2005 and heard him speak several times...What sets Wells apart from the pack of alarmists is that he has done the deep and dirty analysis of individual field production data. In fact, Wells utilized field output info supplied by Denver-based consulting firm I.H.S., which owns one of the world’s most extensive oilfield databases. This same field-by-field data was utilized in 2006 by an I.H.S. subsidiary, Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA), to come up with their study on future global oil production, which claimed that global output could reach an 'undulating plateau' of 130 million barrels per day by 2030. The study concluded that the peak oil argument 'is based on faulty analysis which could, if accepted, distort critical policy and investment decisions and cloud the debate over the energy future.' The study also claimed that the remaining global oil resource base is about 3.74 trillion barrels. Wells took the same data and came up with a far different conclusion. He estimates that global liquids output will peak in about 2015 at no more than 100 million barrels per day. And that’s when things will get very interesting for automakers like Toyota and, of course, for the rest of us. Wells’s work on peak oil began in 2003, which led him to publish a piece in the Oil and Gas Journal in 2004. Looking back at that initial work, Wells says that his prediction at the time was that the peak in global liquids output would likely come at a level of about 95 to 110 million barrels per day, somewhere between 2020 and 2035, 'depending on OPEC reserves and OPEC’s willingness/ability to invest in new capacity.' When he began his consulting work for Toyota in 2005, Wells decided on a 'bottom up' approach using the I.H.S. database and Neftex’s own data for the U.S. He then disaggregated all of the potential sources of oil – conventional crude, NGLs, tar sands, shale oil, biofuels, coal-to-liquids, etc. – so that he could look at their growth potential on a segment-by-segment basis. The I.H.S. data included field-by-field information as well as production information for the former Soviet Union, the U.S., all of the OPEC members, and all non-OPEC producers. Among his most important conclusions is that non-OPEC production is peaking this year. That is in line with analyses done by the E.I.A. and by John S. Herold Inc., on the non-OPEC producers and the major international oil companies....In the mid-1980s, the world had a peak in spare capacity, with some 10 million barrels per day of excess production capability. Predictably, that spare capacity led to a price collapse that persisted until the first years of this century, a period during which, according to Wells, the floor price of oil was largely set by the spending needs of the Saudi government. Today, and for the foreseeable future, supply and demand will be in much tighter alignment, with Wells seeing excess capacity growing slightly this year and next to about 2 MMbbl/d....The tight spare capacity exacerbates several other factors. The peak in non-OPEC production means that future production must come from OPEC members. That’s a problem. Saudi Arabia stands alone as the player with the resources, technical skill, and desire to increase production in a meaningful way in the near term. The other major OPEC members with big resources – Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, Kuwait, and Nigeria – all face political constraints that will limit their ability to add large increments of new production. Of course, if those political constraints were removed, the issue of peak oil would probably be forgotten for another 20 years or so. Wells believes that Iraq could eventually produce 7 MMbbl/d, but that level won’t be reached until at least 2020, due to the obvious obstacles: political wrangling, violence, and the lack of technically savvy personnel who can manage large new exploration and production projects. Iran, Venezuela, and Nigeria could likewise ramp up production, but all are beset by political regimes that have little interest (or ability) to dramatically increase output for the export market. Wells predicts that Iran may be able to increase its output to about 5.5 MMbbl/d, but not much beyond that.....History shows that sharp increases in oil prices are often followed by recessions. Those recessions typically lead to sharp decreases in oil demand and therefore, prices. The most obvious example of that slackening demand occurred after the sharp price increases of the late ’70s and early ’80s. Those prices reached about $98 per barrel (in 2008 inflation-adjusted dollars) in January 1981. In 1978, U.S. oil consumption averaged 18.8 MMbbl/d. It stayed below that level until 1998, when it hit 18.9 MMbbl/d. That period of slack demand was accompanied by a sustained period of low prices. From the mid-’80s through the early ’00s, prices largely stayed under $20 and even fell as low as $9.39 per barrel ($12.57 in 2008 dollars) in December 1998. Today, we have similar slackening of demand due to higher prices. For instance, in July 2008, consumption was 19.4 MMbbl/d, substantially below the all-time high of 21.6 MMbbl/d in August 2005. Furthermore, U.S. oil demand has been falling nearly every month since December 2007. So will demand destruction take the peak out of peak oil? While it’s tempting to answer in the affirmative, several factors appear to show that it will not. Before going to those factors, let’s look at the forces that could lead to slower demand growth. They include, most obviously, a sustained recession. If world economic growth stalls for a sustained time, oil demand will continue to be slack. Second, automakers are working hard on hybrid vehicles and electric cars that could slow gasoline demand. Third, new tougher efficiency standards for U.S. automakers, combined with ongoing additions of billions of gallons of corn ethanol into the gasoline pool, will likely further dampen U.S. gasoline demand....Even so, there are major differences between the current situation and the conditions that existed in the ’80s and ’90s. First and foremost is the paucity of spare production capacity to be had. Further, there are far fewer oil producers with big reserves remaining to be tapped. As shown in Table 2, 10 different oil-producing nations peaked between 1996 and 2004. Those producers will not be able to add significant amounts of new crude production to the global market. Perhaps most crucially, in decades past China and India were largely still on the sidelines. That’s no longer the case. According to an October 7 report from the E.I.A., China’s August crude oil imports jumped by 12 percent, while its oil products imports increased by 32 percent, over the year-earlier period. Of course, it’s not just China. Other developing countries, like India, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia, are also rapidly increasing their energy consumption. And much of that is focused on transportation. In July, the I.E.A. estimated that the total number of motor vehicles could increase to as many as 1.2 billion by 2013, from the current 800 million. While a very small percentage will run on electricity, natural gas, or other alternatives, the overwhelming majority will be fueled by refined petroleum products. Additionally, any future increases in OPEC output, particularly among the Persian Gulf members of the cartel, could be directed toward internal use. Energy demand in the Persian Gulf is soaring. According to the latest BP Statistical Review, in 2007, oil consumption in the Middle East grew at the same rate – 4.3 percent – as did demand in China. That increasing oil demand is a reflection, in part, of the region’s growing electricity demand."
Gasoline’s Cheap Again, But Peak Oil Still Looms Large
Energy Tribune, 26 November 2008
"Russia's state uranium miner plans to invest 203.6 billion roubles ($7.4 billion) by 2015 to fund a massive expansion plan as demand from the nuclear power sector grows, the company's general director said on Wednesday. Atomredmetzoloto (ARMZ) General Director Vadim Zhivov told Reuters the company, which produces uranium in Russia and Kazakhstan, planned to increase output of the metal to 4,300 tonnes next year from 3,880 tonnes expected in 2008. Zhivov said in an interview the financial crisis had not affected his company's spending plans so far, despite the fact 172.3 billion roubles ($6.3 billion) of the planned investment would not be funded from the Russian state budget. 'In the next two years, we can finance this through our own means,' said Zhivov. Russia holds more than 10 percent of the world's uranium reserves and is positioning itself as a major player in meeting growing demand from the fast-growing nuclear industry. Zhivov said ARMZ, the mining arm of Russian state atomic agency Rosatom, would seek external funding from banks and would team up with strategic partners to develop new deposits, most of them in Siberia and the Russian Far East. 'All our strategic partners, in Japan, France and Canada, have confirmed their plans,' Zhivov said. 'Of course, there could be corrections to these plans, but nobody has said anything about that.' ARMZ is participating in joint ventures with Canada's Cameco Corp, the world's largest uranium miner, and Japan's Mitsui & Co to develop Russia's reserves, the world's third-largest....ARMZ produced 3,527 tonnes in 2007, of which 3,413 tonnes was produced in Russia. The 2008 forecast of 3,880 tonnes includes 3,580 tonnes of Russian production. The largest uranium miner within the state holding is the Priargunsk Mining and Chemical Production Union, which mined 3,037 tonnes at its deposit near the Chinese border last year. This year's growth will come mainly from new deposits elsewhere in Russia. Another company within the group, ZAO Dalur, last year produced 350 tonnes of uranium in the Siberian region of Kurgan and plans to raise 2008 output to 410 tonnes. The Khiagda mine in the Buryatia republic produced 26 tonnes last year and plans to produce 120 tonnes in 2008. Additional production will come from the company's two joint ventures in Kazakhstan: Zarechnoye and Akbastau. In the longer term, growth will come from large deposits such as Elkon in the Russian Far East, in which Mitsui & Co has agreed to participate."
Russia uranium miner plans $7.4 bln expansion
Reuters, 26 November 2008
"Los Angeles plans to become the first solar city in the US by generating 10 percent of its electricity through solar power, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday. The ambitious plan would create the largest solar base of any city in the world, according to solar energy experts. Under the plan proposed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa the sprawling city would purchase 1,280 megawatts of solar power - about 500 megawatts would come from private generating plants in the Mojave Desert, a further 380 megawatts would come from a programme to encourage residents to put solar panels on their roofs, while another 400 megawatts would come from panels on city-owned buildings."
Los Angeles bids to become first US solar city
IANS, 26 November 2008
"AFS Trinity Power Corporation todayannounced it intends to file for $2.5 billion of funding from the $25 billion 'green retooling' fund just established by Congress, with up to $2 Billion ofthe funding to be used for retooling an existing factory of a major Americancar maker whose assembly line employees will be retrained to produce plug inhybrid SUV's that utilize AFS Trinity's 150 mile per gallon 'Extreme Hybrid' technology....Furia said that all three American carmakers have current models that are candidates to be redesigned as Extreme Hybrids and they have factories wherethey can be built. The Saturn Vue Greenline mid-size SUV was used as aplatform by AFS Trinity in creating the first two 150 mpg prototypes, but the Extreme Hybrid technology can be used with a variety of models from any carmaker. The Saturn Vues were purchased directly off the showroom floor of GM Saturn dealerships, but GM, itself, was not involved in the Extreme Hybrid development program in any way. Furia said about $2 billion of the total $2.5 Billion loan will used topay whichever carmaker is selected by AFS Trinity and Ricardo to retool theirplant and train their employees who will manufacture and market the first production vehicles. The remaining $500 million would be used by AFS Trinityand Ricardo for technology transfer and support of engineering for modelredesign and retooling....Yesterday, AFS Trinity reported results of a ten month battery testingprogram delivered to AFS Trinity November 7, 2008, from an independentscientific laboratory that evaluated the comparative durability of lithium ion batteries used alone or, as in the AFS Trinity dual energy storage system, coupled with ultra capacitors and subjected to typical plugin hybrid vehicle current demands. The outcome of the tests was that the battery/ultracapcombination was 6 times as durable as the same lithium ion battery used alone. Furia said, 'These tests demonstrated that our battery/ultracap combinationsurvived the equivalent of 150,000 miles of continuous use in a plug in hybrid duty cycle compared to only 25,000 miles durability of the same batteries when used alone.' Battery tests were conducted by America's leading independent batterytesting laboratory, Mobile Power Solutions of Beaverton, Oregon. 'However,' Furia said, 'AFS Trinity does not rule out the possibility thatmore durable cost effective batteries could be invented that could be used alone and which might be sufficient to handle the duty cycle of a PHEV. However, no such battery, of which AFS Trinity is aware, currently exists.'....Describing the prototypes, Furia said AFS Trinity's XH150 is not only a roomy SUV but 'a fully operational Extreme Hybrid (TM) that can go at least 40miles without burning a drop of gasoline in the electric vehicle mode with atop EV speed of 87 MPH. . . . and from zero to 60 in 11.6 seconds in allelectric mode and 6.9 seconds in full hybrid mode. After 40 miles as anelectric vehicle the Extreme Hybrid automatically converts to gas.'"
AFS Trinity to Seek $2.5 Billion to Retool for Mass Production of Its 150 mpg SUV Using an Existing Factory and the Workers of a Major American Car Maker
International Business Times, 18 November 2008
"Solar panels glisten across Ota City's tiny Pal Town neighbourhood, nestled among strawberry fields in one of Japan's sunniest spots, a testament to the allure of renewable energy in this resource-poor country. Three-quarters of Pal Town's homes are covered by solar panels, which are distributed for free and have become one of the main draw-cards for residents keen to minimise their power bills."
'Solar City' proves allure of sun's energy in Japan
Reuters, 11 November 2008
"Researchers in China and Switzerland are reporting the highest efficiency ever for a promising new genre of solar cells, which many scientists think offer the best hope for making the sun a mainstay source of energy in the future. The photovoltaic cells, called dye-sensitized solar cells or Grätzel cells, could expand the use of solar energy for homes, businesses, and other practical applications, the scientists say. Their study is scheduled for the November 13 issue of ACS’ The Journal of Physical Chemistry C, a weekly publication. The research, conducted by Peng Wang and colleagues — who include Michael Grätzel, inventor of the first dye-sensitized solar cell — involves photovoltaic cells composed of titanium dioxide and powerful light-harvesting dyes. Grätzel cells are less expensive than standard silicon-based solar cells and can be made into flexible sheets or coatings. Although promising, Grätzel cells until now have had serious drawbacks. They have not been efficient enough at converting light into electricity. And their performance dropped after relatively short exposures to sunlight. In the new study, researchers describe lab tests of solar cells made with a new type of ruthenium-based dye that helps boost the light-harvesting ability. The new cells showed efficiencies as high as 10 percent, a record for this type of solar cell. The new cells also showed greater stability at high temperatures than previous formulas, retaining more than 90 percent of their initial output after 1,000 hours in full sunlight....These cells offer two potential advantages: First off, they should be lower cost due to expected ease in manufacturing. Second, both their flexibility and their light weight will allow installation in places which otherwise would not support the presence of solar cells. For example, cars could have them on their roofs without a big weight penalty. Also, side walls and other vertical surfaces could be covered with lightweight solar cells whereas much heavier weight silicon photovoltaics would weigh too much for easy installation. Skyscrapers might some day get covered with Grätzel solar cell sheeting."
Advance In Flexible Thin Plastic Solar Cells
FuturePundit, 9 November 2008
"Miniature solar cells - about a quarter the size of this 'o' - have been tested in the US as a power source for microscopic machines. Xiamei Jiang and colleagues at the University of South Florida made an array of 20 such cells, to show they could power a tiny sensor for detecting dangerous chemicals. The miniature cells, described in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy, are made of an organic polymer (plastic) rather than the silicon used for traditional solar cells."
Miniature solar cells power up
Financial Times, 7 November 2008
"Blue Square Energy, a developer and manufacturer of low-cost silicon solar cells, today announced that it has produced a 14.6 percent efficient solar cell with its patent-pending Bright Point technology. BSE's efficiency result is one of the highest in the world on upgraded metallurgical grade (UMG) silicon and has been verified independently by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). 'What we've been able to accomplish is a major milestone towards achieving our goal of creating low-cost solar energy for homes and businesses,' said Joseph Babin, CEO of BSE. 'This proves that inexpensive silicon typically considered unsuited for the solar industry can be utilized to create solar energy that is price accessible for most Americans. Solar modules made with our Bright Point technology will soon be the best choice for those who care about our environment and their wallets -- and want to save both'...UMG silicon has drawn a great deal of industry attention as companies seek substitutes to traditional and rare solar grade silicon in the fabrication of their solar cells. However, most UMG technologies being developed focus on blending low percentages of inexpensive UMG silicon with expensive solar grade silicon. This results in a minimal cost reduction. Through Bright Point, Blue Square Energy uses 100 percent 4N UMG silicon, which results in a significant cost reduction relative to other UMG silicon solar cell products. Creating low-cost solar cells is the first step in BSE's goal of eventually manufacturing the world's highest efficiency, lowest cost solar cell. This Bright Point II technology is currently in research and development."
Blue Square Energy Announces 14.6 Percent Efficient Solar Cell on Upgraded Metallurgical Grade Silicon
MarketWatch, 5 November 2008
"Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have discovered and demonstrated a new method for overcoming two major hurdles facing solar energy. By developing a new antireflective coating that boosts the amount of sunlight captured by solar panels and allows those panels to absorb the entire solar spectrum from nearly any angle, the research team has moved academia and industry closer to realizing high-efficiency, cost-effective solar power. 'To get maximum efficiency when converting solar power into electricity, you want a solar panel that can absorb nearly every single photon of light, regardless of the sun’s position in the sky,' said Shawn-Yu Lin, professor of physics at Rensselaer and a member of the university’s Future Chips Constellation, who led the research project. 'Our new antireflective coating makes this possible.' Results of the year-long project are explained in the paper 'Realization of a Near Perfect Antireflection Coating for Silicon Solar Energy,' published this week by the journal Optics Letters. An untreated silicon solar cell only absorbs 67.4 percent of sunlight shone upon it — meaning that nearly one-third of that sunlight is reflected away and thus unharvestable. From an economic and efficiency perspective, this unharvested light is wasted potential and a major barrier hampering the proliferation and widespread adoption of solar power. After a silicon surface was treated with Lin’s new nanoengineered reflective coating, however, the material absorbed 96.21 percent of sunlight shone upon it — meaning that only 3.79 percent of the sunlight was reflected and unharvested. This huge gain in absorption was consistent across the entire spectrum of sunlight, from UV to visible light and infrared, and moves solar power a significant step forward toward economic viability. Lin’s new coating also successfully tackles the tricky challenge of angles. Most surfaces and coatings are designed to absorb light — i.e., be antireflective — and transmit light — i.e., allow the light to pass through it — from a specific range of angles. Eyeglass lenses, for example, will absorb and transmit quite a bit of light from a light source directly in front of them, but those same lenses would absorb and transmit considerably less light if the light source were off to the side or on the wearer’s periphery. This same is true of conventional solar panels, which is why some industrial solar arrays are mechanized to slowly move throughout the day so their panels are perfectly aligned with the sun’s position in the sky. Without this automated movement, the panels would not be optimally positioned and would therefore absorb less sunlight."
Solar Power Game-Changer: 'Near Perfect' Absorption of Sunlight, From All Angles
Rensselaer Polytechnic, 3 November 2008
"Researchers at Ohio State University have accidentally discovered a new solar cell material capable of absorbing all of the sun's visible light energy. The material is comprised of a hybrid of plastics, molybdenum and titanium. The team discovered it not only fluoresces (as most solar cells do), but also phosphoresces. Electrons in a phosphorescent state remain at a place where they can be 'siphoned off' as electricity over 7 million times longer than those generated in a fluorescent state. This combination of materials also utilizes the entire visible spectrum of light energy, translating into a theoretical potential of almost 100% efficiency. Commercial products are still years away, but this foundational work may well pave the way for a truly renewable form of clean, global energy. A complete study of the team's work appears in the current issue of 'Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences' (PNAS).....Today's best solar cell technologies utilize several material layers to convert the infrared, ultraviolet and visible portions of the spectrum into electrical energy. This equates to about 61% efficiency in the furthest extremes of the technology, though something around mid-40% is far more typical. Solar cells like these are also incredibly expensive, fragile and impractical for mass production, making them useful for projects like satellites. They have no real potential to become real alternatives for the base consumer's energy needs. Quite recently, plastic solar cells have been created which achieve between 7% and 11% efficiency. While this may not sound like a lot, such products and materials are extremely inexpensive to produce in bulk quantities, costing about $3 per square meter. The idea of having a rooftop covered by plastic solar cells in place of tar-based shingles has drawn many a consumer's thought since being first reported in 2007. Commercial consumer products based on the technology, which could offer up to 14% efficiency if theories are to be believed, are promised within the next five years....The materials these researchers have created is not ready for prime time. Only a few molecules were created through a joint effort of the Ohio State University team and a team of chemists from the National Taiwan University. They synthesized enough of the material to carry out preliminary tests. And while these early findings are truly remarkable, there are still more on the horizon....It won't be too long before supercomputers light the way for the truly revolutionary form of renewable energy generation."
New solar cell material achieves almost 100% efficiency, could solve world-wide energy problems
TGDaily, 20 October 2008
"There's a global scramble to drive down emissions of carbon dioxide: the electricity to power just refrigerators in the U.S. contributes 102 million tons annually. Solar refrigeration can also be inexpensive and it would give the electric grid much-needed relief. Electricity demand peaks on hot summer days—150 gigawatts more in summer than winter in the U.S. (A gigawatt equals on billion watts.) That's almost 1.5 times the generating capacity of all the coal-fired power plants west of the Mississippi River. Further, solar is plentiful. The solar energy hitting 54 square feet (five square meters) of land each year is the equivalent of all the electricity used by one American household, according to data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Energy Information Administration, both part of the U.S. Department of Energy....Absorptive chillers like solar refrigerators use a heat source rather than a compressor to change the refrigerant from vapor to liquid. The two most common combinations are water mixed with either lithium bromide or ammonia. In each case, the refrigerating gas is absorbed until heat is applied, which raises the temperature and pressure. At higher pressure, the refrigerant condenses into liquid. Turning off the heat lowers the pressure, causing that liquid to evaporate back into a gas, thereby creating the cooling effect."
Solar Refrigeration: A Hot Idea for Cooling
Scientific American, 20 October 2008
"A protracted shortage of raw silicon that impacted the fortunes for some makers of solar photovoltaic panels is beginning to ease. The broader supply will put emerging thin-film panel makers under renewed pressure, said one market watcher. 'There will be significant supplies of raw [silicon] material beginning in 2010,' said Paula Mints, principal analyst with Navigant Consulting (Palo Alto, Calif.), speaking at a recent IEEE event on solar energy. 'This will exert extreme downward pressure on average prices for all technologies, but particularly thin films,' she added....Vendors using one of several thin film technologies were able to capitalize on the shortage because they required very little silicon. First Solar Inc. (Tempe, Ariz.) was among the leaders of the group, rising to become the fifth largest panel maker in 2007 with its cadmium telluride-based technology. But the tide is turning. Supply of silicon is easing this year and could be in overcapacity by mid-2010, Mints forecasts. That should benefit the crystalline vendors who make up nine of the top ten panel makers. Crystalline vendors have been working hard to minimize their use of silicon. SunPower Corp. (San Jose), ranked as the tenth largest panel maker, slashed its use of silicon per solar cell in half from about 12 to six grams, said SunPower President Richard Swanson."
Silicon supply shifts solar dynamics
EETimes, 6 October 2008

