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A fully transparent solar cell that could make every window and screen a power source

Submitted on 08/28/14, 02:50 PM | Click Here for the full article: ExtremeTech

A fully transparent solar cell that could make every window and screen a power sourceA fully transparent solar cell that could make every window and screen a power source

Researchers at Michigan State University have created a fully transparent solar concentrator, which could turn any window or sheet of glass (like your smartphone’s screen) into a photovoltaic solar cell. Unlike other “transparent” solar cells that we’ve reported on in the past, this one really is transparent, as you can see in the photos throughout this story. According to Richard Lunt, who led the research, the team are confident that the transparent solar panels can be efficiently deployed in a wide range of settings, from “tall buildings with lots of windows or any kind of mobile device that demands high aesthetic quality like a phone or e-reader.”
 
Scientifically, a transparent solar panel is something of an oxymoron. Solar cells, specifically the photovoltaic kind, make energy by absorbing photons (sunlight) and converting them into electrons (electricity). If a material is transparent, however, by definition it means that all of the light passes through the medium to strike the back of your eye. This is why previous transparent solar cells have actually only been partially transparent — and, to add insult to injury, they usually they cast a colorful shadow too. Cont'd..

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Politics Threatens World’s Largest Solar Power Project

Submitted on 08/26/14, 03:52 PM | Click Here for the full article: CleanTechnica

Politics Threatens World’s Largest Solar Power ProjectPolitics Threatens World’s Largest Solar Power Project

An unpopular government’s legacy has become a burden for the new one, which could potentially lead to the scrapping of what has been planned as the world’s largest solar power project.
 
The Rajasthan state government in India has reportedly asked the central government to scrap plans to set up a 4,000 MW solar photovoltaic power project. The state government claims that the proposed project will threaten thousands of migratory birds that flock near the proposed project site every year.
 
Sources close to the government, however, claim that the Rajasthan Chief Minister is not too keen to pursue a project that had been planned during the tenure of the previous government, which was led by the United Progressive Alliance.
 
The proposed project is supposed to come up near Sambhar Lake in eastern Rajasthan. Officials of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy claim that about a fourth of the planned project area has been listed as environmentally and ecologically sensitive, and that area had already been excluded.
 
According to reports, the state Chief Minister wants to scrap the 4,000 MW solar power project, and pursue an ambitious state-directed solar power policy. Gujarat, under now-Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had earned global limelight after it established one of the largest solar power farms. To date, Gujarat continues to lead all Indian states in terms of installed capacity.

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What You Need to Know Before You Invest in Solar Energy

Submitted on 08/25/14, 07:07 AM | Click Here for the full article: NASDAQ

What You Need to Know Before You Invest in Solar EnergyWhat You Need to Know Before You Invest in Solar Energy

olar energy is one of the greatest investing opportunities of our generation with well over a trillion dollars in annual market potential around the world. But with all that potential comes tremendous risk, particularly as new technologies emerge.

Over the past decade, we've seen solar technologies rise and fall and companies have risen and fallen along with them. Now that this industry is competing with fossil fuels on a cost per kW-hr basis it's important to look at what technologies dominate the industry and what investors should be betting on in the future.
 

Massive solar farms like this one from SunPower are now competitive with other energy sources on the grid, opening up a huge opportunity for the solar industry. Source: SunPower.

Silicon solar, the leader in the clubhouse 
The vast majority of solar panels today are made using silicon semiconductor technology. At its core, this technology has been around for decades, it just hasn't been efficient or cheap enough to be economically viable versus the grid. But that's changed in the last few years as panel prices have plummeted below $1 per watt.

Inside a silicon solar cell the sun's energy excites the semiconductor, knocking an electron loose. If properly built, a cell then captures that electron and turns it into a voltage potential and electric current.  cont'd..

 

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Solar Power Poses Lower Risk to Birds Than Cats or Cars

Submitted on 08/21/14, 02:18 PM | Click Here for the full article: Bloomberg

Solar Power Poses Lower Risk to Birds Than Cats or CarsSolar Power Poses Lower Risk to Birds Than Cats or Cars

Solar-thermal power plants in the U.S. are less likely to kill birds than automobiles, cats or communication towers, despite reports that say the facilities pose a significant threat to avian life.
 
There were 321 “avian fatalities” in the first half of this year at the 392-megawatt Ivanpah solar project in Southern California, according to a statement Aug. 19 from NRG Energy Inc. (NRG), which co-owns and operates it. Of those, 133 were scorched by heat produced by the plant.
 
That’s far fewer than reported in an Associated Press article on Aug. 18. It cited federal wildlife investigators who estimated that one bird was burned every two minutes by concentrated sunlight at the Mojave Desert power plant.
 
The estimates for birds killed by solar power are “inflated,” NRG spokesman Jeff Holland said in an interview.
 
A greater risk comes from cats, which are estimated to kill hundreds of millions of birds each year. Cars are responsible for about 60 million deaths, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and communication towers add another four million to five million. Wind turbines killed 573,000 birds in 2012.

