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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of production capacity currently available, though that estimate could be high since some manufacturers’ equipment is out of date or obsolete.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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Rules prevent solar panels in many states with abundant sunlight

Submitted on 08/11/14, 07:21 AM | Click Here for the full article: LA Times

Rules prevent solar panels in many states with abundant sunlightRules prevent solar panels in many states with abundant sunlight

Few places in the country are so warm and bright as Mary Wilkerson's property on the beach near St. Petersburg, Fla., a city once noted in the Guinness Book of World Records for a 768-day stretch of sunny days.
 
But while Florida advertises itself as the Sunshine State, power company executives and regulators have worked successfully to keep most Floridians from using that sunshine to generate their own power.
 
Wilkerson discovered the paradox when she set out to harness sunlight into electricity for the vintage cottages she rents out at Indian Rocks Beach. She would have had an easier time installing solar panels, she found, if she had put the homes on a flatbed and transported them to chilly Massachusetts.
 
"My husband and I are looking at each other and saying, 'This is absurd,'" said Wilkerson, whose property is so sunny that a European guest under doctor's orders to treat sunlight deprivation returns every year. The guest, who has solar panels on his home in Germany, is bewildered by their scarcity in a place with such abundant light.
 
Florida is one of several states, mostly in the Southeast, that combine copious sunshine with extensive rules designed to block its use by homeowners to generate power.
 

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An Energy-Storing Wind Turbine Would Provide Power 24/7

Submitted on 08/08/14, 05:47 AM | Click Here for the full article: IEEE Spectrum

An Energy-Storing Wind Turbine Would Provide Power 24/7An Energy-Storing Wind Turbine Would Provide Power 24/7

Electricity is the perfect form of power in all respects but one. It can be produced and used in many different ways, and it can be transmitted easily, efficiently, and economically, even over long distances. However, it can be stored directly only at extremely high cost. With some clever engineering, however, we should be able to integrate energy storage with all the important modes of generation, particularly wind-generated power.

Right now, to store electricity affordably at grid-scale levels, you need to first convert it into some non-electrical form: kinetic energy (the basis forflywheels), gravitational potential (which underlies all pumped-hydro storage), chemical energy (the mechanism behind batteries), the potential energy of elastically strained material or compressed gas (as in compressed air energy storage), or pure heat. In each case, however, you lose a significant percentage of energy in converting it for storage and then recovering it later on.

What if instead you were to completely integrate the energy storage with the generation? Then you wouldn’t have to pay for the extra power-conversion equipment to put the electricity into storage and recover it, and you wouldn’t suffer the losses associated with this two-way conversion. One of the most attractive ideas, I believe, is to integrate storage with wind-generated power. I’ll come back to that in a minute.  cont'd

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A Giant Floating Duck That Generates Solar PoweróBecause, Why Not?

Submitted on 08/06/14, 05:26 AM | Click Here for the full article: io9

A Giant Floating Duck That Generates Solar PoweróBecause, Why Not?A Giant Floating Duck That Generates Solar PoweróBecause, Why Not?

A group of artists, scientists and engineers have proposed a novel solution to help Copenhagen's achieve its goal of becoming a carbon-neutral city: a 12-story-high solar energy farm in the shape of a duck.

Energy Duck is the brainchild (brainduckling?) of the Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI), which designs public art installations that also function as utility-scale clean energy generators.

So, why a duck? According to LAGI:

The common eider duck resides in great numbers in Copenhagen; however, its breeding habitat is at risk from the effects of climate change. Energy Duck takes the form of the eider to act both as a solar collector and a buoyant energy storage device.

Solar radiation is converted to electricity using low cost, off-the-shelf PV panels. Some of the solar electricity is stored by virtue of the difference in water levels inside and outside the duck.

When stored energy needs to be delivered, the duck is flooded through one or more hydro turbines to generate electricity, which is transmitted to the national grid by the same route as the PV panel-generated electricity. Solar energy is later used to pump the water back out of the duck, and buoyancy brings it to the surface. The floating height of the duck indicates the relative cost of electricity as a function of citywide use: as demand peaks the duck sinks.

 

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Britain Is Solar-Energy Hot Spot

Submitted on 08/04/14, 05:39 AM | Click Here for the full article: Wall Street Journal

Britain Is Solar-Energy Hot SpotBritain Is Solar-Energy Hot Spot

Britain, a land of cloudy skies and reliable rain, is fast becoming the hottest spot in Europe for many investors in solar energy. Germany is overcrowded with panels. A sudden end to subsidies killed Spanish solar. A sluggish economy is dragging on Italy.

But the U.K. has benefited from a combination of stable subsidies since 2011, public support for solar, amenable planning authorities and creative finance.

In 2010, there were under 100 megawatts of solar capacity in the U.K.—barely enough to power the homes of a modest town. Now, there is between 3.2 and 4 gigawatts. This year, market-research firm Solarbuzz projects that the U.K. will overtake Germany as Europe's largest installer of solar panels, putting in 6% of the world's new solar.

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