"In three years, buildings covered in steel sheets could be generating large amounts of solar electricity, thanks to a new photovoltaic paint that is being developed in a commercial partnership between UK university researchers and the steel industry. A laboratory built to develop the new solar technology that replicates plant's photosynthesis is due to start work on October 30th in Shotton, North Wales. 'If the solar cell paint can be successfully brought to the market, it could spell big changes when it comes to the future production of electricity,' said Steve Fisher, spokesperson of the Corus Group, the Anglo-Dutch steel manufacturing group that is believed to be pouring tens of millions of euros into the venture. The photovoltaic paint is made up of a layer of dye and a layer of electrolytes and can be applied as a liquid paste. Altogether, the sheets of steel get four coats of solar paint — an undercoat, a layer of dye-sensitized solar cells, a layer of electrolyte or titanium dioxide as white paint pigment and, finally, a protective film. The paste is applied to steel sheets when they are passed through the rollers during the manufacturing process. The four layers of the solar cell system are built up one after the other in rapid succession. Light hits the dye-sensitized solar cells, exciting the molecules that act as a light absorber or sensitizer. The excited molecules release an electron into the nanocrystalline titanium dioxide layer, which acts as an electron collector and a circuit. The electrons finally move back into the dye, attracted by positively charged iodide particles in a liquid electrolyte. The solar electricity that the area covered with paint generates is collected and provides power for whatever application it is connected to. Corus Colours produces about 100 million square meters of steel sheets a year. If the company's entire output of steel is given a lick of solar paint, then these steel sheets together could have a capacity of as much as 9,000 gigawatts [hrs] (GW) of electricity every year, assuming the solar cells attain a power conversion efficiency of about 11 percent. Because the photovoltaic paint has none of the material limitations of conventional silicon-based solar cell, it could, at least in theory, provide terawatts of clean solar electricity at a low cost in the coming decades. These new solar cells also have the advantage of being able to absorb across the visible spectrum. That makes them more efficient at capturing low radiation light than conventional solar cells, and so well suited to the British climate with its many cloudy days. Stephen Fisher said that Corus was developing the photovoltaic paint as part of its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions....Researchers working at the PV Accelerator Laboratory in Shotton are aiming to develop a method of applying the solar paint to steel at a rate of 30 to 40 square meters per second. Swansea University is leading the research together with Imperial College London and Bangor and Bath University. G24 Innovations started manufacturing dye-sensitized thin-film solar cells to be used for solar-powered chargers for mobile phones and digital cameras in Cardiff in Wales in 2007. The company claims its cells are the closest human beings have as yet come to replicating plant's photosynthesis."
Solar Paint on Steel Could Generate Renewable Energy Soon
RenewableEnergyWorld, 1 October 2008

"U.S. researchers have found a way to make efficient silicon-based solar cells that are flexible enough to be rolled around a pencil and transparent enough to be used to tint windows on buildings or cars. The finding, reported on Sunday in the journal Nature Materials, offers a new way to process conventional silicon by slicing the brittle wafers into ultrathin bits and carefully transferring them onto a flexible surface. 'We can make it thin enough that we can put it on plastic to make a rollable system. You can make it gray in the form of a film that could be added to architectural glass,' said John Rogers of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who led the research. 'It opens up spaces on the fronts of buildings as opportunities for solar energy,' Rogers said in a telephone interview....Many companies, including Japanese consumer electronics maker Sharp Corp and Germany's Q-Cells are making thin-film solar cells, but they typically are less efficient at converting solar energy into electricity than conventional cells. Rogers said his technology uses conventional single crystal silicon. 'It's robust. It's highly efficient. But in its current form, it's rigid and fragile,' he said. Rogers' team uses a special etching method that slices chips off the surface of a bulk silicon wafer. The sliced chips are 10 to 100 times thinner than the wafer, and the size can be adapted to the application.....Adding flexibility to the material would make the cells far easier to transport. Rogers envisions the material being 'rolled up like a carpet and thrown on the truck.'" 
Scientists develop solar cells with a twist
Reuters, 5 October 2008
"AKNS, one of the nation's leading designers and installers of solar power systems, believes the key elements are now in place for unprecedented growth in residential solar adoption. 'Finally, the federal government has implemented a set of policies that will spur the long term growth of the solar industry,' said Barry Cinnamon, CEO of Akeena Solar. 'Our customers can now achieve a payback on their solar investment in five years instead of ten, with a 20 percent return on investment (ROI). In today's uncertain economy, rooftop solar power may be the very best investment a homeowner can make.' An eight-year extension of the federal investment tax credit and the removal of the $2,000 limitation for residential installations will drastically decrease the cost of solar for homeowners. The solar tax credits, first introduced in 2005, have been instrumental in encouraging the expansion of the industry."
Rooftop Solar Power Now the Best Investment Under the Sun
MarketWatch, 3 October 2008
"Mrs Sheila Dixit, the chief minister of Delhi will launch the ‘soleckshaw’, a vehicle driven by solar power on 2 October in the National Capital. The vehicle has been designed by scientists of Durgapur-based Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute, a CSIR organisation. Four such soleckshaws have already been transported to New Delhi. Dr Amitava Roy, director, CMERI said: 'Soleckshaws can be described as an efficient pedal powered, motor-assisted three wheeler that is expected to find good utility in downtown urban transportation and freight.'”
Solar power driven autorickshaws to ply soon
The Statesman (India), 26 September 2008
"The electricity generated by the three Pelamis devices will be carried by undersea cable to a substation in Aguçadoura, which will then feed the power into the Portuguese national grid. In addition to this flagship wave power, the Portuguese are investing heavily in other renewable technologies. They are already spending £250m on more than 2,500 solar photovoltaic panels to build the world's largest solar farm near the small town of Moura in eastern Portugal. It will have twice the collecting area of London's Hyde Park and supply 45MW of electricity each year, enough to power 30,000 homes."
'Wave snakes' switch on to harness ocean's power
Guardian, 25 September 2008
"We have an ocean of electricity and heating profligacy to mine in this country. British Gas ran an interesting experiment recently. Eight British streets were asked to compete in cutting their fuel bills, using only the easiest of efficiency measures. In no time at all, they cut their CO2 by an average 20% and fuel bills by a third. The Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR), which monitored the exercise (pdf) for BG, suggests that 10,000 advisers be appointed nationwide, one per 20 streets. The cost would be £500m annually against national energy savings of £4.6bn. The IPPR gives a telling example of what householders, energy-services companies, and government could do could if they worked together. A £524 loan package for cavity wall and lost insulation would give annual savings of £395 per household. A quick payback indeed....Modern solar electric and heating tiles, fitted to a maximally energy-efficient home, can take that property's emissions to zero. The whole thing can be put up in a matter of days using modern offsite methods of construction. More than half the UK's greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings; the majority from homes. We can cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero, we can get rid of the need for energy bills of any kind once the capital cost is paid, and we can dump gas, coal and nuclear alike. Then there is transport. Car manufacturers are aligning behind electricity as the fuel of the future. They are already well into systemic change, even at $100-barrel oil. Renewable energy can charge the plug-in super-efficient vehicles of the near future, even as massive new public transport infrastructure is built by the carbon army. Long term, we save much more money than we invest making this happen. It is all doable, if we just have the imagination and the will."
Independence from the street up
Guardian, 23 September 2008
"The world must speed up the deployment of solar power as it has the potential to meet all the world's energy needs, the chairman of an industry gathering which wrapped up Friday in Spain said. 'The solar energy resource is enormous, and distributed all over the world, in all countries and also oceans,' said Daniel Lincot, the chairman of the five-day European Photovoltaic Solar Energy conference held in Valencia. 'There is thus an enormous resource available from photovoltaics, which can be used everywhere, and can in principle cover all the world energy demand from a renewable, safe and clean source,' he added. Lincot, the research director of the Paris-based Institute for Research and Development of Photovoltaic Energy, said solar energy was growing rapidly but still made only a 'negligible' contribution to total energy supply. Last year the world production of photovoltaic models represented a surface of 40 square kilometres (16 square miles) while meeting the electrical consumption of countries like France or Germany would require 5,000 square kilometres, he said. Under current scenarios, photovoltaic models will represent about 1,000 square kilometres by 2020 accounting for about only 3.0 percent of energy needs in the 27-member European Union, he added."
Agence France Presse, 5 September 2008
"Vast greenhouses that use sea water for crop cultivation could be combined with solar power plants to provide food, fresh water and clean energy in deserts, under an ambitious proposal from a team of architects and engineers. The Sahara Forest Project, which is already running demonstration plants in Tenerife, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, envisages huge greenhouses with concentrated solar power (CSP), a technology that uses mirrors to focus the sun's rays, creating steam to drive turbines to generate electricity....The solar farm planned by the project runs seawater evaporators, pumping damp, cool air through the greenhouses. This reduces the warmth inside by about 15C, compared with the temperature outside. At the other end of the greenhouse from the evaporators, water vapour is condensed. Some of this fresh water is used to water the crops, some for cleaning the solar mirrors. 'So we've got conditions in the greenhouse of high humidity and lower temperature,' said Paton. 'The crops sitting in this slightly steamy, humid condition can grow fantastically well.'....Paton said the greenhouse produced more than five times the fresh water needed to water the plants inside, so some of the water could be released to the outside, creating a microclimate for hardier plants such as jatropha, a crop that can be turned into biofuel. The cost of the Sahara Forest Project could be relatively low as both CSP and Seawater Greenhouses are proven technologies. The designers estimate that building 20 hectares (nearly 50 acres) of greenhouses combined with a 10MW CSP scheme would cost about €80m (£65m).... Neil Crumpton, an energy specialist at Friends of the Earth, said the potential of these desert technologies was huge. 'Concentrated solar power mirror arrays covering just 1% of the Earth's deserts could supply a fifth of all current global energy consumption. And 1 million tonnes of sea water could be evaporated every day from just 20,000ha of greenhouses.' Governments should invest in the technologies and 'not be distracted by lobbyists promoting dangerous nuclear power or nuclear-powered desalination schemes', Crumpton added."
Solar plant yields water and crops from the desert
Guardian, 3 September 2008
"Battered by soaring energy costs and aghast at dwindling fish stocks, Japanese scientists think they have found the answer: filling the seas with giant 'eco-rigs' as powerful as nuclear power stations. The project, which could result in village-sized platforms peppering the Japanese coastline within a decade, reflects a growing panic in the country over how it will meet its future resource needs. The floating eco-rig generators which measure 1.2 miles by 0.5 miles (2km by 800m) are intended to harness the energy of the Sun and wind. They are each expected to produce about 300 megawatt hours of power. Some energy would be lost moving the electricity back onshore, but when three units are strapped together, scientists at Kyushu University say, the effect will be the same as a standard nuclear power station. The eco-rigs' gift to the environment does not stop there: some of the power that the solar cells and wind turbines produce will be hived off to fuel colossal underwater banks of light-emitting diodes (LEDs). The lamps are intended to convert the platforms into nurseries for specially selected seaweed that absorbs carbon dioxide and feeds fish and plankton. Deep-sea water that is rich in minerals will enhance the seaweed growth. The wind turbines will power pumps that will then draw the water to the surface.The rigs will be unmanned and comprise several hexagonal platforms....The Kyushu team says the plans are about three years away from becoming reality. It began tests on a scale version of the eco-rig last month, and full-scale official evaluation is expected to begin soon."
Massive floating generators, or 'eco-rigs', to provide power and food to Japan
London Times, 1 September 2008
"Nanosolar, a maker of thin-film solar panels, said that it has raised $300 million to accelerate production of solar-power facilities in Berlin and San Jose, Calif. The round of funding, which was completed this spring but announced Wednesday by Nanosolar CEO Martin Roscheisen on the company's blog, brings the total money the six-year-old company has raised to half of a billion dollars. Nanosolar is one of the darlings of the clean-tech investing craze.... the funding will help the company meet demand for the thin-film solar technology it introduced in December. Nanosolar is one of several companies betting on a photovoltaic-alternative known as copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS), which purportedly convert more sunlight into energy than other types of thin-film materials."
Nanosolar raises $300 million for thin-film solar
CNET News, 27 August 2008

"A UK-built solar-powered plane has set an unofficial world endurance record for a flight by an unmanned aircraft. The Zephyr-6, as it is known, stayed aloft for more than three days, running through the night on batteries it had recharged in sunlight. The flight was a demonstration for the US military, which is looking for new types of technology to support its troops on the ground. Zephyr has demonstrated that it can cope with extremes of temperature - from the blistering 45C heat found at ground level in Arizona's Sonoran Desert, to the minus 70C chill experienced at altitudes of more than 18km (60,000ft). The engineers from the Farnborough-based company are now collaborating with the American aerospace giant Boeing on a defence project codenamed Vulture. This would see the biggest plane in history take to the sky, powered by the sun and capable of carrying a 450-kilo (1,000lb) payload. US commanders say the design must be able to maintain its position over a particular spot on the Earth's surface uninterrupted for five years. QinetiQ is also developing UAV technology for civilian uses."
Solar plane makes record flight
BBC Online, 24 August 2008