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Solar panel shortage looms even as manufacturers invest in production

Submitted on 08/20/14, 06:02 AM | Click Here for the full article: Fortune

Solar panel shortage looms even as manufacturers invest in productionSolar panel shortage looms even as manufacturers invest in production

The solar industry is bracing for a global drought in photovoltaic panels after a series of high supply years that pushed prices to all-time lows and encouraged installations.

Solar panel adoption is supposed to increase as much as 29% this year, which has top manufacturers and installers anticipating a drop in availability of panels. This would be the first such shortage since 2006 when the nascent solar energy industry was just taking hold, reported Bloomberg News.

Eight years ago, only about 1.5 gigawatts of solar energy capacity was installed. This year as much as 52 gigawatts is expected to be hooked up and another 61 gigawatts in 2015, according to estimates by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

That is compared with about 70 gigawatts of production capacity currently available, though that estimate could be high since some manufacturers’ equipment is out of date or obsolete.

The shrinking supply could hinder the growing rooftop solar panel industry. The scarce supplies often get routed to larger-scale utility projects and leave the residential side with limited availability.

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Defective Photovoltaics and Other Flaws Plague China's Push to Build Solar Power

Submitted on 08/18/14, 05:49 AM | Click Here for the full article: Scientific American

Defective Photovoltaics and Other Flaws Plague China's Push to Build Solar PowerDefective Photovoltaics and Other Flaws Plague China's Push to Build Solar Power

China has bet on solar energy as a cleaner alternative to coal, but whether installed solar panels can meet the country's need for energy is becoming a troubling question.

China had installed nearly 19.5 gigawatts of solar panels as of the end of 2013. However, "many solar installations failed to generate as much electricity as planned," said Ji Zhenshuang, deputy director at the Beijing-based China General Certification Center, which examined 472 Chinese solar projects over the past four years.

Ji would not specify the percentage but said the figure is not small. The solar projects his company examined include those under Golden Sun, a government-led program that was introduced in 2009 to demonstrate the use of solar energy, as well as utility-scale solar farms run by Chinese energy giants.

Although China in recent years has surpassed many countries in adopting solar technology, in a move to help Chinese factories survive tougher export markets and to cut the country's dangerous reliance on coal, there is little public information available on how well the Chinese solar projects function. However, some experts did not seem surprised by Ji's findings.  Cont'd..

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Renewable Energy Expert: We Don't Need Power Storage, Just Dance Lessons

Submitted on 08/15/14, 07:05 AM | Click Here for the full article: KCET Rewire

Renewable Energy Expert: We Don't Need Power Storage, Just Dance LessonsRenewable Energy Expert: We Don't Need Power Storage, Just Dance Lessons

It's a truism among renewable energy wonks that in order to run our society on renewable energy, we'll need a revolution in energy storage technology.

The reason? Solar and wind are intermittent power sources. The sun goes down and the wind stops blowing, but we don't ever stop using electricity. That means, so the thinking goes, that either we need to get most of our power from something other than solar and wind, or we need to store electrical power generated on bright windy days for use on calm nights. Problem is, storing enough power to supply an energy demand the size of California's would be mind-bogglingly expensive.

But an expert who just might be the world's foremost renewable energy wonk says the truism is wrong, and that society can be kept fully powered entirely on renewables, using minimal storage. There will be no technological revolutions required; just a bit of choreography.

Amory Lovins, who's been a widely respected renewable energy expert since the 1970s, offers a persuasive argument that we need not worry about the intermittent nature of wind and solar power. The grid can handle it, he says, using current technology to forecast both power production and demand, shifting from one solar plant or wind turbine to another as wind and sunshine vary from region to region.

Instead of relying on expensive base-load power plants to generate most of our supply, which usually means natural-gas-fired plants in California, that carefully choreographed use of energy from renewable sources over a wide region can supply almost all of the power an industrial society needs.  Cont'd..

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Brazil readies big push on solar energy but companies are wary

Submitted on 08/13/14, 06:05 AM | Click Here for the full article: Reuters

Brazil readies big push on solar energy but companies are waryBrazil readies big push on solar energy but companies are wary

Grappling with its worst energy crisis in more than a decade, Brazil is making its first big move to develop a local solar power industry that could help reduce its dependence on a battered hydro power system.

In October, Brazil will hold an auction to negotiate energy to be produced exclusively by solar farms, the first ever of the kind in the South American country.

Power companies have registered some 400 projects for the auction, but many remain wary of the outlook for solar power in Brazil and say they need more clarity on investment conditions and financing before signing any deals.

The auction could negotiate up to 10 gigawatts (GW), although industry sources estimate final volumes at a much smaller level, varying from 500 megawatts (MW) to 1 GW.

Sun-kissed Brazil has one of the highest solar radiation factors in the world and plenty of land for solar farms, plus large reserves of silicon, used to make solar panels.

Yet the country has almost no solar power generation, while its BRICS partner China, for example, added 12 gigawatts last year alone – enough to supply around 10 million homes. cont'd..

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