"California's largest utility company has signed deals to build the world's two biggest solar plants that would supply electricity to 250,000 homes and reestablish the United States as the global leader in solar power, officials said Friday. Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), which is based in San Francisco and serves most of northern California, will use the two massive solar facilities to help it meet state requirements to generate 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010, according to Chief Executive and Senior Vice President Jack Keenan. 'This commitment not only moves us forward in meeting our renewable goal, it's also a significant step forward in the renewable energy sector,' Keenan said in a statement. PG&E has signed contracts with two Silicon Valley firms, Optisolar and SunPower, to build the plants in the sunny central California coast city of San Luis Obispo, which is almost equidistant from the state's two population centers San Francisco and Los Angeles. Optisolar will build a 550-megawatt solar farm using thin-film photovoltaic panels, while SunPower will build another 250-megawatt plant on former farm land, PG&E said, adding that the OptiSolar plant could reduce as much carbon emissions by 90,000 cars alone. Energy sector officials said that the new project is so large that it will double the entire installed base of solar power generation in the United States. The world's largest solar facility is currently in Spain with a 23-megawatt generation capacity, while a 154-megawatt station is under construction in Australia."
California to build world's biggest solar power plants
Xinhua, 16 August 2008
"The world's largest solar power project is reportedly being planned for the state of Gujarat in western India at a cost of about $5 billion. Total power generation capacity is expected to reach 5 gigawatts. The U.S.-based Clinton Foundation is reportedly in talks with the state government to establish an 'Integrated Solar City' able to produce the raw materials needed for solar-based power generation, including glass and solar panels. According to a report in Business Standard on Friday (Aug. 8) from Ahmedabad, Gujarat state, an unnamed senior state government official was quoted as saying the cost of materials for the huge project will be much less than previous power generation projects. The official also said the project could reduce the cost of power generation from 25 cents per unit to 10 cents. The state government has recruited John Byrne, University of Delaware professor of public policy and Nobel Prize winner, to develop a solar energy roadmap for the state. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton's foundation, supported by corporate giants like Microsoft and GE Energy, wants to use its $12 billion kitty to finance 'green' energy initiatives. The Clinton Foundation is also talking with state officials in Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan about establishing other solar power projects, the report said. Several major solar panel manufacturing plants have been proposed here, with a total investment of about $17 billion. The projects are awaiting government approval and tax breaks."
World's biggest solar farm planned in India, report says
EE Times, 8 August 2008
"MIT researchers say they have discovered a way to use solar energy cheaply even after the sun goes down, which could make it a mainstream source of power within the next decade.Solar energy has been expensive and inefficient to use after dark, said Daniel Nocera, 51, the Henry Dreyfus professor of energy and professor of chemistry at MIT. But in an article published in the July 31 issue of the journal Science, Nocera and other Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers say they have found a simple, inexpensive process for storing solar energy.....Nocera and the other researchers based their work on a compound made from cobalt and phosphate, both readily available. When the sun is out, electricity from solar panels can be fed to the compound in water, causing the water to split into hydrogen and oxygen. The elements create a chemical fuel that can be recombined to create energy later, when the sun is not shining. The discovery breaks 'the connection between energy and fossil fuels because my energy is coming from water,' said Nocera, 'unleashing the solar energy, not in real time, but when you want to.' The researchers said the findings open the door for large-scale use of solar energy around the clock - not right away but within 10 years. The next step is engineering the system to create and use the solar power. That task will be part of an engineering design project at MIT during the upcoming semester, Nocera said. Cost is the biggest challenge facing the solar energy industry, said Monique Hanis, spokeswoman for the Solar Energy Industries Association, an industry trade group in Washington, D.C. 'The industry is trying to cut costs and improve efficiency all along the supply chain,' Hanis said. 'The cost of solar should be on par with sort of traditional fossil sources in about eight years,' based on the rising costs of other forms of energy and the trends the association has seen in cost reductions in solar over the last decade, she said. Nocera and the MIT research group said they opted to publish their findings to allow the science community to work on the technology. 'The challenges confronting the world in energy are too big to let anybody's single ego or money get in the way,' Nocera said. 'And we're talking about some really challenging problems.'"
Cheap solar at night? MIT may have answer
Boston Globe, 1 August 2008
"A U.S. scientist has developed a new way of powering fuel cells that could make it practical for home owners to store solar energy and produce electricity to run lights and appliances at night. A new catalyst produces the oxygen and hydrogen that fuel cells use to generate electricity, while using far less energy than current methods. With this catalyst, users could rely on electricity produced by photovoltaic solar cells to power the process that produces the fuel, said the Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who developed the new material.....Current methods of producing hydrogen and oxygen for fuel cells operate in a highly corrosive environment, Nocera said, meaning the entire reaction must be carried out in an expensive highly-engineered container. But at MIT this week, the reaction was going on in an open glass container about the size of two shot glasses that researchers manipulated with their bare hands, with no heavy safety gloves or goggles.  'It's cheap, it's efficient, it's highly manufacturable, it's incredibly tolerant of impurity and it's from earth-abundant stuff,' Nocera explained. Nocera has not tried to construct a full-sized version of the system, but suggested that the technologies to bring this into a typical home could be ready in less than a decade."
MIT develops way to bank solar energy at home
Reuters, 31 July 2008
"The rising popularity of lithium-ion (Li-Ion) in batteries has sent demand soaring again, and pundits now worry that electric cars will strain our supplies. Your laptop might use six finger-sized Li-Ion cells in its battery, but US-based Tesla Motors bolts together 6,000 cells to power one of its high-end electric sports cars. Now others, drawn to Li-Ion's light weight and high capacity, are joining in. Toyota's Prius hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) runs on a small battery powered by braking energy that switches to petrol when it runs out. The group will switch its Nickel Metal Hydrid (NiMH) chemistry to Li-Ion in 2010. GM will be putting Li-Ion batteries in the Volt, its plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) due out the same year. Other vendors also promise PHEVs, which are similar to HEVs, but with a larger, plug-in battery. Many will take the Li-Ion approach. So how much lithium do we have? 1m tonnes of lithium metal is used to produce 5.3m tonnes of lithium carbonate, says Brian Jaskula, an analyst at the US Geological Survey (USGS), which goes into Li-Ion batteries. Data from USGS puts total world resources of lithium metal at around 14m tonnes. The total world resource includes all the lithium metal we know about, whether it is commercially viable to extract it or not. But the USGS data is based on a 1976 National Research Council two independent researchers are hoping to update the facts. In the pessimist corner is William Tahil, research director at Meridian International Research, who predicted two years ago that demand for lithium in cars would outpace supply. 'There is no surplus lithium carbonate available for the automotive market. It's all being used by existing industrial applications,' he says. His report provoked a rebuttal from retired industry veteran Keith Evans, who worked on the original 1976 report. In March, he released An Abundance of Lithium, claiming a world resource of 28m tonnes, almost half of which he says could be extracted commercially ( This would produce nearly 74m tonnes of lithium carbonate.....Disagreements over lithium reserves aside, the other debate is about how much lithium we can produce from our reserves, and whether it can match the growth of the car industry. Analysts say that we won't be needing 17m lithium-powered cars for a considerable time. Anjan Hemanth Kumar, an analyst with Frost & Sullivan, says Europe will be the biggest market for electric vehicles, and he predicts that there will be some 250,000 vehicles in Europe by 2015. The US and Europe combined will have about 160,000 PHEVs by then. And Li-Ion battery vendor Hitachi says that most hybrid vehicles will use NiMH batteries until 2015.... Zenn has invested $2.5m (£1.2m) in eeStor, a Texas-based ultracapacitor group. Ultracapacitors are storage devices traditionally used for delivering large kicks of power, but they have little long-term energy capacity. eeStor promises to deliver one that stores as much energy as a lithium battery at less than half the weight - and with a charging time of under 10 minutes. Lockheed Martin has already signed an exclusive licence to use it in military applications. Other technologies are being investigated by carmakers too. Last year, Tata Motors, the Indian carmaker, gave MDI, a company started by a former Formula One engineer, €20m (£15.8m) for the rights to build cars based on its compressed air design. Both Zenn and MDI's US subsidiary ZPN hope to have cars housing their new technologies on the roads by 2010. Fossil fuel cars are unlikely to disappear just yet. But as we seek cleaner transport, other technologies are just around the corner."
What is going to power our cars?
Guardian, 31 July 2008
"China is ever to produce a challenger for the title of the world's richest and most respected businessman, a leading contender is likely to be Shi Zhengrong. The world's first solar billionaire sits at the intersection of two of the most important vectors of the 21st century - China's economic rise and the global imperative to cut carbon emissions. Since founding Suntech Power - China's largest photovoltaic manufacturer - in 2001, Shi has capitalised on a surge of environmentally driven demand in Germany, the US and elsewhere that has turned his company into a global powerhouse and made him, by some estimates, the richest man on the mainland. But that is just the start, according to the Australian-educated scientist, who predicts solar power will rival oil and coal before the end of the next decade. 'We believe that in 10 years, Suntech will be an energy giant like BP or Shell today,' he says. 'Since we were founded, we have grown by more than 100% every year, but we still can't keep up with demand. We must grow faster.'"
Bright future for China's solar billionaire
Guardian, 25 July 2008
"If giant solar thermal power plants spread across the desert are like a mainframe, Sopogy is making the equivalent of a personal computer. The Hawaii-based company on Tuesday at the Intersolar 2008 conference will show off the latest version of its MicroCSP--essentially a shrunk-down version of concentrating solar power (CSP) equipment used in power plants. It's a trough with a reflective coating that focuses sunlight onto a pipe that carries an oil. That heated liquid goes through an organic Rankine cycle engine to convert it into electricity. The conventional thinking in solar these days is to think big. Proposals for concentrating solar power plants call for hundreds of rows of troughs or mirrors to make steam to drive an electricity turbine. The output of these proposed plants will be hundreds of megawatts, approaching the size of traditional power plants. Sopogy's product, called SopaNova 4.0, is aimed at utilities as well, but for smaller-scale projects, in the range of 250 kilowatts to 25 megawatts. The latest edition is longer--between 12 feet and 18 feet long--than previous editions because of a new manufacturing process. 'On cost per watt, we're cheaper than PV (photovoltaics),' said CEO Darren Kimura. 'But that's not what really matters. We can do more production. We actually get more sun energy every day.'"
Sopogy thinks small to make megawatts of solar power
CNet News, 15 July 2008
"A new type of solar panel that allows light to pass through it like a pane of glass has been invented by scientists who said that it is 10 times more powerful than conventional methods of producing energy from sunlight. The discovery raises the prospect of using ordinary domestic windows to generate electricity with minimum structural alterations, although scientists have not yet worked out how much it would cost to convert a domestic home to a solar-powered generator. Instead of coating the entire solar panel with solar cells - the expensive semiconductor devices that turn the energy of sunlight into electricity - the new solar panel works on the principle of concentrating the light, and the energy, at the edges of a pane of glass where it can be collected by the solar cells. Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston said that the 'solar concentrator' is made from a film of organic molecules that can be coated on to glass window panes or other surfaces exposed to sunlight. This allows light to pass straight through the window even though it is being used to generate power. It also means that the expensive solar cells need only be placed around the edges of the collecting area, so that there is little need to track the movements of the Sun for generating maximum power, as well as reducing overall costs....The MIT solar concentrator involves a mixture of two or more dyes that are painted onto a pane of glass or plastic. These dyes absorb light across a range of different wavelengths, which is then re-emitted at a different wavelength and transported across the pane to the waiting solar cells at the edges. Jon Mapel, one of the MIT scientists who worked on the project, said that the trick was to improve the efficiency of the process, which ultimately leads to better performance and lower costs.... Solar power is seen as one of the greenest sources of energy but it has been dogged by the relatively high costs of installing photovoltaic cells on houses and buildings, which can take years to pay off in terms of energy savings. Their efficiency in low-light conditions is also a problem for countries such as Britain were sunlight is a rare commodity in the coldest months of winter."
New windows double as solar panels
Independent, 11 July 2008
"MIT engineers have turned plain glass into a virtual goldmine of solar energy with the help of a sophisticated, yet affordable, concentrator developed by them. Because the materials are affordable, relatively easy to scale up beyond a lab setting, and easy to retrofit to existing solar panels, the researchers believe the technology could find its way to the marketplace within three years. The technology, using dye-coated glass to collect and channel photons otherwise lost from a solar panel's surface, could enable an office building to draw energy from its tinted windows as well as its roof. The engineers coated glass panels with layers of two or more light-capturing dyes. The dyes absorbed incoming light and then re-emitted the energy into the glass, which served as a conduit to channel the light to solar cells along the panels' edges.  The dyes can vary from bright colours to chemicals mostly transparent to visible light. Because the glass panel edges are so thin, far less semiconductor material is needed to collect light energy and convert it into power. The new technology emerged in part from an NSF Nanoscale Interdisciplinary Research Team effort to transfer the capabilities of photosynthesis to solar technology, reports Eurekalert. The researchers' approach succeeded where efforts from the 1970s failed because the thin, concentrated layer of dyes on glass is more effective than the alternative -- a low concentration of dyes in plastic -- at channelling most of the light all the way to the panel edges. These findings appeared in the Friday edition of Science."
MIT turns plain glass into goldmine of solar energy
Economic Times, 11 July 2008
"A Michigan company, Energy Conversion Devices, plans to announce Tuesday that it is providing the solar electric system for what it says will be the world's largest rooftop array, on a General Motors assembly plant in Zaragoza, Spain. The project will be 12 megawatts, a huge number in a field where most arrays are measured in kilowatts, units 1,000 times smaller. The project will use solar devices manufactured in rolls, like carpet runners. Installation will be completed this fall, according to the company, which is based in Rochester Hills, Michigan Energy Conversion will supply the equipment to Veolia Environment and Clairvoyant Energy, which will lease the rooftop space from GM and own and operate the installation, which will be two million square feet. Spain has become a center of solar installations because it offers generous subsidies, 0.42 euro a kilowatt-hour (66 cents). That is about five times the average cost of a kilowatt hour to residential customers in the United States. The Spanish government is considering a reduction in the subsidy for installations after September.... According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group based in Washington, the largest installation planned in the United States, announced in June, was in Atlantic City, where the convention center will have 2.36 megawatts, about one-fifth the size of the installation to be completed in Spain."
Large solar energy array set for GM in Spain
International Herald Tribune, 8 July 2008

"The U.S. Bureau of Land Management on Wednesday said it reversed an earlier decision freezing solar project applications in six Western states and would accept new applications.'We heard the concerns expressed...about waiting to consider new applications and we are taking action,' BLM director James Caswell said in a statement. The government agency announced a freeze a month ago and the decision was criticized by many in the solar industry."
U.S. lifts freeze on solar applications in West
Reuters, 2 July 2008

"The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has declared a moratorium on development of new solar power projects on government land in six western states. The agency said the huge increase in the number of plans for solar power plants has caused worries about their environmental impact, The New York Times reported. Officials expect an impact study to take two years. The moratorium affects millions of acres in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. Officials said 130 applications to lease public land for solar projects have been filed since 2005. The high price of oil makes solar power an attractive alternative, energy analysts say. Advocates say sun-drenched public lands in the Western deserts are a resource that should be used. 'It doesn't make any sense,' said Holly Gordon, vice president for legislative and regulatory affairs for Ausra, a solar thermal energy company in Palo Alto, Calif. 'The Bureau of Land Management land has some of the best solar resources in the world. This could completely stunt the growth of the industry.'"
U.S. government delays solar projects
United Press International, 29 June 2008

"A new type of solar energy collector concentrates the sun into a beam that could melt steel. Researchers say the device could revolutionize global energy production. The prototype is a 12-foot-wide mirrored dish was made from a lightweight frame of thin, inexpensive aluminum tubing and strips of mirror. It concentrates sunlight by a factor of 1,000 to produce steam. 'This is actually the most efficient solar collector in existence,' said Doug Wood, an inventor based in Washington state who patented key parts of the dish's design — the rights to which he has signed over to a team of students at MIT."
Solar dish may revolutionize energy production
MSNBC, 20 June 2008

"A team of Americans and Israelis launched an experimental solar technology plant Thursday in Israel's Negev Desert, a prototype designed to drastically cut the cost of energy produced from the sun. Israeli company Luz II, Ltd. and its American parent, Brightsource Energy, Inc., plan to use the Israeli solar array to test new technology for the three new solar plants they are building for California utility Pacific Gas and Electric Company. Arnold Goldman, founder of the Oakland, California-based company, called the array 'the highest performance, lowest cost thermal solar system in the world.' His previous company built the first commercial solar plants in the 1980s. The new technology uses fields of computer-guided flat mirrors called heliostats to track the sun and focus its rays on a boiler at the top of a 200-foot tower. Water inside the boiler turns to steam, which powers a turbine and produces electricity. The steam is then captured and cooled naturally so the water, scarce in the desert, can be reused."
'Israeli technology may offer cheap solar power'
Associated Press, 12 June 2008
"Quartz, the raw material for solar panels, is one of the most abundant minerals on earth. But for years, the solar industry has faced a bottleneck in processing quartz into polysilicon, a principal material used in most solar panels. The problem stalled a steady decline in prices for solar panels. Now the silicon shortage may be coming to an end, predict some solar analysts, thanks to new factories coming online. If true, the price for solar panel modules could start falling by as much as a third by 2010, says Travis Bradford, president of the Prometheus Institute for Sustainable Development in Cambridge, Mass. That’s good news for an industry that remains one of the most expensive power sources."
Brighter future for solar panels: silicon shortage eases
Christian Science Monitor, 5 June 2008
"Solar power from Africa's deserts could supply all 600 million citizens currently without electricity and even export power to Europe, a green energy conference in Nairobi heard Thursday. The ferocious desert sun could provide the energy equivalent of 1.5 barrels of oil per square kilometre, said Gerhard Knies, project manager for Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation (TREC), at a meeting of nine African states. 'The largest source of energy is the solar radiation (and) the best place to receive solar radiation is the desert,' he told reporters at the start of meeting of 20 parliamentarians in Kenya. 'Deserts get 700 times more energy per year than all human kind is using,' he explained.'It is as if a layer of 25 centimetres (10 inches) of oil is falling down in the deserts year after year.'"
Africa's deserts could supply solar electricity to continent: experts
Agence France Presse, 5 June 2008

"It has been called the holy grail of the modern era - cheap solar energy. And scientists say it may be within our grasp soon. Queensland University team has grown the world's first titanium oxide nano crystals that are likely to revolutionise the way solar energy is harvested and used. Creating these highly efficient miniature crystals with large reactive surfaces was thought of as impossible by most scientists. Max Lu, who led the study, sounded upbeat that they were a step closer to the holy grail of cost-effective solar energy with their discovery. 'Highly active surfaces in such crystals allow high reactivity and efficiency in devices used for solar energy conversion and hydrogen production,' said Lu. 'Titanium nano-crystals are promising materials for cost-effective solar cells, hydrogen production from splitting water, and solar decontamination of pollutants. The beauty of our technique is that it is very simple and cheap to make such materials at mild conditions.' .... Details of the project have been published in the latest edition of the journal Nature."
Cheap solar power now within reach, says study
Sify, 30 May 2008

"Check out the Czeers MK1 prototype solar speedboat, a 10-meter long rig that manages to pack in 14 square meters of solar panels to power an 80kw electric motor. The MK1 plows through the water at a breakneck 30 knots, using no oil and producing no fumes or engine noise. ..The boat is made from 100 percent carbon fiber and has an LCD touch-screen control system, leather trimmings and, most importantly, photovoltaic cells on almost all its horizontal services."
World's First Solar Speedboat Does 30 Knots Gas-Free
Gizmodo, 24 May 2008
"Along a dusty two-lane highway in California's Mojave Desert, 550,000 mirrors point skyward to make steam for electricity. Google Inc., Chevron Corp. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. are betting this energy will become cheaper than coal. The 1,000-acre plant uses concentrated sunlight to generate power for as many as 112,500 homes in Southern California. Rising natural gas prices and emissions limits may make solar thermal the fastest-growing energy source in the next decade, say backers including Vinod Khosla, the founder of computer maker Sun Microsystems Inc. Costs for the technology will fall below coal as soon as 2020, the U.S. government estimates. JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. invested last year in the biggest solar plant built in a generation; Chevron and Google are funding research; and Goldman Sachs is seeking land to lease as demand outpaces wind turbines and geothermal. 'Solar thermal can provide a substantial amount of our power, more than 50 percent,' says Khosla, who along with the Menlo Park, California, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers led a $40 million investment in solar power producer Ausra Inc. 'This is an industrial-strength solution.'...The Ardour Solar Energy Index, covering all forms of solar power, climbed 55 percent in the 12 months through yesterday, outperforming an 8.5 percent decline in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index. Unlike photovoltaic solar panels that convert sunlight to electricity, solar thermal focuses sunrays with mirrors to heat oil in glass pipes to about 700 degrees Fahrenheit (370 degrees Celsius). The oil turns water to steam, which spins an electric turbine....Solar thermal companies are trying to develop backup heat storage using pressurized boiling water or molten salt that can be warmed to more than 1,000 degrees....A solar thermal unit that begins operation in 2010 will produce power at 14.2 cents a kilowatt hour, almost triple the 4.8 cents for a plant using pulverized coal, the Energy Information Administration estimates. Costs for solar thermal may fall as low as 3.5 cents a kilowatt hour by 2020, according to a report commissioned by the U.S. Energy Department. Meanwhile, coal expenses may rise...Ausra's plants will produce electricity at 10 cents a kilowatt-hour starting in 2010, and the price will fall to 8 cents a few years later as it adopts systems with fewer parts that will be less costly when widely deployed, the company says. 'We are going to beat coal,' says Bob Fishman, Ausra's chief executive officer.''
Google, Chevron Build Mirrors in Desert to Beat Coal With Solar
Bloomberg, 23 May 2008
"Thanks to its aggressive push into renewable energies, cloud-wreathed Germany has become an unlikely leader in the race to harness the sun's energy. It has by far the largest market for photovoltaic systems, which convert sunlight into electricity, with roughly half of the world's total installations. And it is the third-largest producer of solar cells and modules after China and Japan.Now, though, Conservative lawmakers want to pare back generous government incentives that support solar development. They say solar generation is growing so fast that it threatens to overburden consumers with high electricity bills.... At the heart of the debate is the Renewable Energy Sources Act. It requires power companies to buy all the alternative energy produced by these systems, at a fixed above-market price, for 20 years. This mechanism, known as a feed-in tariff, gives entrepreneurs a powerful incentive to install solar panels. With a locked-in customer base for their electricity, they can earn a reliable return on their investment. It has worked: homeowners rushed to clamp solar panels on their roofs, and farmers planted them in fields where sheep once grazed. The amount of electricity generated by these installations rose 60% in 2007 compared with 2006, faster than any other renewable energy. This is in a country that gets an average of only 1,528 hours of sunshine a year, less than a third of the total daylight hours. That figure is comparable to London's but it is one-third fewer sunshine hours than in Florence, Italy, and only half San Diego's, making German solar installations less efficient, and their growth all the more remarkable. With wind, biomass and other alternative energy also growing, Germany derives 14.2% of its electricity from renewable sources. That puts it ahead of a European Union target for countries to generate 12.5% of electricity from alternative sources by 2010."
Future of solar cells industry too bright for its own good
Scotsman, 18 May 2008

"IBM today announced a research breakthrough in photovoltaics technology that could significantly reduce the cost of harnessing the Sun's power for electricity.  By mimicking the antics of a child using a magnifying glass to burn a leaf or a camper to start a fire, IBM scientists are using a large lens to concentrate the Sun’s power, capturing a record 230 watts onto a centimeter square solar cell, in a technology known as concentrator photovoltaics, or CPV. That energy is then converted into 70 watts of usable electrical power, about five times the electrical power density generated by typical cells using CPV technology in solar farms. If it can overcome additional challenges to move this project from the lab to the fab, IBM believes it can significantly reduce the cost of a typical CPV based system. By using a much lower number of photovoltaic cells in a solar farm and concentrating more light onto each cell using larger lenses, IBM’s system enables a significant cost advantage in terms of a lesser number of total components. For instance, by moving from a 200 sun system ('one sun' is a measurement equal to the solar power incident at noon on a clear summer day), where about 20 watts per square centimeter of power is concentrated onto the cell, to the IBM Lab results of a 2300 sun system, where approximately 230 watts per square centimeter are concentrated onto the cell system, the IBM system cuts the number of photovoltaic cells and other components by a factor of 10....The trick lies in IBM’s ability to cool the tiny solar cell. Concentrating the equivalent of 2000 suns on such a small area generates enough heat to melt stainless steel, something the researchers experienced first hand in their experiments. But by borrowing innovations from its own R&D in cooling computer chips, the team was able to cool the solar cell from greater than 1600 degrees Celsius to just 85 degrees Celsius. The initial results of this project will be presented at the 33rd IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists conference today, where the IBM researchers will detail how their liquid metal cooling interface is able to transfer heat from the solar cell to a copper cooling plate much more efficiently than anything else available today. The IBM research team developed a system that achieved breakthrough results by coupling a commercial solar cell to an advanced IBM liquid metal thermal cooling system using methods developed for the microprocessor industry....While concentrator-based photovoltaics technologies have been around since the 1970s, they have received renewed interest in recent times. With very high concentrations, they have the potential to offer the lowest-cost solar electricity for large-scale power generation, provided the temperature of the cells can be kept low, and cheap and efficient optics can be developed for concentrating the light to very high levels."
IBM Research Unveils Breakthrough In Solar Farm Technology, 15 May 2008

"Thanks to nanostructures that scatter and channel light, University of California, San Diego electrical engineers are working toward thin-film 'single junction' solar cells with the potential for nearly 45 percent sunlight-to-electricity conversion efficiencies. This effort to break the theoretical limit of 31 percent efficiency for conventional single junction cells recently received a big funding boost from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar America program."
Nanostructures Will Raise Thin-Film Solar Cell Efficiency
ScienceDaily, May 15, 2008
"A Pennsylvania energy company is putting up what it says will be the largest rooftop solar installation in the country. The 1.7-megawatt solar system will go on the rooftops of eight buildings at the Summit, N.J., campus of pharmaceutical company Schering-Plough Corp. PPL Renewable Energy of Allentown, Pa., said Monday it will plan, construct and operate the system. PPL also will own the system, which will supply power to the Schering-Plough campus. It will reduce the company's emissions of greenhouse gases -- a goal of the drugmaker -- by about 1.3 million pounds a year, equal to saving about 66,000 gallons of gasoline. PPL said such solar systems reduce energy bills by generating electricity during peak daytime hours when power prices are highest."
Biggest US solar rooftop system planned
Newsday, 12 May 2008
"A Silicon Valley start-up says it has developed technology that can deliver solar power in about a year at prices competitive with coal-fired electricity, a milestone that would leapfrog other more established players and turbocharge the fast-growing industry. SUNRGI's 'concentrated photovoltaic' system relies on lenses to magnify sunlight 2,000 times, letting it produce as much electricity as standard panels with a far smaller system. Craig Goodman, head of the National Energy Marketers Association, is expected to announce the breakthrough Tuesday. Under its plans, which experts call promising but highly ambitious, SUNRGI would initially target utilities and large industrial and commercial customers. The company — founded by veterans of computer, digital design, aerospace and solar industries — would market to homes within three years. Executives of the year-old company say they'll start producing solar panels by mid-2009 that will generate electricity for about 7 cents a kilowatt hour, including installation. That's roughly the price of cheap coal-fired electricity. 'We're bringing the cost of solar electricity down to be competitive with' fossil fuels, says Bob Block, a co-founder of SUNRGI. Solar power is acclaimed as free of greenhouse gas emissions and able to supply electricity midday when demand is highest. But its cost — 20 cents to 30 cents a kilowatt hour — has inhibited broad adoption. Solar makes up less than 1% of U.S. power generation. An armada of solar technology makers aim to drive solar's price to 10 to 18 cents a kilowatt hour by 2010, and 5 to 10 cents by 2015, at or below utility costs. SUNRGI's timetable is far more aggressive."
Start-up: Affordable solar power possible in a year
USA Today, 28 April 2008
"The sun blasts Earth with enough energy in one hour—4.3 x 1020 joules—to provide all of humanity's energy needs for a year (4.1 x 1020 joules), according to physicist Steven Chu, director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The question is how to most effectively harness it. Thin-film solar cells may be the answer: One recently converted 19.9 percent of the sunlight that hit it into electricity, surpassing the amount converted into power by mass-produced traditional silicon photovoltaics and offering the potential to unleash this renewable energy source. Prices for high-grade silicon (that can generate electricity from sunlight) shot up in 2004 in response to growing demand, reaching as high as $500 per kilogram (2.2 pounds) this year. Enter thin-film solar cells—devices that use a fine layer of semiconducting material, such as silicon, copper indium gallium selenide or cadmium telluride, to harvest electricity from sunlight at a fraction of the cost. 'The fundamental advantage of thin film comes in the form of the amount of material you need,' says electrical engineer Jeff Britt, chief technology officer of thin-film manufacturer Global Solar Energy in Tucson, Ariz. 'These are direct bandgap semiconductors. You can get by with one or two microns and still absorb 98 percent of the sunlight.' (In other words, it takes at least 100 times less thin-film material to absorb the same amount of sunlight as traditional silicon photovoltaic cells.)...In March, the company opened a new factory in Tucson, where it plans to produce enough thin-film CIGS solar cells to generate 40 megawatts of electricity next year—enough to power roughly 15,000 average American homes; it hopes to boost the juice to 100 megawatts by 2010 in response to what it predicts will be a growing market."
Solar Power Lightens Up with Thin-Film Technology
Scientific American, 25 April 2008
"The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Chesonis Family Foundation said today that they are launching a "solar revolution" project with the ultimate aim of making solar energy America's primary carbon-free fuel. The Solar Revolution Project, funded by a $10 million gift from the Chesonis Family Foundation, aims to transform solar power from a ''boutique' option to an affordable, dependable, mainstream energy solution,' MIT said. The project will complement and interact with other large solar projects at MIT, creating one of the largest solar energy clusters at any research university, MIT said."
MIT unveils new solar energy project
Boston Globe, 22 April 2008
"It was with some trepidation that I went into the cellar this week to take some meter readings in order to find out how the solar panels we had fitted on our house exactly a year ago have been performing. Was the hefty sum of £8,500 we forked out last year a good investment or a waste of money? Well, the news is better than I had expected. We, a family of four, have produced 92% of our electricity usage from the roof of a century-old terraced house in south-east London - laying to rest the idea that Britain is not sunny enough for solar power. It also disproves any suggestion this sort of technology only works in state-of-the-art, modern detached houses. Not only will we not pay for any electricity, we should get a rebate of about £50 once a payment from the so-called renewables obligation (RO) scheme, which rewards microgeneration schemes with cash, is included. In all, the saving for the past year will be around £500, giving a return on our investment of 6%, which is not subject to tax."
Solar so good for our house
Guardian, 19 April 2008
"The race for high-capacity solar power is on. Southern California Edison Co. announced plans last month to build the country's largest solar installation. The project is expected to power 162,000 houses in the greater Los Angeles area - about 5 percent of the area's homes - with 250 megawatts of power by the year 2010. This announcement came soon after the Spanish firm Abengoa Solar launched its massive solar project - Solana Generating Station - which it is calling the biggest in the world. This will be 70 miles southwest of Phoenix and is expected to generate 280 megawatts by 2011.  Both these plants are designed to use 'concentrating solar power,' or CSP, technology to harness the sun's heat and convert it to electricity. CSP is more efficient than other renewable energy alternatives. This solar technology does what so many have talked about: it creates jobs.....The goal of producing 4,000 megawatts of concentrated solar power is within sight, though, because 3,500 megawatts are already under contract to be built, says Morse. If all proposed projects get built, CSP can become competitive with fossil fuel energy sources by 2013."
Harnessing the Sun: Future of Green Jobs
Washington Independent, 11 April 2008
"Saudi Arabia's oil minister on Thursday slammed biofuels, saying they did not protect the environment or help supply security, but added solar power had to be considered one of the best clean energy sources.'Let's be realistic, ethanol and biofuels will not contribute to the protection of the global environment by reducing (carbon dioxide) emissions, they will not increase energy security, nor will they reduce dependency on fossil fuels to any appreciable degree,' Ali al-Naimi told an oil conference. 'Biofuels are not the solution,' he added. The rise in biofuel use was largely due to government subsidies, high import taxes and financial favoritism vis-a vis others, he added. 'That's why we have to look beyond biofuels... and concentrate instead on truly renewable sources of energy,' he said, adding that solar power was perhaps the best clean energy source available in all parts of the world. 'It is abundant, clean and available to all,' he said.'There is a great chance to expand its usage to all parts of the world especially in developing countries and to all economic sectors and activities including power generation, manufacturing and so on,' Naimi said. What was needed, he said, was to expand the use of solar energy and to make solar cells more effective to make the transmission of solar power more cost effective."
Saudi oil minister slams biofuels, favors solar energy
Reuters, 10 April 2008
"A solar-powered hydrogen fueling station is officially open, just days after the state gutted rules designed to increase the number of hydrogen-powered cars on the road. The station uses solar energy to separate hydrogen from water to power clean-fuel vehicles. Its solar panels produce 80 kilowatts of electricity, roughly enough to power 40 homes, or about 14 fuel-cell vehicles. The station opened Tuesday as a joint venture between the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, British Petroleum, Ford Motor Company and the U.S. Department of Energy. It will power SMUD's fleet of seven fuel cell vehicles."
Solar-powered hydrogen fuel station opens despite cuts
Daily Democrat, 5 April 2008
"After 11 years of testing and trying - and not making money - startup Global Solar Energy says it has refined its thin-film flexible photovoltaic cell to the point it says it can produce solar panels at one-third to one-half the cost of the current industry standard. 'We're sold out for the next year at a price that ensures we're profitable,' said Mike Gering, president and CEO of Global Solar. 'There's a big difference between production and the laboratory. We're in production. We can replicate this time after time.'...In December, the company achieved greater than 10 percent average efficiency for its flexible solar cells, an ability to convert sunlight into clean energy on par with Wall Street thin-film solar powerhouse First Solar, and near that of the industry standard crystalline silicon, which, at 12 to 14 percent efficiency, dominates 90 percent of the solar market. But the Tucson firm, which will employ 180 people at the new factory, is banking on the ultra-low manufacturing costs of its thin, flexible product to make a glass-fronted rooftop solar panel that is lightweight, durable and cheaper than the industry standard by a third to a half. 'What's significant is that (10 percent) is their production average, not their best,' said Bill Shafarman, a materials scientist with the University of Delaware's Institute of Energy Conversion. 'Other thin-film companies (such as First Solar) are making single, large modules on glass with module efficiencies between 9 to 13 percent. So it's not as good as some of those companies, but this is a unique product because it's flexible and lightweight. Unlike First Solar, which uses cadmium telluride (CdTe) deposited directly on large modules of glass, Global Solar uses a semiconductor material known as CIGS - for copper, indium, gallium and di-selenide. At high temperatures, the material can be applied to stainless steel foil in 3,000-foot rolls in a closed chamber about the size of a refrigerator. The product is then printed with a conductive contact of metal ink, cut into individual cells, tested, reassembled and laminated in clear plastic or glass."
Global Solar brings cheaper solar a step closer
Vail Sun, 1 April 2008
"Solar energy is getting a big boost in Southern California with the unveiling of two projects that will be capable of generating a total of 500 megawatts of electricity, enough to serve more than 300,000 homes. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Southern California Edison plan to announce today the country's largest rooftop solar installation project ever proposed by a utility company. And on Wednesday, FPL Energy, the largest operator of solar power in the U.S., said it planned to build and operate a 250-megawatt solar plant in the Mojave Desert. The projects would help California meet its goal of obtaining 20% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010. In 2006, about 13% of the retail electricity delivered by Edison and the state's other two big investor-owned utilities came from renewable sources such as sun and wind, according to the California Public Utilities Commission. Energy experts were struck by the size of the two projects, which would bolster the state's current total of about 965 megawatts of solar power flowing to the electricity grid. 'Five hundred megawatts -- that's substantial,' said spokesman George Douglas of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. 'Projects of that size begin to show that solar energy can produce electricity on a utility scale, on the kind of scale that we're going to need.'.... FPL Energy's proposed 250-megawatt plant, dubbed the Beacon Solar Energy Project, will be situated on about 2,000 acres in eastern Kern County. More than half a million parabolic mirrors will be assembled in rows to receive and concentrate the sun's rays to produce steam for a turbine generator -- a process known as solar thermal power. The generator will produce electricity for delivery to a nearby electric grid. Construction is scheduled to begin in late 2009 and will take about two years to complete, the Juno Beach, Fla.-based company said."
2 big projects will amp up solar power in Southland
Los Angeles Times, 27 March 2008
"Spanish renewable energy firm Sener and Abu Dhabi's clean-energy initiative, Masdar, announced a joint venture on Wednesday to build several power plants fueled by the sun's heat. The newly created firm, Torresol Energy, said it plans to build at least two large concentrating solar power plants a year with a goal of generating 320 megawatts over the next 5 years and 1,000 megawatts in 10 years. A large coal-fired power plant typically can produce hundreds of megawatts of electricity....One of the designs that the venture intends to use is a solar receiver tower to be built in Abu Dhabi....The new company underscores the surge in investment on solar thermal technologies, which use the sun's heat, rather than photovoltaic panels, to generate electricity. A number of solar thermal power plants are being proposed for the Southwest United States and Spain, where conditions are best. Sener already operates three 50 megawatt plants that use parabolic troughs to reflect light and generate heat. They also incorporate molten salt storage to generate electricity when the sun is not shining."
Solar tower of power coming to Spain, Abu Dhabi
Cnet News, 13 March 2008
"Corus and Dyesol have been working closely for the past two years and in January completed a detailed feasibility study that revealed extended product lives, lower material costs and steadily increasing efficiency gains from the technology, which could make it suitable for large surface area applications on a range of building types. When commercialized, dye solar cell technology on steel for BIPV applications may become significantly more cost effective than other competing PV technologies and achieve high market capture, the companies say. Funding has been secured from the Welsh Assembly government allowing the next stage of prototyping and development to be undertaken. A new facility, based in North Wales, will become the home of Corus and Dyesol scientists and engineers jointly engaged on the development."
Corus and Dyesol Make Solar Cell Plans
RenewableEnergyWorld, 12 March 2008
"Paint that could generate as much electricity as 50 wind farms is being developed by Welsh scientists. Materials experts at Swansea University are working alongside steel giant Corus on developing a method of spraying solar cells onto steel used for cladding buildings. If the work is a success it could lead to houses and offices becoming giant solar energy converters powering their own lighting, heating, televisions and computers. And if the material was sprayed onto car and lorry roofs they could eventually use solar power to split hydrogen from water. That would allow vehicles to be powered by hydrogen fuel cells at no cost to the environment. Unlike conventional solar cells, the materials being developed at Swansea University are more efficient at capturing low light radiation, meaning they are better suited to the British climate. Dr Dave Worsley, a Reader in the Materials Research Centre at Swansea University’s School of Engineering said, 'We have been collaborating with the steel industry for decades. But we have tended to focus our attention on improving the long-term durability and corrosion-resistance of steel. Until now we haven’t really paid much attention to how we can make the outside of the steel capable of doing something other than looking good. One of our Engineering Doctorate students was researching how sunlight interacts with paint and degrades it, which led to us developing a new photovoltaic method of capturing solar energy.' Corus currently applies paint to certain steel products when they are passed through rollers during the manufacturing process so the paint is ingrained into the steel. It is hoped the same approach can be used to build up solar cell layers. Dr Worsley believes the potential for the product is immense. He said, 'The Corus Colours division produces around 100 million square metres of steel building cladding a year. If this was treated with the photovoltaic material, and assuming a conservative 5% energy conversion rate, then we could be looking at generating 4,500 gigawatts of electricity through the solar cells annually. That’s the equivalent output of roughly 50 wind farms.' A research grant from the Assembly Government’s Welsh Energy Research Centre (Werc) enabled Dr Worsley to work with Corus to investigate the feasibility of developing an efficient solar cell system that can be applied to steel building products. The success of the study led to the award of a three-year project worth over £1.5m by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Swansea University is now leading a partnership with Bangor University, the University of Bath, and Imperial College London to develop commercially viable photovoltaic materials for use within the steel industry."
Spray-on solar cells being developed
Western Mail, 7 March 2008
"Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, plans to become an expert in another, cleaner field of energy by investing in solar power, the country's oil minister said in an interview released Sunday. 'For a country like Saudi Arabia ... one of the most important sources of energy to look at and to develop is solar energy,' Ali al-Nuaimi told French oil newsletter Petrostrategies. He added: 'One of the research efforts that we are going to undertake is to see how we make Saudi Arabia a centre for solar energy research and hopefully over the next 30 to 50 years we will be a major megawatt exporter. 'In the same way we are an oil exporter, we can also be an exporter of power.'"
Oil giant Saudi to become solar power centre: minister
Agence France Presse, 1 March 2008
"Investors and utilities intent on building solar power plants are increasingly turning to solar thermal power, a comparatively low-tech alternative to photovoltaic panels that convert sunlight directly into electricity. This month, in the latest in a string of recent deals, Spanish solar-plant developer Abengoa Solar and Phoenix-based utility Arizona Public Service announced a 280-megawatt solar thermal project in Arizona. By contrast, the world's largest installations of photovoltaics generate only 20 megawatts of power. In a solar thermal plant, mirrors concentrate sunlight onto some type of fluid that is used, in turn, to boil water for a steam turbine. Over the past year, developers of solar thermal technology such as Abengoa, Ausra, and Solel Solar Systems have picked up tens of millions of dollars in financing and power contracts from major utilities such as Pacific Gas and Electric and Florida Power and Light. By 2013, projects in development in just the United States and Spain promise to add just under 6,000 megawatts of solar thermal power generation to the barely 100 megawatts installed worldwide last year, says Cambridge, MA, consultancy Emerging Energy Research. The appeal of solar thermal power is twofold. It is relatively low cost at a large scale: an economic analysis released last month by Severin Borenstein, director of the University of California's Energy Institute, notes that solar thermal power will become cost competitive with other forms of power generation decades before photovoltaics will, even if greenhouse-gas emissions are not taxed aggressively. Solar thermal developers also say that their power is more valuable than that provided by wind, currently the fastest-growing form of renewable energy. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, wind power costs about 8 cents per kilowatt, while solar thermal power costs 13 to 17 cents. But power from wind farms fluctuates with every gust and lull; solar thermal plants, on the other hand, capture solar energy as heat, which is much easier to store than electricity. Utilities can dispatch this stored solar energy when they need it--whether or not the sun happens to be shining.... In fact, the capacity to store energy is critical to the economics of the solar thermal plant. Without storage, a solar thermal plant would need a turbine large enough to handle peak steam production, when the sun is brightest, but which would otherwise be underutilized. Stored heat means that a plant can use a smaller, cheaper steam turbine that can be kept running steadily for more hours of the day. While adding storage would substantially increase the cost of the energy produced by a photovoltaic array or wind farm, it actually reduces the cost per kilowatt of the energy produced by solar thermal plants. Morse says that while the design of solar thermal power stations is rapidly diversifying, most will use essentially the same system for storing energy: tanks full of a molten salt that remains liquid at temperatures exceeding 565 °C. 'It's basically two tanks with a lot of heat exchangers, pipes, and pumps,' says Morse. For a sense of scale, consider that the 50-megawatt plants that Germany's Solar Millennium is building in Spain near Granada will employ 28,500 tons of molten salt in twin tanks standing 14 meters high and 38.5 meters in diameter."
Solar without the Panels
Technology Review, 29 February 2008
"Japan's Sharp Corp (6753.T: Quote, Profile, Research), which aims to become the world's biggest maker of solar cells, is looking abroad to raise annual output of thin-film solar cells by sixfold to 6,000 megawatts after 2012 and beat silicon shortages. Sharp aims to raise its annual thin-film solar cell production capacity 'as soon as possible' after a planned new plant in Osaka, western Japan goes online by March 2010 with eventual output of 1,000 MW per year, Toshishige Hamano, corporate senior executive director, said on Wednesday. The electronics group, which also supplies liquid crystal display panels, now has thin-film cell capacity of 15 MW per year at its Katsuragi Plant in Nara, western Japan, and plans to raise this to 160 MW in October.... Thin-film solar cells use roughly one-hundredth of the silicon needed in conventional solar cells, cutting production time and costs."
Sharp looks abroad for thin-film solar cell output
Reuters, 27 February 2008
"Australia is to build the world’s biggest solar power plant after the Hong Kong-based CLP power generating group announced on Monday that it would invest $270m in the project. The 154MW scheme, located in the south-eastern state of Victoria, would have nearly twice the capacity of the biggest existing solar power plant, in California’s Mojave desert. The Mojave system, however, links nine power plants together for a total capacity of 354MW. The Victoria project was conceived and planned by Solar Systems, an Australian private company, and aims to lower generating costs by using mirror arrays that track the sun to concentrate light on to advanced photovoltaic cells. The project, which is scheduled to be completed in 2013 would generate enough electricity to power 45,000 homes. However, that is equivalent to only about 0.1 per cent of Australia’s electricity generation in 2006. The cost of solar power has dropped by a factor of 10 in the past three decades, according to Christophe Inglin, managing director of Singapore-based solar systems specialist Phoenix Solar. 'But there is still a long way to go before it is competitive with grid [ie conventional] energy costs,' he said. Mr Inglin said that he expected some markets to achieve 'grid parity' within the next five to 10 years."
Australia thinks big on solar power
Financial Times, 26 February 2008
"A team of US researchers has developed an anode coating strategy which they claim significantly enhances the efficiency of solar energy power conversion. The 'breakthrough' at Northwestern University promises cheaper solar cells which are more easy to manufacture and implement. Tobin J. Marks, a research professor in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, and Robert Chang, professor of materials science and engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, led the research team.  The scientists explained that solar cells fabricated from plastic-like organic materials are attractive because they can be printed cheaply and quickly by a process similar to printing a newspaper, i.e. roll-to-roll processing."
Boffins boost solar cell efficiency, 25 Feb 2008
"Transparent electrodes created from atom- thick carbon sheets could make solar cells and LCDs without depleting precious mineral resources, say researchers in Germany. Solar cells, LCDs and some other devices, must have transparent electrodes in parts of their designs to let light in or out. These electrodes are usually made from indium tin oxide (ITO) but experts calculate that there is only 10 years' worth of indium left on the planet, with LCD panels consuming the majority of existing stocks....Although experimental alternatives to ITO exist, these are also unstable and of unproven efficiency, said the report in New Scientist. Zhi and colleagues Xuan Wang and Klaus Muellen believe they have a cheaper, more stable alternative. The report said the team is testing solar cells with transparent electrodes made from graphene - flat sheets of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal structure. When rolled up, this material makes carbon nanotubes. The solar panels they created were dye-sensitized solar cells, first invented in 1991 and predicted by some to be the most likely successor to silicon-based solar cells. Dye-sensitized solar cells use sunlight, a mixture of different dye pigments, and titanium dioxide - the main ingredient in white paint - to excite electrons. This is a process that, in some ways, mimics photosynthesis. It could make solar cells cheaper to manufacture and more efficient, in terms of power collection, than silicon-based ones....The team is now working on reducing the number of layers to increase transparency, and on 'ironing out' the creases that can appear in the sheets. In theory, a single perfect layer of graphene would work well enough to replace ITO. 'Replacing the ITO with graphene is a real great step forward as the transparent current collector is a critical and the most expensive part of our cell,' New Scientist quoted Michael Graetzel of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland, as saying. He invented dye sensitised solar cells in 1991."
Carbon electrodes could slash cost of solar panels
Deutsche Presse Agentur, 4 February 2008
"Qatar is considering building one of the world's largest solar power complexes to help meet demand, which could increase four-fold over the next 30 years, the Middle East Economic Digest (MEED) reported. Gulf Arab states have about 30 percent of the world's oil reserves and 8 percent of its gas, but an economic boom spurred by record crude prices is driving demand for power and water so rapidly that many are considering turning to alternative energies including nuclear. Qatar expects to add 16,260 megawatts of power to the national grid between 2011 to 2036, almost four times current capacity of 4,200 megawatts, the magazine said, citing Salah Hamza, senior business development planner at Qatar General Electricity & Water Corp (Kahramaa). The solar complex would have capacity of 3,500 megawatts by 2013, Hamza said. 'You can have up to 500 MW in one place,' he said. 'Then you will need about seven sites because the total capacity needed at that time is 3,500 MW,' he said adding that solar capacity could increase to 4,500 megawatts by 2036."
Qatar eyes solar power to meet surging demand: report
Reuters, 2 February 2008
"One of the most oil-rich countries on Earth is about to build the world's first sustainable city. The United Arab Emirates is starting construction on Masdar, just outside Abu Dhabi, designed by British architect Lord Foster. The city will house up to 50,000 people, be car-free, produce no waste and no carbon and run almost entirely on sunlight. A new solar-power plant is being built, with 80 per cent of roofs covered in solar panels..... Photovoltaic solar cells, which convert sunlight into electricity, have always been maligned as expensive (mostly because of the high price of silicon) and inefficient. But the clunky panels of yesterday are being replaced with sleek, new designs able to create more electricity with less - or even no - silicon. Already, companies all over the world are selling solar panels with clever, more efficient arrays of prisms, mirrors and lenses. And thin film solar panels - such as new flexible plastic sheets that can be easily rolled onto any surface (or, theoretically, mounted onto the back of an iPod or cellphone) - are generating excitement because of their low cost and durability. Solar power, after a long incubation period, is now the world's fastest-growing sector in the global energy markets. Cheap and efficient new technologies are mushrooming, California is installing a million solar roofs and Ontario - which pays solar-panel owners a premium rate to feed electricity into the grid - signed 145 contracts last year."
Europe likes biofuels, but some are 'worse than useless'
Globe and Mail, 2 February 2008
"The biggest problem with the sun is that it's not always around. And during the winter months it behaves like an absentee landlord and shows up only for a few hours. Unfortunately, solar panels must contend with this erratic behavior if they are to save us from ourselves. If only there was a panel that worked in the dark...Well, guess what? It looks like we might now be on the brink of technology that effectively deals with sun's temperament. Thanks to the wonders of nanotechnology and, in no small part the efforts of Steven Novack of the Idaho National Laboratories, there are now foldable panels that operate at 80 percent efficiency. Conventional photovoltaics yield only about 40 percent. But as EcoGeek explains, 'the surface of the material is printed with miniscule nano-antennae that capture infra-red radiation, the kind that the sun puts out in abundance, and is even available at night.'"
Solar Cells That Don't Need the Sun
PC Magazine, 1 February 2008
"U.S. researchers said on Tuesday they have made the darkest material on Earth, a substance so black it absorbs more than 99.9 percent of light. Made from tiny tubes of carbon standing on end, this material is almost 30 times darker than a carbon substance used by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology as the current benchmark of blackness. And the material is close to the long-sought ideal black, which could absorb all colors of light and reflect none.....Ajayan said the material could be used in solar energy conversion. 'You could think of a material that basically collects all the light that falls into it,' he said."
New material pushes the boundary of blackness
Reuters, 15 January 2008
"The estimates in Section 5.5 indicate that meeting the RTFO target of 5% replacement of oil based transport fuels, without using imports, would require anywhere between 10 and 45% of the UK arable land area. The inclusion of energy production from organic and municipal wastes would raise this contribution and reduce the land requirement. This is a relatively small but nevertheless useful contribution; but it is clear that the transition to a low-carbon transport economy will require a much wider range of policies, and involve several more technologies and practices, than we have been able to pursue in this report. The key ones include: • Improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency. For example hybrids and plug-in hybrids could potentially double or more the efficiency of passenger vehicles, and thus they could double the effectiveness of the biofuel programmes. The plug-in hybrid also opens up the important possibility of the batteries being recharged through low carbon energy forms for electricity generation, such as renewable energy and nuclear power, which would further reduce the ‘carbon footprint’ of transport.... • Alternative fuelled vehicles, such as hydrogen with fuel-cells or fully electric vehicles.... the key will be to have a combination of policies that: (1) extend the principle of carbon pricing to transport; (2) extend the incentives for innovation to the development and use of low carbon/high efficiency vehicles and the use of electricity or hydrogen as a vehicle fuel...."
Sustainable biofuels: prospects and challenges
Royal Society, January 2008
"On a bleak airfield 30km (19 miles) outside Leipzig in former East Germany, a quiet but sunny revolution is taking place.... This is the heart of Germany's solar industry and, although still under construction, once complete it will be the world's largest solar power station, covering the equivalent of 200 football pitches and providing enough electricity for 10,000 homes. Germany is the world leader in solar energy: building power stations across the country, developing the technology and manufacturing solar panels. One in a hundred homes has gone as far as installing its own solar arrays....Germany has done this before. Over the past 25 years, it has built up wind power and is a world leader in that as well. There are even claims that by 2050, Germany could derive all its energy from renewables. The European Union has set a target for its member countries: 20% renewable energy by 2020. Germany is already more than half way there. In Britain we are trailing behind with between 4 and 5% of our energy coming from renewables. But why is solar power happening in Germany, which is not normally considered to be one of the world's top sun spots? Christian Hinsch of Juwi, the company building and running the power station near Leipzig, says that this part of Germany is sunny and he says there is plenty of room for solar power stations, particularly in the East. Most importantly, there is a market mechanism in place, which gives suppliers of solar electricity a guaranteed price for the energy they supply to the national grid set for 20 years. 'If you put up a wind turbine, if you put up a bio-gas power plant or if you put up a solar power plant, then you get a fixed price for 20 years, depending of course on the size and type of renewable,' he says. It is called the 'feed-in' tariff and it is considerably higher than the price paid for fossil fuel electricity."
Germany's sunny revolution
BBC Online, 10 January 2008
"A researcher at Israel's Bar-Ilan University has created a solar cell 100 times bigger than previous designs using nano-based methods. Professor Arie Zaban, head of the university's Nanotechnology Institute, had already developed a method of using metallic wires mounted on conductive glass to form the basis of solar cells. This method produces electricity with an efficiency similar to that of conventional silicon-based cells, but which are much cheaper to produce."
Boffin boosts solar cell size 100-fold
Vnunet, 8 January 2008
"In the race to make solar cells cheaper and more efficient, many researchers and start-up companies are betting on new designs that exploit nanostructures--materials engineered on the scale of a billionth of a meter. Using nanotechnology, researchers can experiment with and control how a material generates, captures, transports, and stores free electrons--properties that are important for the conversion of sunlight into electricity. Two nanotech methods for engineering solar cell materials have shown particular promise. One uses thin films of metal oxide nanoparticles, such as titanium dioxide, doped with other elements, such as nitrogen. Another strategy employs quantum dots--nanosize crystals--that strongly absorb visible light. These tiny semiconductors inject electrons into a metal oxide film, or 'sensitize' it, to increase solar energy conversion. Both doping and quantum dot sensitization extend the visible light absorption of the metal oxide materials. Combining these two approaches appears to yield better solar cell materials than either one alone does, according to Jin Zhang, professor of chemistry at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Zhang led a team of researchers from California, Mexico, and China that created a thin film doped with nitrogen and sensitized with quantum dots. When tested, the new nanocomposite material performed better than predicted--as if the functioning of the whole material was greater than the sum of its two individual components."
New Nanostructured Thin Film Shows Promise For Efficient Solar Energy Conversion
ScienceDaily, 8 January 2008
"Researchers at Idaho National Laboratory, along with partners at Microcontinuum Inc. (Cambridge, MA) and Patrick Pinhero of the University of Missouri, are developing a novel way to collect energy from the sun with a technology that could potentially cost pennies a yard, be imprinted on flexible materials and still draw energy after the sun has set. The new approach, which garnered two 2007 Nano50 awards, uses a special manufacturing process to stamp tiny square spirals of conducting metal onto a sheet of plastic. Each interlocking spiral 'nanoantenna' is as wide as 1/25 the diameter of a human hair. Because of their size, the nanoantennas absorb energy in the infrared part of the spectrum, just outside the range of what is visible to the eye. The sun radiates a lot of infrared energy, some of which is soaked up by the earth and later released as radiation for hours after sunset. Nanoantennas can take in energy from both sunlight and the earth's heat, with higher efficiency than conventional solar cells. 'I think these antennas really have the potential to replace traditional solar panels,' says physicist Steven Novack, who spoke about the technology in November at the National Nano Engineering Conference in Boston....Commercial solar panels usually transform less that 20 percent of the usable energy that strikes them into electricity.....The team estimates individual nanoantennas can absorb close to 80 percent of the available energy.... One day, Novack says, these nanoantenna collectors might charge portable battery packs, coat the roofs of homes and, perhaps, even be integrated into polyester fabric. Double-sided panels could absorb a broad spectrum of energy from the sun during the day, while the other side might be designed to take in the narrow frequency of energy produced from the earth's radiated heat."
Harvesting the sun's energy with nanoantennas
Nanowerk, 4 January 2008
"The dream of inexpensive, ecofriendly aviation has come closer to reality after a French test pilot achieved the first flight in a conventional light aircraft powered by an electric motor. The Electra, a wood-and-fabric single-seater, flew for 48 minutes for 50km (30 miles) around the southern Alps, winning a global race to apply battery power to a fixed-wing standard aircraft. The APAME group, founded to develop green aviation, said that the flight showed that nonpolluting, quiet light aviation was within reach.... The quest to replace noisy, fossil-fuelled aircraft engines with quiet, clean power has been under way for nearly 30 years. The big hurdle is the punitive weight of batteries, which produce only 2 per cent of the energy from the same mass of petrol.... Recent advances in battery technology have led to electric power for small unmanned observation drones and radio-controlled model aircraft as well as the extra drive for motor gliders. Last summer the French group and a US inventor each flew electric-powered, delta-winged microlight aircraft for the first time. The last challenge has been to scale up electric drive to equip passenger-carrying conventional aircraft of the kind flown by recreational pilots.....The group used a Souricette kit aircraft and adapted to it a 25-horsepower British-made motor of a type that powers golf carts. The key to their pioneering flight on December 23 was the new generation of light lithium-polymer batteries, 48kg (105lb) of which supply power in the Electra, which has a 9m (30ft) wingspan....Electric power for larger aircraft, including airliners, is also on the horizon, with research by Nasa and Boeing into the holy grail of the field: hydrogen-fed fuel cells. These will drive electric motors with power like those on French high-speed trains."
Air travel switches to electricity
London Times, 3 January 2008
"A newly discovered material, dubbed 'nano flakes', could revolutionise the transformation of solar energy to electricity. If researcher Martin Aagesen's future solar cells meet early expectations, the economy and the environment will benefit from the research which could make solar power generation viable for ordinary households. Aagesen is a PhD from the Nano-Science Center and the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen. Aagesen pointed out that less than one per cent of the world's electricity comes from the Sun because it is difficult to transform solar energy to electricity. But he believes his discovery may be a 'huge step' towards boosting the exploitation of solar energy. 'We believe that the nano flakes have the potential to convert up to 30 per cent of the solar energy into electricity, roughly twice the amount that we convert today,' he said. 'I discovered a perfect crystalline structure. That is a very rare sight. While being a perfect crystalline structure we could see that it also absorbed all light. It could become the perfect solar cell.' Aagesen explained that the material has the potential to reduce solar cell production costs because less semiconducting silicium will be required in the process."
Boffins warm to super-efficient solar cells, 20 December 2007
"Nanosolar, a privately held solar energy company whose backers include Google Inc's co-founders, on Tuesday said it has started to sell what it calls 'the world's lowest cost solar panel.' 'We have begun shipping panels for freefield deployment in Eastern Germany,' said Chief Executive Martin Roscheisen in a statement on Nanosolar's Web site. 'The first megawatt of our panels will go into a power plant installation there,' The company, which got early stage financing from Google Inc co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, uses a thin-film technology that requires only a fraction of the amount of silicon needed in conventional solar cells. Nanosolar's technique allows it to make panels profitably for less than $1 per watt, it says."
Nanosolar starts sales of cheaper solar panels
Reuters, 18 December 2007
"Roscheisen said the manufacturing process the company has developed will enable it to eventually deliver solar electricity for less than a dollar per watt, which would be significantly cheaper than fossil fuel sources of power generation.....Roscheisen said the manufacturing process the company has developed will enable it to eventually deliver solar electricity for less than a dollar per watt, which would be significantly cheaper than fossil fuel sources of power generation."
Nanosolar 'prints' first flexible solar cells
CNET News, 18 December 2007
"Soaring oil prices approaching $100 a barrel are fueling a sleek new kind of solar technology that could some day set skyscrapers and high-rise apartment windows quietly buzzing with renewable energy production. The emerging technology uses thin films mounted on the glass windows of skyscrapers and other surfaces to harness the sun's power. It's more aesthetic and cheaper than the bulkier conventional solar cells made from polycrystalline silicon whose supplies have tightened and prices have risen as solar energy has taken off. Current thin-film surfaces generate less power per area than traditional polysilicon modules, but they also use less polysilicon then conventional cells making them attractive to some of the world's top solar panel makers.... Thin-film is cheaper to produce, more durable and more aesthetic than bulky solar panels, which are often accused of being eyesores. The transparent sheets can serve as facades for skyscrapers and housing roofs where they absorb the sun's rays and turn it into energy. 'One big advantage of the thin film products is that they don't have to use too many raw materials and they are much cheaper than silicon solar wafers,' said Robin Cheng, an analyst at UBS Securities. The potential has attracted major solar energy players such as German-based Q-Cells AG as well as the likes of industrial giants like Applied Materials Inc, the world's biggest maker of semiconductor manufacturing equipment, which see big growth potential in thin-film machinery....Thin film's advantage comes in its low price in terms of production costs as well as its ability to serve as attractive transparent panels on large buildings."
Thin-film solar sheets seek time in the sun
Reuters, 6 December 2007

"...more than a decade of pioneering work has resulted in an organic solar cell that doesn't use expensive silicon. Conventional photovoltaic (PV) solar cells are made from a thin slice (around 200 microns) of silicon that is doped with chemicals to form a bilayer structure called a p-n junction. When photons of light are absorbed by the silicon, electrons flow, creating a small electric current. An organic solar cell takes a similar approach but uses an ultra-thin (100 nanometre) film mixture of two semiconducting polymers instead. The prototype organic solar cell - the size of Greenham's hand - produces enough power to run an electronic calculator. The idea of a purple-coloured polymer as a conductor seems odd when plastics are normally considered excellent insulators. But mounted on glass, this solar cell uses the same class of materials as the polymer light-emitting diodes: long-chain plastics with double bonds which permit electron flow.... Greenham is now working on a £5m project funded by the Carbon Trust to deliver solar energy at radically lower cost. Led by the University of Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory with The Technology Partnership, there's a huge target: deploy more than one gigawatt of organic PV by 2017 to make carbon dioxide savings of more than 1m tonnes per year.....If all goes well, O'Brien reckons the new solar cell technology may be one hundredth of the cost of a silicon cell when in mass production - promising a solar energy revolution."
How solar power could become organic - and cheap
Guardian, 29 November 2007

"Renewable energy company Solar Systems says it has developed a way of converting solar power into electricity around the clock, even when the sun is not shining. Managing director Dave Holland told BusinessDaily that although the process, which produces hydrogen and stores it, is still years from connecting to the electricity grid, it has been demonstrated to produce baseload power. He said less than 1 per cent of the planet's arid lands could produce the entire world's energy needs using the technology, without harmful emissions, concern about finite fuel supply, or toxic waste. The company already operates four small commercial solar power stations in central Australia and is in advanced talks to export its technology through the Asia Pacific Partnership (AP6). Its innovative solar concentrating technology is much further down the cost curve than conventional photovoltaics.... It is envisaged the hydrogen technology will be added to Solar Systems' proposed $420 million solar power station near Mildura, which when it is complete in 2013 will have  the capacity to supply electricity to 45,000 homes. Solar Systems began to develop research by its technical director John Lasich 17 years ago and employs 90 people. Recently the company said it would spend $22 million to establish a manufacturing plant in Melbourne employing 150 people to make high efficiency photovoltaic components for domestic and overseas markets. The components produce up to 1500 times more electricity per square metre than traditional photovoltaic cells. The established outback generators use mirrors on giant dishes to concentrate solar energy and focus it on to photovoltaic receivers connected to the dish. The next generation technology being developed at Bridgewater takes the mirrors and lines them up in dozens of flat rows, rather than in dishes. Known as heliostats, the mirrors track the sun and focus its energy on to a receiver mounted on a tall pole. The technology that will continue to produce electricity when the sun goes down works by using the concentrated solar energy to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen through a spectrum splitter and then an electrolyser. The hydrogen is then stored in large onsite tanks, ready to be used by fuel cells for electricity generation at night."
Solar Systems making the sun work after dark
Herald Sun (Australia), 22 November 2007

"In the local airport parking lot, Steve Titus clicks shut the lightweight fiberglass door of his fireman-yellow 'Solar Bug.'....  On display at a recent alternative-car expo here, this is Titus's second and latest rendering of a solar-powered car concept. It gets up to a fourth of its 60-mile capacity from 200 watts of roof-mounted solar panels. Titus is among those entrepreneurs trying to create and market an affordable, renewable-energy vehicle – a step beyond gas-electric hybrids."
Could the Solar Bug bring the sun to the car market?
Christian Science Monitor, 15 November 2007
"Lockheed Martin Corp. and Starwood Energy Group Global LLC said Friday they are teaming up to pursue building utility-scale solar generation projects in North America. Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors, which is based in Moorestown, N.J., will handle engineering, procurement, manufacturing and systems integration. Starwood Energy Group will be in charge of arranging long-term power purchase agreements, site selection, getting permits and providing construction and permanent debt and equity financing. The companies estimate that up to 10,000 megawatts of solar power generating capacity could come on line in the next 10 years. At an expected cost of $3 per watt of generating capacity, that would put the market size at $30 billion dollars. Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) is a defense contractor based in Bethesda, Md."
Lockheed Martin and Starwood Energy in solar generation partnership
Philadelphia Business Journal, 9 November 2007
"A prototype of the 'Solar Impulse' round-the-world solar plane should make its first piloted flight in autumn 2008, the Swiss project leaders said Monday. The reduced-size model of the aircraft -- which will have a wingspan of 61 metres (201 feet), the equivalent of an Airbus A340 airliner -- is currently being built in northern Switzerland to test the cutting-edge technology involved in its construction. If successful, the dainty 1.5-tonne plane could make a pioneering 36-hour flight through the night in 2009, piloted by round-the-world ballooning pioneer Bertrand Piccard.... The project's goals include a transatlantic crossing in 2011 before what would be a historic, fuel-less circumnavigation of the globe....The completed craft is expected to have 250 square metres (2,690 square feet) of solar panels stretched across wings the width of the world's biggest airliner, a 580-tonne Airbus A380, but weigh just two tonnes."
Groundbreaking solar plane to test flight in 2008
AFP, 5 November 2007
"Berkeley is set to become the first city in the nation to help thousands of its residents generate solar power without having to put money up front - attempting to surmount one of the biggest hurdles for people who don't have enough cash to go green. The City Council will vote Nov. 6 on a plan for the city to finance the cost of solar panels for property owners who agree to pay it back with a 20-year assessment on their property. Over two decades, the taxes would be the same or less than what property owners would save on their electric bills, officials say. 'This plan could be our most important contribution to fighting global warming,' Mayor Tom Bates said Thursday. 'We've already seen interest from all over the U.S. People really think this plan can go.' The idea is sparking interest from city and state leaders who are mindful of California's goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020. Officials in San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica and several state agencies have contacted Berkeley about the details of its plan. 'If this works, we'd want to look at this for other cities statewide,' said Ken Alex, California deputy attorney general. 'We think it's a very creative way to eliminate the barriers to getting solar panels, and it's fantastic that Berkeley's going ahead with this.'"
Berkeley going solar - city pays up front, recoups over 20 years
San Francisco Chronicle, 26 October 2007
"Solar power could be the world's number one electricity source by the end of the century, but until now its role has been negligible as producers wait for price parity with fossil fuels, industry leaders say. Once the choice only of idealists who put the environment before economics, production of solar panels will double both next year and in 2009, according to U.S. investment bank Jefferies Group Inc, driven by government support especially in Germany and Japan. Similar support in Spain, Italy and Greece is now driving growth in southern Europe as governments turn to the sun as a weapon both against climate change and energy dependence.... The crux is how fast the industry cuts costs and how fast power prices rise. European power prices neared all-time highs this week, driven by record oil prices. The industry could halve costs and achieve parity in significant markets including the United States, Japan and parts of southern Europe by 2012, said Erik Thorsen, chief executive of the world's biggest solar power company Renewable Energy Corp."
Solar power edges towards boom time
Reuters, 19 October 2007
"Santa Clara, Calif.-based Innovalight says it has developed a somewhat contradictory-sounding process for creating crystalline silicon solar cells with liquid. If it works in mass production, it could slash the cost of making these solar cells by half or more, the company claims. Innovalight essentially creates silicon nanoparticles, inserts them into a solvent, and pours the solvent on a substrate. The solvent is then extracted. What is left can sort of be analogized to a snowflake or a large sugar cube: a highly organized structure made up of tiny parts. 'We use this technique to make something that isn't much different from (traditional) crystalline silicon solar panels, except we get there cheaper,' CEO Conrad Burke said. 'They (the solar cells) end up in a pretty structured form.' The key is that the resulting solar cell has efficiencies--or the amount of sunlight the solar cell can turn into electricity--that are closer to crystalline silicon solar cells than thin-film alternatives such as amorphous silicon or copper indium gallium selenide or CIGS."
Pour yourself a silicon solar panel
CNET News, 11 October 2007
"John O'Donnell started thinking about saving the world 30 years ago....The idea is to slow global warming and cure the planet's energy woes, not with plasma or windmills or clean' coal smoke, but with mirrors. Miles and miles of mirrors, to be exact, focusing the rays of the sun onto pipes to heat water to run hulking steam turbines. This so-called solar thermal approach would mean no emissions that cause global warming. No worries about radioactive waste. No need for coal power, which faces increasingly hostile scrutiny. Not even much need for oil, if plug-in hybrid cars like the Chevrolet Volt start to replace gasoline burners. 'I want people to have it in their heads that there is a solution--and it doesn't even mean raising their electric bills,' he says. A fantasy? Maybe. The big question is not whether solar thermal plants work, but how much the electricity will cost. Right now, the price for existing mirror and steam turbine systems is about half that of the more familiar photovoltaic (PV) panels, which use sheets of semiconductors to convert sunlight to electricity. But that's still nearly twice as much as a new coal plant. O'Donnell believes the technology he plucked from obscurity in Australia will be cheaper - although he has to prove it.... Basic physics shows enough sunlight falls on the deserts of the Southwest to provide all of American's electricity many times over - given enough mirrors. But O'Donnell is already thinking about the next step - going global. He figures Europe could get all of its electricity from Big Solar plants in Morocco. He even has a sneaky China plan. 'Frankly, the original goal for the company was to get an arms race started, where we move ahead in the U.S. and then China decides to get in on the act,' he says."
Solar's Day In The Sun
Businessweek, 15 October 2007
"The next solar panel could be a window. Konarka Technologies and Air Products have received a grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop a transparent, flexible solar panel that could be placed on a piece of glass or integrated into a window. Konarka specializes in organic photovoltaics. These are complex molecules that can harvest portions of the infrared and visible light spectrum and turn the energy into sunlight. Organic photovoltaic panels don't last as long as silicon panels and can't aren't as efficient as silicon or other types of panels. But they can be transparent and flexible, allowing them to be placed unobtrusively on a lot of surfaces."
Will windows work as solar panels?
CNET News, 9 October 2007

"Power electronics company Hykon India Pvt. Ltd. has introduced a window collector solar water heater, claimed to be the first in the country. Addressing a press conference here on Wednesday, the company's CMD, Christo George, said the window solar heaters were designed for installation on balconies and windows of flats, apartments and individual villas where conventional roof-top water heaters do not fit in."
Window solar water heaters now in India
Sify (India), 4 October

"More utilities are looking to build large solar power (OTCBB:SOPW) plants that can put out as much electricity as coal- or gas-fired plants, but run much cleaner. 'We're at the start of something,' said Julia Judd, executive director at the Solar Electric Power Association. Most of the buzz around solar energy has focused on smaller-scale projects, such as solar panels on rooftops. Several solar companies with highflying stocks, such as SunPower SPWR and JA Solar JASO, are in this field. But interest is building for large, utility-scale solar projects. Such plants offer utilities a way to meet regulatory demands for more renewable energy. Governments worldwide are providing financial incentives for such projects....Take Pacific Gas & Electric. Late last month it said it would double its commitments to buy solar thermal electric power. It now plans to add 1,000 megawatts of new supply during the next five years. By comparison, it has less than 200 megawatts of PV projects planned, Wachs says. In California, three of the state's largest utilities have announced a handful of solar thermal projects that combined will almost meet state requirements for 3,000 megawatts (3 gigawatts) of renewable energy by 2016, Wachs says."
Big Utilities Interested In Big Solar
Investor's Business Daily, 1 October 2007
"The latest project comes from an Israeli who wants to use Israel's 'gift of enterprising' to help humanity wean off of oil. Shai Agassi, former executive at German software enterprise company SAP AG, is leading a new team of minds into not-so-charted territory. Agassi completed military service in Israel as a programmer for the IDF, and then earned his bachelors degree in computer science from The Technion in Haifa. Venturing into the business world, he later sold the most successful of his software startups for over $400 million to SAP, where he continued working until March 2007. What he was up to next was first reported in August by Reuters - holding company Israel Corporation agreed to invest $100 million in Agassi's new electric vehicle venture, pending due diligence, with several other investors; the first round funding is $200 million, bringing the total value of the venture to $300 million. The company is stealthily named BetterPLC, a reference to an automated method of manufacturing. The electric car is a major component of the energy paradigm shift: one where the world relies mainly on renewable sources of energy, thereby reducing the human effect of global warming, shifting the currency balance away from Muslim terrorists, and declawing the menace of peak oil.  'Our goal is to get to 100,000 cars on the road in 2010,' said Agassi. He believes that since Israel has an 89% tax on vehicles, and a 100% tax on fuel, if there were zero emissions and zero fuel, there would be zero taxes on cars. 'You tell an Israeli that Israel will be the first country to eliminate the use of oil, and they sign up,' Shai said in a speech given at Stanford University. But he realizes that the electric car won't stop in Israel, 'If we can do it Israel, and it works, we can create a repeatable model that maybe then works in London... and then we can hopefully do it 50 times in China."
Riding an Israeli electric car to peace
Israel21C, 30 September 2007
"Power generation from low-carbon energy sources like wind, solar and nuclear should soon become competitive with electricity generated by coal, the cheapest of fossil fuels, the chief executive of FPL Group Inc. said Wednesday. FPL said on Wednesday it will spend US $1.5 billion aimed at building solar thermal energy in Florida, California or other states. It is part of a larger US $2.4 billion program aimed at cutting emissions of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, including a more efficient power network. The company is already the largest US wind power producer.....Hay said FPL will build at least 300 megawatts of solar thermal in Florida, which will help the state reach new goals on renewables outlined by Republican Gov. Charlie Crist. Unlike photovoltaic rooftop solar energy that converts sunlight into power, solar thermal generates electricity by converting solar energy to heat to drive a thermal power plant. The other 200 MW will be built in California or other states....FPL obtains most of its power from other nonrenewable sources including natural gas. The company has a peak power generation of about 22,000 MW and that is growing at about 500 to 600 MW a year. While the solar commitment is small compared with its overall generation portfolio, Hay said it was significant enough to make changes in the industry. 'Only through companies like ours making commitments of this size are we really going to drive the cost of the technology down.' The solar thermal project in Florida, which will start as a 10 MW pilot project at one of its power plants in the state, will eventually grow to become the largest solar plant in the state, the fourth most populous in the country. And he expects to make the company a top US solar producer."
FPL Sees Renewables Soon Competitive With Coal
Reuters, 27 September 2007
"Nanotechnology is important across a broad number of areas; in fact, ‘Nanotechnology’ is one of six Advanced Technology (AT) programs we have at GE. We’re particularly interested in how nanotechnologies can improve our energy and healthcare businesses.... At Global Research, we have a nano team that numbers more than 70 scientists, not counting the support staff. My nano PV [photo voltaic] team is roughly 5-6 people plus support staff. In solar cells, we are working across the board with a number of nanotechnology approaches to improve efficiencies and lower production costs for solar cells. There are 3 generations of solar cells.
  • Generation 1 is today, and that is bulk silicon, either single crystalline and polycrystalline silicon. That’s about 95% of the solar silicon market today.
  • Generation 2, which is where people are going, is thin-film. In recent years, it has been about 5% of the market but is attracting a lot of attention in the industry and is expected to grow in market share in the coming years. Generation 2 produces solar cells at lower cost in dollars per Watt, but to date they also have lower module efficiency, typically less than 10% with a few exceptions up to about 12%. Laboratory cells as high as approximately 19.5% have been demonstrated however. With technologies such as thin-film, there are efforts to improve those module efficiencies.
  • Then, we come to Generation 3 solar cells, where you can have both low-cost and high-efficiency – greater than 20% efficiencies with costs similar to Generation 2. These typically take advantage of new energy conversion mechanisms. The exact Generation 3 technologies to emerge are yet to be determined.

Nanotechnology is currently most relevant to Generation 3 cells, though it may also have an impact on Generation 1 and 2 devices.  In recent years the [silicon] supply was artificially constrained. In fact, silicon is the second most abundant element in the earth’s crust. So, the so-called ‘silicon shortage’ over the last few years was mostly due to the fact that [solar companies] relied on recycled silicon from electronics companies. But, now we see people adding new capacity for silicon made specifically for the solar industry, because the required purity is not as high as for the electronics industry. Nanotechnology does not seem to offer an immediate answer to the shortage since conventional approaches are being used. There are 4 different classes of nano-structures the community is applying to photovoltaics.... First you need to capture the light, and that’s critical to transfer the light into the structure. And, then you have to convert that into electron-hole pairs to create the electricity. That conversion is where nanotechnologies offer various improvements. And, as I mentioned, we are also looking at optical properties of nanowires, and how to apply what we learned there.... Overall, the field of improving solar technologies is still in the research phase in nano-related areas, and so we are still developing technologies and designs, but moving forward with nano-manufacturing will be a key aspect to making solar at much lower cost.... GE is involved with the Department of Energy’s Solar America Initiative, which is looking at 3 different solar cell approaches – high-efficiency silicon-based solar cells, molded silicon wafer cells, and flexible thin-film cells. These are all geared toward lowering the cost and improving efficiencies of solar cells. We are collaborating with several universities and small companies in this program. The research under [SAI] is not directly nano-focused, but we’re certainly using what we learn under SAI for our nano research programs. SAI is about applying innovative concepts for mass production of Generation 1 and 2 technologies.... There is a lot of promise. A lot of interesting work is going on out there, and it’s getting more interesting all the time."
GE’s Loucas Tsakalakos, a project leader in GE’s Nanotechnology Program
GE Looks at Nano to Power Next-Gen Solar In Historic R&D Labs of Thomas Edison
Nano World News, 24 September 2007

"Solar-powered lights have improved as the technology they use has advanced -- today's models give off more light than their ancestors did. Plus, they don't go dark when the electrical lines go down. Solar-powered lights have improved as the technology they use has advanced -- today's models give off more light than their ancestors did. Plus, they don't go dark when the electrical lines go down....The cheapest solar yard lights are $10 to $20 per lamp, and the better models run higher. That's because solar cells are still expensive to produce -- they're manufactured from silicon crystals in clean-room conditions -- and NiCd and NiMH batteries also are expensive. If you have a long driveway or garden path that will need a couple of dozen lamps, going solar will be pricey upfront. But once the lights are installed, they'll cost nothing to operate."
Solar-Powered Lights Keep Getting Better
Philadelphia Inquirer, 8 September 2007
"Solar energy specialists are forecasting a bright future by focusing on technology that uses less silicon as they move toward cost-per-kilowatt hour parity with traditional power generating firms.... Two types of cutting-edge solar technology are taking center stage as the industry moves beyond the traditional crystalline silicon solar cells popularized in the 1960s and 70s: thin film solar, which contains lower amounts of expensive silicon, as well as solar concentrators, which use an array of lenses or mirrors to magnify the sun's power to boost electrical output and efficiency."
Solar energy hopes to shine with less silicon
MarketWatch, 6 September 2007
"Millions of inventions pass quietly through the U.S. patent office each year. Patent No. 7,033,406 did, too, until energy insiders spotted six words in the filing that sounded like a death knell for the internal combustion engine. An Austin-based startup called EEStor promised 'technologies for replacement of electrochemical batteries,' meaning a motorist could plug in a car for five minutes and drive 500 miles roundtrip between Dallas and Houston without gasoline....Clifford's company bought rights to EEStor's technology in August 2005 and expects EEStor to start shipping the battery replacement later this year for use in ZENN Motor's short-range, low-speed vehicles. The technology also could help invigorate the renewable-energy sector by providing efficient, lightning-fast storage for solar power, or, on a small scale, a flash-charge for cell phones and laptops.... EEStor's secret ingredient is a material sandwiched between thousands of wafer-thin metal sheets, like a series of foil-and-paper gum wrappers stacked on top of each other. Charged particles stick to the metal sheets and move quickly across EEStor's proprietary material. The result is an ultracapacitor, a battery-like device that stores and releases energy quickly. Batteries rely on chemical reactions to store energy but can take hours to charge and release energy. The simplest capacitors found in computers and radios hold less energy but can charge or discharge instantly. Ultracapacitors take the best of both, stacking capacitors to increase capacity while maintaining the speed of simple capacitors."
Texas Startup Says It Has Batteries Beat
Associated Press, 4 September 2007
"Solar energy in Korea is mostly used to heat single homes, but now the nation has its first regional solar heating system. On Friday, the Korea Institute of Energy Research and the Korea District Heating Corp. will hold an opening ceremony for a homemade regional solar heating system at the corporation's office in Bundang, Seongnam city in Gyeonggi Province. The system includes the largest solar panel in the country, measuring 1,069 sq. m. The panel will reheat water from an existing regional heating system to 90 degrees Celcius and reintroduce it to the system. According to the results of a test run, the solar system will be able to provide heat for 40 to 50 households. It is expected to save W30 million (US$1=W940) and 82 tons of oil per year while reducing annual carbon dioxide emissions by 138 tons."
Korea Builds Regional Solar Heating System
Chosun Ilbo (South Korea), 31 August 2007
"With an aim to supply power to every nook and corner of the country, the government is contemplating to provide solar energy to 25,000 unelectrified villages by 2012. 'There are 25,000 villages in the country where due to technical reasons regular electricity could not be provided. So, we are planning to connect them with solar and bio-energy,' Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy Vilas Muttemwar said addressing a function here.  Acknowledging that 56 per cent villages have no power connection, he said though the country needed 3 lakh MW power, the present production is just 1.35 lakh MW.  Muttemwar said renewable energy was the only solution in the future to overcome the energy crisis in the country as excessive use of fossil fuels were creating environmental problem in the form of global warming and climate change. 'India is blessed with plenty of renewable energy sources such as solar, bio-energy, wind and hydel energy. With such a vast pool of renewable resources available, the Ministry is striving to provide energy in every village and lighting in every house,' he said.  In her speech, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit highlighted the steps taken by her government to promote solar energy in the capital city."
Solar energy to 25,000 villages by 2012: Muttemwar
Economic Times (India), 22 August 2007

"Placing a film of silicon nanoparticles onto a silicon solar cell can boost power, reduce heat and prolong the cell's life, researchers now report. 'Integrating a high-quality film of silicon nanoparticles 1 nanometer in size directly onto silicon solar cells improves power performance by 60 percent in the ultraviolet range of the spectrum,' said Munir Nayfeh, a physicist at the University of Illinois and corresponding author of a paper accepted for publication in Applied Physics Letters. The process of coating solar cells with silicon nanoparticles could be easily incorporated into the manufacturing process with little additional cost, Nayfeh said."
Silicon Nanoparticles Enhance Performance Of Solar Cells
Science Daily, 20 August 2007

"Pacific Gas & Electric has inked deals with OptiSolar and SunPower to establish 800 megawatts of solar farms in California, which could become the world’s largest set of grid-tied photovoltaic installations. The new plants would provide 1.65 billion kilowatt hours each year, enough to serve nearly 250,000 homes, according to Fong Wan, vice president for energy procurement of PG&E."
San Francisco Sentinel, 15 August 2008
"Amid a journey around the world with a solar energy vehicle, Switzerland's Louis Palmer arrived in Beirut to promote clean sources of energy. 'For the first time in history, we are driving a car, powered by solar energy, around the whole world, Palmer told The Daily Star, near his car parked on Fouad Chehab street.... So far, Parmer has crossed the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Turkey, Syria, before coming to Lebanon. He will later continue on to Jordan. 'The journey will last around 15 months with a goal to cover at least 50,000 kilometers. I will visit 50 countries and five continents,' Palmer said. Bertrand Picard, who intends to fly around the world in his solar plane 'Solar Impulse' in 2011, was the first passenger on board, accompanying Palmer on the first stage of his journey. The "solar taxi" consists of a solar vehicle and a trailer with solar cells. The car was dubbed 'Solar' because it is powered 100 percent from solar energy in its journey around the world. The 'solar taxi' consists of a solar vehicle and a trailer with solar cells. The car was dubbed 'Solar' because it is powered 100 percent from solar energy in its journey around the world."
Solar car makes stop in Beirut on world tour
Daily Star (Lebanon), 14 August 2007
"It's a vision that has long enticed energy planners: solar panels stretching out over vast swaths of the Sahara desert, soaking up sun to generate clean, green power. Now Algeria, aware that its oil and gas riches will one day run dry, is gearing up to tap its sunshine on an industrial scale for itself and even Europe.... 'Our potential in thermal solar power is four times the world's energy consumption so you can have all the ambitions you want with that,' said Tewfik Hasni, managing director of New Energy Algeria, or NEAL, a company created by the Algerian government in 2002 to develop renewable energy.... while undersea cables to Sicily and Spain are planned for construction in 2010-2012, it isn't known who will finance them. But as the world grows increasingly anxious about climate change and dwindling fossil fuels, ideas that once sounded like science fiction are becoming ever more plausible.... The Algerian program is part of a broader reassessment of green technologies by countries that owe their wealth to oil and gas. Algeria, population 33 million, remains heavily dependent on oil and gas exports, which earned it about $54 billion last year. 'Until now, all the oil-producing countries under the lead of Saudi Arabia did everything to torpedo renewable energies,' said Wolfgang Palz, chairman of the independent World Council for Renewable Energy, speaking on the sidelines of an international conference on renewable energy in Algiers in June. 'This is really a big change now because with all this talking about the limitations of conventional resources,' oil-producing countries 'feel obliged to do something,' he said. Africa's second largest country is more than four-fifths desert, with enough sunshine to meet Western Europe's needs 60 times over, according to estimates cited by Algeria's energy ministry. 'The solar potential of Algeria is huge, enormous, because solar radiation is high and there is plenty of land for solar plants,' said Eduardo Zarza Moya, who works on solar power for Spain's public energy research center, CIEMAT. 'The price of the land is low, it's cheap, and there is also manpower.'.... Franz Trieb, an analyst at the German Space Agency in Stuttgart who helped produce a recent study on CSP in Mediterranean and Middle East countries, said that by 2020 the cost of collecting solar power would be equivalent to paying $15 for a barrel of oil."
After Oil and Gas, Sahara Sunshine?
Associated Press, 11 August 2007
"A vast Soviet military training base located under the often sullen grey skies of former communist East Germany is an unlikely new hub for the world's burgeoning solar energy industry. Part of the 28,000-hectare Lieberose training ground is to be transformed into what will be the world's biggest solar plant. Once open in 2009, it will help propel the country to the forefront of the international sun-power revolution. Germany was now home to the largest concentration of solar manufacturing plants anywhere in the world, said the chief of the German Solar Industry Association, Carsten Kornig, this week. In the long-term a third of the country's energy for heating and a quarter of the generation of electricity would be produced from solar plants sited near consumers, he said..... Despite heavy cloud cover during about two-thirds of Germany's daylight hours, the rapid development of the sun-power sector means the country has become the world's leader in generating solar energy. It produces 55 per cent of the world's photovoltaic energy from solar panels. Indeed, the small Black Forest town of Freiburg alone generates almost as much solar photovoltaic power as the whole of Britain."
Germany thinks big as it taps into the sun
Sydney Morning Herald, 11 August 2007
"Most of us would love to run our homes on solar power - if only it wasn't so unreliable, cumbersome and expensive. But thanks to a pioneering factory in Wales, those objections may not apply for much longer.....If you were hunting for the future of solar power, Wales might not seem the most obvious place to look. Yet in a factory in Cardiff, technology that could finally harness the energy of the sun in an affordable way is quietly rolling off the production line. Such claims may sound familiar. Advocates have talked of the potential of solar power to offer clean and green energy for years, yet the technology has remained stubbornly on the fringes. One reason is the cost. Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels to provide an average home with electricity will set you back about £10,000 to £18,000.... Now those behind the Welsh operation think they may have made a crucial breakthrough. Their solar cell works in a different way from most, and is not based on silicon - the expensive raw material for conventional solar cells. G24 Innovations (G24i), the company making the new cells, says it can produce and sell them for about a fifth of the price of silicon-based versions. At present, it makes only small-scale chargers for equipment such as mobile phones and MP3 players. But it says larger panels could follow - large enough to replace polluting fossil fuels by generating electricity for large buildings. 'This has been at the laboratory stage for 18 years and now we are ready to take it into a huge amount of applications,' says Clemens Betzel, president of G24i. G24i's technology is based on a coloured dye and tiny crystals of titanium oxide - a common pigment in white paint.... The new so-called Graetzel cells offered a simpler and potentially cheaper way to generate solar power. (Traditional silicon cells are more complicated because they require the generation of an electric field within the silicon to carry away the liberated electrons.) And because they work in a different way, Betzel says the new cells offer other advantages too. They work better in low light levels, including indoors, he says, and they are lighter and less fragile than silicon cells, which are usually mounted on glass or rigid plastic.....Betzel envisages large buildings hanging coloured flexible ribbons of the company's solar cells down the centre of large atria in future. He says there is no reason why the technology couldn't replace PV solar panels on the roofs of homes and other buildings, though the company has not yet proven the longevity of such large versions. It also claims its technology will 'put an end to dead batteries'."
Solar power - in the rain
Guardian, 9 August 2007
"The afternoon Negev sun shone brightly on the solar panels at the National Center for Solar Energy near Sde Boker. The center's director, physicist Prof. David Feiman, squinted into the light. 'After 30 years of research on solar energy, my life's work of experiments in how to produce electricity from the sun, I can say this year that I know how to manufacture solar energy that will compete with conventional energy,' he says.  A few months ago, the center's scientists managed to develop a new technology of solar, or photovoltaic cells, that Feiman says will make the production of solar energy so efficient that the cost of the photovoltaic cells that convert solar energy into electricity will be negligible....According to Feiman, 'an ordinary photovoltaic cell, which is 10 by 10 centimeters, normally produces one watt of electricity. We managed to extract more than a thousand times more - 1,500 watts. In this way, the cost of a cell is 1,500 less, becoming almost nothing.' 'No one has ever produced so much electricity from a solar cell at this strength,' he says."
Sde Boker makes solar energy viable
Haaretz, 8 August 2007
"Researchers at the University of Delaware (UD) have developed a solar cell that can convert sunlight to power with 42.8 per cent efficiency – a new record. Following the team's success the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency ( DARPA) has authorised an extension to funding so that the team can built the machinery to manufacture the panels on a large scale. 'The achievement of this benchmark is a major step forward in the ongoing development of low-cost solar photovoltaic technology,' Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said.... The panel uses a grooved surface that splits light into three bands, depending on how strong it is. The light is then directed to the appropriate sensors on the panel to be converted into electricity. The team plans to hit 50 per cent efficiency soon and by 2010 have a manufacturing facility ready."
Solar cells break efficiency record
Vnunet, 1 August 2007

"It rains year round in Germany and clouds cover the skies for about two-thirds of each day, yet the country has managed to become the world's leading solar power generator.Millions of Germans may flee their damp, dark homeland for holidays in the Mediterranean sun but 55 per cent of the world's photovoltaic (PV) power is generated on solar panels set up between the Baltic Sea and the Black Forest. That makes up just 3 per cent of Germany's electricity but the Government wants to raise the share of renewables to 27 per cent of all energy by 2020 from 13 per cent."
Germany an unlikely hot spot for solar power
Reuters, 1 August 2007

"Scientists here have developed new dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) that get their pink color from a mixture of red dye and white metal oxide powder in materials that capture light. Currently, the best of these new pink materials convert light to electricity with only half the efficiency of commercially-available silicon-based solar cells -- but they do so at only one quarter of the cost, said Yiying Wu, assistant professor of chemistry at Ohio State. And Wu is hoping for even better. 'We believe that one day, DSSC efficiency can reach levels comparable to any solar cell,' he said. 'The major advantage of DSSCs is that the cost is low. That is why DSSCs are so interesting to us, and so important.'"
Researchers Think Pink To Produce 'Green' Solar Energy
Science Daily, 30 July 2007
"Sydney Ferries is looking at solar-powered vessels in the upgrade of its ageing fleet. Dr Robert Dane, chief executive of Chatswood-based Solar Sailor, said he had met with Sydney Ferries CEO Geoff Smith and successfully trialled a vessel on the Parramatta River route. Solar Sailor, which is chaired by former prime minister Bob Hawke, said its hybrid powered vessels can almost halve the environmental impact of noise, vibrations and fumes.... One of the vessels, the Solar Coast Cat, was long, sleek, had a 200-250 capacity and was capable of servicing the inner harbour routes. The Double Ender, a 1000-capacity hybrid electric vessel, would be ideal for the Manly-Circular Quay run, he said."
Ferries seek solar salvation
Syndney Morning Herald, 29 July 2007
"Israeli company Solel, which develops and implements solar thermal technology, has signed a contract with Pacific Gas and Electric Company to build the world's largest solar plant in California's Mojave Desert. The project will deliver 553 megawatts of solar power, the equivalent of powering 400,000 homes, to PG&E’s customers in northern and central California. When fully operational in 2011, the Mojave Solar Park plant will cover up to 6,000 acres in the Mojave Desert. Solel is working closely with URS Corporation in the development of the Mojave Solar Park, which when commercial will rely on 1.2 million mirrors and 317 miles of vacuum tubing to capture the desert sun’s heat."
Israeli company to build largest solar park in world in US
Ynet News, 26 July 2008
"Someday, homeowners might need only inkjet printers to harvest solar energy. Scientists at the New Jersey Institute of Technology have developed a quick and simple method for do-it-yourselfers to power their homes with inexpensive solar cells that can be printed on some computer printers or painted on plastic sheets. Consumers can then stick the instant solar panel on a wall, roof or billboard in order to soak up the energy supplied by the sun's rays. The new polymer-based technology is detailed in the June 21 issue of the Journal of Materials Chemistry. Finding affordable ways to take advantage of renewable energy has been a challenge. Windmills or dams that generate hydroelectric power are elaborate projects. Purified silicon, a core material for making conventional solar cells, is too expensive to produce on a consumer level. 'Developing organic solar cells from polymers, however, is a cheap and potentially simpler alternative,' said lead researcher Somenath Mitra. 'Imagine some day driving in your hybrid car with a solar panel painted on the roof, which is producing electricity to drive the engine. The opportunities are endless.' The 'paintable' solar-cell coating developed at NJIT is made of carbon nanotubes that function like electric wires but are about 50,000 times smaller than a strand of hair. Yet, just one nanotube can conduct current better than typical electrical wiring. 'Actually, nanotubes are significantly better conductors than copper,' Mitra added. Mitra and his research partner, Cheng Li, also at NJIT, encased the carbon nanotubes in 'fullerenes,' protective compounds that can trap electricity and keep it from escaping. Then, sunlight can activate a process in which the nanotubes, behaving like copper wires, will run collected solar energy converted to electrical current to power household appliances like your microwave. 'Using this unique combination in an organic solar-cell recipe can enhance the efficiency of future painted-on solar cells,' said Mitra. 'Someday, I hope to see this process become an inexpensive energy alternative for households around the world.'"
Solar panels too pricey? Try printing them out
MSNBC, 23 July 2007
"U.S. scientists have developed a technology to produce inexpensive solar cells that can be painted or printed on flexible plastic sheets. New Jersey Institute of Technology Professor Somenath Mitra said the process is so simple, even homeowners will someday be able to print sheets of the solar cells with inexpensive home-based inkjet printers and then attach the product to a wall or roof to create their own power stations. Purified silicon, also used for making computer chips, is a core material for fabricating conventional solar cells, Mitra said. However, the processing of a material such as purified silicon is beyond the reach of most consumers. 'Developing organic solar cells from polymers, however, is a cheap and potentially simpler alternative,' he said. 'We foresee a great deal of interest in our work because solar cells can be inexpensively printed or simply painted on exterior building walls and-or roof tops. Imagine some day driving in your hybrid car with a solar panel painted on the roof, which is producing electricity to drive the engine. The opportunities are endless.' Mitra and his team reported the research in the June 21 issue of the Journal of Materials Chemistry."
Inexpensive solar cell technology created
United Press International, 19 July 2007
"Namaste Solar Electric and SunPower Corporation , a Silicon Valley-based manufacturer of high-efficiency solar cells, solar panels and solar systems, today announced the completed installation of a 7.4-kilowatt solar power system at the Colorado Governor's Residence in Denver using SunPower's high-efficiency solar electric panels. The system, which is installed at the Carriage House at the historic Boettcher Mansion, will generate 8,441 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. In combination with a smaller 2.4-kilowatt system installed on the Pump House on the property, the Governor's Residence will generate 11,200 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year, offsetting approximately 10.5 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually."
Namaste Solar Installs SunPower Solar Power System on Colorado Governor's Residence
CNN Money, 29 June 2007

"Wales first solar-panelled church is to be blessed by the Archbishop of Wales next week. St Joseph’s Church in Cwmaman, Aberdare, was fitted with 30 solar panels as part of a £750,000 grant-funded refurbishment programme. The solar panels, combined with low-energy light bulbs, mean the church doesn’t have to pay for any electricity and is so successful in generating power, it is planning to sell its excess electricity to the National Grid.It will be officially opened by Dr Barry Morgan on Monday at 7.30pm."
Bishop to bless first solar-panelled church
South Wales Echo, 29 June 2007

"The Moto Solar Urbana project from Spanish company SunRed is designed as the first motorcycle that will operate strictly on solar power and it’s that feature that gives it a unique snail-like appearance.... The idea was impressive enough to garner the prize for Best Innovative Technology at the Barcelona International Auto Show earlier this month.... the company expects that the data garnered from the design exercise will prove useful in the design of future solar powered vehicles."
Solar Motorcycle
Plenty, 28 June 2007

"Last week Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty unveiled an alternative-energy initiative that includes a target of 100,000 installed solar systems across the province and setting up a task force of industry experts and market specialists on how to achieve the target..... Though Canada will never top a list of sunny vacation destinations, the land of ice hockey still has enough solar resources -- sunshine, to those outside the solar industry -- to make solar energy worthwhile. Germany, the world's leader in solar energy production, is at about the same latitude as Canada's northern regions."
Solar World: Canada looks to solar thermal
United Press International, 28 June 2007
"Vancouver-based Xantrex Technology Inc. announced the launch of the Xantrex XW System of solar batteries. Company officials said the new system suits almost any solar or backup power application. The Xantrex XW System is the first fully integrated, battery-based system, designed for residential and commercial solar and backup power applications. Targeting 4 kilowatt to 18 kilowatt indoor installations, the XW System can be customized to suit solar or backup power situations for most grid-tie, off-grid, remote or village power systems.... The XW System features the Maximum Power Point Tracking technology. Xantrex MPPT technology allows maximum energy harvest from the solar array and optimally charges the batteries. The XW Solar Charge Controller continuously sweeps the solar array to fine-tune energy generation, which is particularly critical during periods of fast-moving cloud cover."
Canadian company offers solar batteries
United Press International, 27 June 2007
"When former [India's]  IT and communications minister Dayanidhi Maran announced the much-awaited semiconductor policy in February, the idea was to give a fillip to chip making in India by wooing global giants to set up chip fab units in India. However, it’s not chip makers like Intel and AMD that are betting big on India as a manufacturing hub, it’s the solar photovoltaic (SPV) players. No wonder, SPV fabs will be far bigger in India over the next few years. Consider this: On Thursday, US-based Signet Solar will announce an SPV facility at Greater Noida. This comes close on the heels of Moser Baer’s SPV plans announced recently. Another US-based company, Solar Semiconductor is setting up an SPV unit in Hyderabad. Besides these, about 7-8 more SPV units will come up in the next couple of years with an investment of approximately $5-$6 billion, compared to about $2-billion investment in semiconductor manufacturing."
Sun is shining on photovoltaic biz
The Economic Times, 7 June 2007
"The solar industry is poised for a rapid decline in costs that will make it a mainstream power option in the next few years, according to a new assessment by the Worldwatch Institute in Washington, D.C., and the Prometheus Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts.....growth, while dramatic, has been constrained by a shortage of manufacturing capacity for purified polysilicon, the same material that goes into semiconductor chips. But the situation will be reversed in the next two years as more than a dozen companies in Europe, China, Japan, and the United States bring on unprecedented levels of production capacity, stated the assessment. In 2006, for the first time, more than half the world’s polysilicon was used to produce solar PV cells. Combined with technology advances, the increase in polysilicon supply will bring costs down rapidly -- by more than 40 percent in the next three years, according to Prometheus estimates."
PV Costs to Decrease 40% by 2010
Renewable Energy Access, 23 May 2007
"A solar-powered aircraft is to retrace some of aviation’s greatest exploits, including a transatlantic crossing, before attempting a circumnavigation of the world. The Solar Impulse – which will be piloted by the round-the-world balloon pioneer Bertrand Piccard when it takes to the air next year – is to be tested this week with an attempt at circumnavigating virtual skies.... The two-tonne Solar Impulse will have a wingspan of 80m (262ft) but there is room only for one pilot."
Solar-powered aircraft will try to circumnavigate the globe
London Times, 23 May 2007
"Rice University scientists today revealed a breakthrough method for producing molecular specks of semiconductors called quantum dots, a discovery that could clear the way for better, cheaper solar energy panels. The research, by scientists at Rice's Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology (CBEN), appears this week in the journal Small. It describes a new chemical method for making four-legged cadmium selenide quantum dots, which previous research has shown to be particularly effective at converting sunlight into electrical energy. 'Our work knocks down a big barrier in developing quantum-dot-based photovoltaics as an alternative to the conventional, more expensive silicon-based solar cells,' said paper co-author and principal investigator Michael Wong, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering.... Prior research by others has shown that four-legged quantum dots, which are called tetrapods, are many times more efficient at converting sunlight into electricity than regular quantum dots. But, Wong said the problem is that there is still no good way of producing tetrapods. Current methods lead to a lot of particles with uneven-length arms, crooked arms, and even missing arms. Even in the best recipe, 30 percent of the prepared particles are not tetrapods, he said. CBEN's formula, which was developed by Wong and his graduate student Subashini Asokan with CBEN Director Vicki Colvin and graduate student Karl Krueger, produces same-sized particles, in which more than 90 percent are tetrapods."
Quantum Dot Recipe May Lead To Cheaper Solar Panels
ScienceDaily, 4 May 2007
"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
"Within five years, solar power will be cheap enough to compete with carbon-generated electricity, even in Britain, Scandinavia or upper Siberia. In a decade, the cost may have fallen so dramatically that solar cells could undercut oil, gas, coal and nuclear power by up to half. Technology is leaping ahead of a stale political debate about fossil fuels. Anil Sethi, the chief executive of the Swiss start-up company Flisom, says he looks forward to the day - not so far off - when entire cities in America and Europe generate their heating, lighting and air-conditioning needs from solar films on buildings with enough left over to feed a surplus back into the grid. The secret? Mr Sethi lovingly cradles a piece of dark polymer foil, as thin a sheet of paper. It is 200 times lighter than the normal glass-based solar materials, which require expensive substrates and roof support. Indeed, it is so light it can be stuck to the sides of buildings. Rather than being manufactured laboriously piece by piece, it can be mass-produced in cheap rolls like packaging - in any colour. Rather than being manufactured laboriously piece by piece, it can be mass-produced in cheap rolls like packaging - in any colour. The 'tipping point' will arrive when the capital cost of solar power falls below $1 (51p) per watt, roughly the cost of carbon power. We are not there yet. The best options today vary from $3 to $4 per watt - down from $100 in the late 1970s. Mr Sethi believes his product will cut the cost to 80 cents per watt within five years, and 50 cents in a decade. It is based on a CIGS (CuInGaSe2) semiconductor compound that absorbs light by freeing electrons. This is then embedded on the polymer base. It will be ready commercially in late 2009. 'It'll even work on a cold, grey, cloudy day in England, which still produces 25pc to 30pc of the optimal light level. That is enough, if you cover half the roof,' he said. 'We don't need subsidies, we just need governments to get out of the way and do no harm. They've spent $170bn subsidising nuclear power over the last thirty years,' he said. His ultra-light technology, based on a copper indium compound, can power mobile phones and laptop computers with a sliver of foil.... The sector is poised to outstrip wind power. It is a remarkable boom for a technology long dismissed by experts as hopelessly unviable.... Mike Splinter, chief executive of the US semiconductor group Applied Materials, told me his company is two years away from a solar product that reaches the magic level of $1 a watt. Cell conversion efficiency and economies of scale are galloping ahead so fast that the cost will be down to 70 US cents by 2010, with a target of 30 or 40 cents in a decade.... 'The beauty of this is that you can use it in rural areas of India without having to lay down power lines or truck in fuel.' Villages across Asia and Africa that have never seen electricity may soon leapfrog directly into the solar age, replicating the jump to mobile phones seen in countries that never had a network of fixed lines. As a by-product, India's rural poor will stop blanketing the subcontinent with soot from tens of millions of open stoves."
Monday view: Cheap solar power poised to undercut oil and gas by half
Daily Telegraph, 18 February 2007
2006 & Earlier
"Solar Development has completed the installation of one of the largest photovoltaic solar system on a commercial business in California. The system, a one Megawatt AC solar array, covers an area the size of three football fields on the roof and grounds of Tony's Fine Foods in West Sacramento. The solar system generates electricity to power Tony's extensive frozen and refrigerated food storage warehouse. When the solar array generates more electricity than Tony's needs it exports the electricity back to the electrical grid."
Solar Development introduces new solar energy project
Construction and Maintenance, 30 June 2006

"Solar electric panels will be installed on 20 municipal buildings across the oil-producing province of Alberta, city and federal government officials announced on Thursday.... In the past, renewable energy has not been needed or wanted in oil-rich Alberta, where the conventional oil sector has been a driver of the provincial economy for more than 50 years. In addition to conventional oil production, Alberta has vast oil sands, or tar sands...."
Oil-Rich Alberta Embraces Solar Power
Environment News Service, 30 June 2006

"Peter Hain has broken rank with the Cabinet to express doubts about building new nuclear power stations. Tony Blair is thought to favour nuclear after he said the issue was 'back on the agenda with a vengeance'. Mr Blair was accused of pre-empting the government's own energy review - a charge he denied. Mr Hain said if there had to be nuclear power it must work without huge public subsidy, which should be spent on renewable energy instead."
Hain sceptical on nuclear power
BBC Online, 30 June 2006
"... in large parts of emerging markets, solar power does not compete with mains electricity, because there is no grid. In Bangladesh, where more than two out of three households cannot get electricity out of a socket, some 80,000 homes now own a basic solar panel that generates about 50 watts of power. The energy is stored in a small battery and can light up three bright, energy-saving lamps for four hours, Sazzad Hossain, manager of Rahimafrooz told a solar industry conference in this southern German town at the end of last week.... 'The majority of rural households can afford solar lighting. They have no idea how much they spend on candles and kerosene,' said Andy Schroeter, managing director of Sunlabob. Researchers from the German Fraunhofer's Institute for Solar Energy's (ISE) rural electrification South East Asia programme agree that even in the world's poorest regions citizens can afford to pay for basic energy needs."
Asia Shows Solar Power Is Not Just for the Rich
Reuters, 27 June 2006
"For the past half century, the limit of one electron per solar photon seemed a regrettable fact of semiconductor physics. However, in recent tests of semiconductor bits only a few nanometers in diameter—entities known as nanocrystals or quantum dots—researchers have been surprised to find that photons at solar energies commonly unleash multiple electrons. The number set loose depends on the dot's composition and—as a quirk of quantum mechanics—its size. Recent experiments on 8-nanometer-diameter lead selenide quantum dots have given the best results so far: Ultraviolet-light photons—albeit at a wavelength found sparingly in sunlight—released seven electrons apiece. That leap in producing electrons could lead to major improvements in solar cell efficiencies.... Efficiency could become a hallmark of many quantum-dot technologies. As oil prices soar to record levels, thrifty quantum dots promise to give solar energy in particular an even more powerful appeal."
Quantum-Dot Leap - Tapping tiny crystals' inexplicable light-harvesting talent

Science News, 3 June 2006
"Lennar announced a partnership with PowerLight Corporation and Roseville Electric to build the nation's largest solar community. The Sacramento division of Lennar will integrate photovoltaic systems and upgraded energy efficiency measures into 450 new homes slated to be built in Roseville over the next two years. The PowerLight SunTile solar electric system will be installed as a standard feature on each home. PowerLight's SunTile is a roof-integrated technology, blending beautifully and seamlessly into the homes' design. The benefits of this solar community include significant utility bill reductions for Lennar customers, and the generation of completely emissions-free electricity. By producing clean, renewable electricity, the solar community will reduce CO2 emissions and reduce dependence on fossil fuels – in quantities equivalent to planting more than 65 acres of trees, and not burning 57,000 barrels of oil."
Lennar to build nation's largest solar community
Construction and Maintenance News, 4 May 2006
"Peak oil is an emerging reality. With production already declining in all but a few major oil regions, an energy shortfall is inevitable. As demand for oil continues to grow, this shortfall can only mean disappointment for those around the world who aspire to live more like Americans, consuming their body weight in oil every week (150 pounds on average). Never mind price. Even if price is no object, production will begin to drop and shortages will become increasingly acute. There will be great temptation to exploit high-carbon, non-conventional fossil fuels that could accelerate global warming. To avoid disaster, solar energy must rise, and rapidly, to meet the challenge of oil depletion... Developed and developing countries alike are addicted to cheap oil. For the United States, depletion is going to be especially difficult. Americans use oil as if it will never run out.... Meanwhile, renewable energy technologies are being brushed aside by some peak oil 'experts' as too intermittent or diffuse to merit serious attention. Let’s examine a few of these objections to a full-scale transformation to renewables....sunlight is far more evenly distributed around the globe than is oil.... A hundred years ago, oil gushers yielded high net-energy recovery rates, but today solar, hydroelectric and wind power have net energy yields higher than conventional fuels such as oil, gas and coal, and an order of magnitude better than non-conventional fossil fuels. With their inherently high net-energy yields, renewables can be ramped up rapidly. (See table, 'Estimated Net Energy Yield of Conventional and Renewable Sources in the U.S.,' page 16.).... Transportation in a post-cheap-oil world poses special challenges. If non-conventional fossil fuels are untenable and transportation is powered almost exclusively by liquid fuels, it is tempting to propose biomass as a substitute for oil. In the United States, 1 billion tons of biomass are managed each year. To meet all our energy needs, 7 billion tons more would be required. Obviously, electric airplanes or cargo ships are impractical, so biomass will play an important role in our energy future. But liquid fuels exclusively from plant material will be possible for transport at only about one-tenth the present level worldwide. Something has to give....   Developing similar growth rates for all renewables, it will be possible for sustainable solutions to realize their potential for oil, gas and coal substitution. The sidebar, 'Making the Transition,' (page 29), samples some industry proposals.... Renewable energy technologies have higher net-energy yield than nuclear by far and are faster to install, so it will be possible to ramp up in even less time. If others continue to insist that nuclear power, tar sands or coal-toliquids are options, the move to renewables will be even more critical as the only pathway that avoids potential nuclear terrorism and curbs global warming.... For the first time in history, all of humanity will share the same problem. This common challenge can help unify us, to recognize the futility of war and to make governments more responsive to our needs. We will need large national and international programs, similar in ambition and spirit to the Apollo 'Man on the Moon' program, to reduce our oil consumption and to create alternative energy sources. This transition will provide many good local jobs that cannot possibly be outsourced, and we will need a significant grassroots effort. If we get it right, we will be able to share a future of clean air and fresh water, viable oceans, thriving forests and peaceful coexistence. We must get it right, and be proud that we are members of the generation entrusted with the task."
Dawn of the Solar Era
Solar Today, March/April 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
"The sun is the only energy source that can meet the oil depletion challenge. But solar energy ramp-up must be large-scale and immediate.... Peak oil is an emerging reality. With production already declining in all but a few major oil regions, an energy shortfall is inevitable. ... One place where the peak oil message is being heard is at the margins of the oil, gas and coal industries. As energy prices rise exponentially, researchers are attempting to exploit carbon-intensive, non-conventional fossil fuels to replace transportation fuels. Massive investments have been made to extract tar sands in Alberta; research is ramping up to find a way to convert oil shale in Wyoming and Colorado; and improved technologies are being developed to convert coal to liquids, using the same process that fueled Hitler’s desperate army. But such attempts have produced inadequate amounts of net energy. For heat to extract oil from tar sands, natural gas equivalent to one-third of a barrel is used per barrel. This natural gas is in addition to the liquid fuels and electricity needed for mining, refining and environmental remediation. Recognizing rising natural gas prices, advocates are even suggesting nuclear power to replace natural gas for heat in the extraction process. Nuclear power is also being examined for the extraction of oil shale. This misnamed substance (neither shale nor oil but marlstone and kerogen, an immature hydrocarbon) must be heated under pressure to convert it to oil. One proponent in Colorado envisions a nuclear facility generating more power to heat oil shale in situ than all electricity now consumed statewide. Water requirements and environmental impacts could be huge. As the informed public becomes aware of the impact of greenhouse gases, nuclear power is being promoted again, this time as a carbon-free energy source. But the popular notion that nuclear is carbon-neutral is faulty. High-grade uranium ores have already been exploited, and the mining and refining of lower-grade uranium ores are increasingly fossil-fuel intensive. If all bets are placed on marginal fossil fuels and nuclear power, the consequences for society will be dire. Perpetuating the automotive fleet, for example, may seem laudable. But propping up the fleet with low-grade fuels could be more dangerous than doing nothing because, as U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett suggests in his article (page 27), these marginal sources too will run out, and humanity will be left high and dry."
Dawn of the Solar Era - A Wake-Up Call
Solar Today, March/April 2006
"As the informed public becomes aware of the impact of greenhouse gases, nuclear power is being promoted again, this time as a carbon-free energy source. But the popular notion that nuclear is carbon-neutral is faulty. High-grade uranium ores have already been exploited, and the mining and refining of lower-grade uranium ores are increasingly fossil-fuel intensive....."
Dawn of the Solar Era - A Wake-Up Call
Solar Today, March/April 2006
"According to the [Israeli] Foreign Ministry, 'an estimated 10 square kilometers of the Negev desert receive an annual average of solar energy equal to all of the electricity generated by the Israel Electric Corporation.'"
Solar energy, not shale pollution
Jerusalem Post, 27 March 2006

"The cost of new nuclear power has been underestimated by almost a factor of three and the potential of small scale renewables critically overlooked according to a report from nef (the new economics foundation), Mirage and Oasis, released to coincide with the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy, on 29 June 2005. Nuclear power has been promoted in the UK and globally as the answer to climate change and energy insecurity. But, as Mirage and Oasis reveals, as a response to global warming, nuclear power is too slow, too expensive and too limited. And, in an age of terrorist threats, it is more of a security risk than a solution. Instead, renewable energy offers as safe, secure and climate-friendly energy supply system. It leaves no toxic legacy and is abundant and cheap to harvest both in the UK and globally. Renewable energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal could, in theory each individually meet all of the world’s energy needs. Practically, however, as nef’s report reveals; a broader combination of renewable energy sources than is currently utilized, tapped into with a range of micro, small, medium and large-scale technologies, and applied flexibly, could more than meet all of our needs. Better still, they have the ability to create new access to energy supplies for millions of people around the world who currently lack basics, such as lighting or the ability to cook without inhaling lethal indoor smoke. 'Without sustainable, reliable supplies of energy the world faces a future in which climate change and fuel shortages will combine with catastrophic results. The poorest and most vulnerable will suffer the worst. But a resurgence of interest in nuclear power, justified by voodoo economics, stands to hinder and potentially derail renewable energy,' says Andrew Simms, nef policy director and author of the report. The UK nuclear industry have systematically underestimated the cost of new nuclear power, the report says by almost a factor of three – without even taking into account the wider risks associated with nuclear such as proliferation, insurance, pollution and terrorist threats. More realistic estimates for construction, delays and overruns, the cost of early reactors and actual performance – all push the likely costs of new nuclear power up.....The potential of getting energy from a decentralised system of very small-scale, micro-generation from renewable sources has been critically overlooked. In the UK, for example, one estimate suggests that if just around one third of electricity customers installed 2kW of micro-generation, using solar photovoltaic (PV) or wind systems it would match the capacity of the UK nuclear programme....In the current debate some argue that nuclear power could happily co-exist with renewables. But there are limited resources available and there is a real danger, according to most government sources, that nuclear will continue to ‘crowd out’, more cost effective smaller scale renewable alternatives. But, says Mirage and Oasis, in order to realise the full benefits of renewable energy and micro-generation a number of key steps must be taken. The report calls for a fundamental shift of public support away from fossil fuels and nuclear power, to renewables and micro-generation – to remove anti-renewable distortions and enable them to play ‘catch up’. Specifically, Mirage and Oasis calls for:
·           Current total funding for renewables should at least match that which was made available to the nuclear industry during its period of peak research and construction.
·            Local authorities to set targets for the uptake of certain microgenerators and to allow them as ‘permitted developments’ on a par in the planning process with, for example, satellite dishes.
·           A full range of fiscal incentives including, for example, stamp duty concessions for ildings with renewables and tax allowances on renewables investments.
·           An obligation for all electricity suppliers to purchase electricity from microgenerators."

Nuclear Power Costs Underestimated And Renewables’ Potential Overlooked Says NEF Research
New Economics Foundation, 29 June 2005

"'In the case of renewable energy, knowledge is literally power,' United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said today, unveiling the first results of a pioneering project to map the solar and wind resources in 13 developing countries. Knowing precisely where these resources are can unlock the modest amounts of capital needed to install solar or wind power facilities, increasing the energy capacity of underpowered areas without the harmful environmental effects associated with fossil fuels. Thousands of megawatts of new renewable energy potential in Africa, Asia, South and Central America have been discovered through the multi-million dollar project, called the Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment (SWERA). First results from the project were released today at an international meeting of scientists and policymakers organized by UNEP, which is coordinating the renewable resource assessment on behalf of more than 25 institutions."
Mapping Reveals Earth's Best Sites for Wind, Solar Power
Environment News Service, Thursday 14 April 2005
"Scientists have invented a plastic solar cell that can turn the sun's power into electrical energy, even on a cloudy day. The plastic material uses nanotechnology and contains the first solar cells able to harness the sun's invisible, infrared rays. The breakthrough has led theorists to predict that plastic solar cells could one day become five times more efficient than current solar cell technology.... The researchers envision that one day 'solar farms' consisting of the plastic material could be rolled across deserts to generate enough clean energy to supply the entire planet's power needs. 'The sun that reaches the Earth's surface delivers 10,000 times more energy than we consume,' said Ted Sargent, an electrical and computer engineering professor at the University of Toronto. Sargent is one of the inventors of the new plastic material. 'If we could cover 0.1 percent of the Earth's surface with [very efficient] large-area solar cells,' he said, 'we could in principle replace all of our energy habits with a source of power which is clean and renewable.'... The researchers combined specially designed nano particles called quantum dots with a polymer to make the plastic that can detect energy in the infrared. With further advances, the new plastic 'could allow up to 30 percent of the sun's radiant energy to be harnessed, compared to 6 percent in today's best plastic solar cells,' said Peter Peumans, a Stanford University electrical engineering professor, who studied the work."
Spray-On Solar-Power Cells Are True Breakthrough
National Geographic, 14 January 2005
"Polymer-based solar photovoltaic cells are one of the most highly anticipated fields in the solar industry these days. While current technologies on the market struggle to match their crystalline counterparts in terms of price-per-watt, researchers are on the hunt. Researchers like a team from the University of Toronto that recently announced a breakthrough in capturing light energy from beyond the visible spectrum. In a paper published on the Nature Materials Web site on January 9, senior author and Professor Ted Sargent, Nortel Networks -- Canada Research Chair in Emerging Technologies at the University of Toronto's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and his team report on their achievement in tailoring matter to harvest the sun's invisible, infrared rays. 'We made particles from semiconductor crystals which were exactly two, three or four nanometres in size,' Sargent said. 'The nanoparticles were so small they remained dispersed in everyday solvents just like the particles in paint,' explains Sargent. Sargent's team then tuned the tiny nanocrystals to catch light at very long wavelengths. The result is a sprayable infrared detector. 'Existing technology has given us solution-processible, light-sensitive materials that have made large, low-cost solar cells, displays, and sensors possible, but these materials have so far only worked in the visible light spectrum,' Sargent said. The discovery may help in the quest for cheaper, more efficient renewable energy resources. Specifically, it could help drive up the efficiencies of current polymer-based solar cells which hold the potential to be manufactured at a lower cost than current crystalline silicon cells but have so far been unable to match crystalline power conversion efficiencies......Sargent expects their research breakthrough could see commercial implementation within 3 to 5 years.....Professor Peter Peumans of Stanford University, who has reviewed the U of T team's research, also acknowledges the groundbreaking nature of the work. 'Our calculations show that with further improvements in efficiency, combining infrared and visible photovoltaics, could allow up to 30 percent of the sun's radiant energy to be harnessed, compared to six percent in today's best plastic solar cells,' Peumans said."
Solar Photovoltaic Breakthrough Taps Infrared Light
Renewable Energy Access, 11 January 2005
"Politicians get a lot of mileage out of pledging to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, but a trio of U.S.-based solar cell startups might actually be able to do something about it. These startups, Nanosolar, Nanosys and Konarka Technologies, and corporate players such as Matsushita and STMicroelectronics (nyse: STM - news - people ) are striving to produce photon-harvesting materials at lower costs and in higher volumes than traditional crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells. Nanosolar has developed a material of metal oxide nanowires that can be sprayed as a liquid onto a plastic substrate where it self-assembles into a photovoltaic film. A roll-to-roll process similar to high-speed printing offers a high-volume approach that doesn't require high temperatures or vacuum equipment. Nanosys intends for its solar coatings--based on structures called nanotetrapods--to be sprayed onto roofing tiles. And Konarka is developing plastic sheets embedded with titanium dioxide nanocrystals coated with light-absorbing dyes. The company recently scored a coup by acquiring Siemens' (nyse: SI - news - people ) organic photovoltaic research activities, and Konarka's recent $18 million third round of funding included the world's first- and fifth-largest energy companies, Electricité de France and ChevronTexaco (nyse: CVX - news - people ). If nanotech solar fabrics could be applied to, say, buildings and bridges, the entire energy landscape could dramatically change. Integrated into the roof of a bus or truck, they could split water via electrolysis and generate hydrogen to run a fuel cell. Who could lose? Certainly current photovoltaic-cell makers such as Sharp and Kyocera (nyse: KYO - news - people ) and battery manufacturers such as Duracell, part of Gillette (nyse: G - news - people ), and Energizer Holdings (nyse: ENR - news - people ). Just don't expect giant utilities to sit and watch their businesses be stolen away."
Nanotechnology's Disruptive Future
Forbes, 21 October 2004
"The only way to meet international poverty targets is by a massive switch to renewable energy, such as solar power, a UK think-tank says. The New Economics Foundation (Nef) says the cost of climate change and oil scarcity will otherwise scupper attempts to help the world's poorest. It wants an end to subsidies for fossil fuel projects, and nuclear power. Over the next decade, it says, two billion of the poorest people should be given access to clean energy. In a report, The Price Of Power, Nef says: 'Renewable energy is the great, barely-tapped solution to the two great challenges of the coming century - poverty and global warming.'."
Fossil fuel subsidies 'must end'
BBC Online, 21 June 2004
"The need for urgent action is highlighted by the scale of the challenges facing the UK.... Our fears about implementation have proved largely justified. The Energy White Paper is weak on specific measures and contains little that is new... Renewables are likely to assume an ever increasing importance in the context of the UK's growing dependency on imported energy. The Government needs to be fully committed, and we would like to see this commitment reflected in an implementation plan which would provide leadership, direction and confidence that the strategic objectives can be achieved.... we find it incomprehensible that the Government was unable to publish an implementation plan as a supporting document to the White Paper.... the Energy White Paper does not set an explicit target for renewables for 2020, stating only that 'our aspiration is by 2020 to double renewables' share of electricity'... While the Government has put in place a number of policy instruments to promote renewables, we remain unconvinced that this amounts to a coherent and robust strategy for achieving its objectives. The Government's approach still appears to rely too much on wind energy alone....The Government does not have a strategy for other renewables, including biomass and solar photo-voltaic, which adequately reflects the massive challenge posed by the objectives set out in the White Paper.... We highlighted last year our conviction that a transition to an environmentally benign energy system could not be achieved on the basis of unsustainably 'cheap' energy, as the Prime Minister's foreword to the PIU report indicated was a priority."
Environmental Audit, Eighth Report
House of Commons,  9 July 2003
"What about that other long-promised alternative-energy source, solar power? Technology Pioneer Nanosys of Palo Alto, Calif., thinks solar's day in the sun has finally arrived. The firm is developing tiny photovoltaic cells that can be incorporated into the fabric of roofing materials to provide power to homes and other types of buildings. Nanosys is combining the science of solar cells with the science of nanotechnology, which manipulates items as small as an atom to do everything from switching electricity to storing data to sensing the movement of a bridge that is beginning to weaken. Thanks to this, Nanosys can already embed microscopic photovoltaic crystals into plastic sheeting. One prefabricated Nanosys roof could generate enough electricity to run all the appliances in a typical home, including the washing machine, the toaster, the PC and the entertainment center. Electricity generated during the day can be stored in batteries for use at night. A single square meter of the solar-ready plastic will cost about $100 and last about 20 years, so a complete roof would cost a few thousand dollars. Nanosys' co-founder and head of business development, Stephen Empedocles, says that's a good investment, since the tiles will generate electricity at a cost of about 4¢ per kW-h, well below the 20¢ to $1 for traditional solar panels. Empedocles doesn't expect his product to reach market until 2006. With $70 million in venture funding from Arch Ventures, Polaris and Lux Capital, along with multimillion-dollar U.S. government contracts from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, the 35-person company should make it. With persistence and that old variable, luck, firms like Medis, Hydrogenics and Nanosys could see a big payback for giving power to the people. The way Lifton sees it, that would be one happy song."
More Power To You
TIME, 15 December 2003

".... 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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