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January 29 2014

00:13

IPOs, Downstream and Solar Lease Funds Highlight 2013 in Solar Finance

The dollar amount of venture capital (VC) investments in the solar power sector dropped sharply in 2013, but public market financings, large-scale project funding and mergers-and-acquisitions (M&A) activity jumped sharply higher, indicative of mainstream investors’ increasing level of confidence and a shift in government policies and incentives in key markets around the world, according to Mercom Capital Group’s Solar Funding and M&A 2013 Fourth Quarter and Annual Report.

Solar finance shifts toward mainstream acceptance in 2013Investors’ growing interest in downstream solar (integrators, developers, leasing and installation companies) was apparent in the U.S. market. Downstream solar investments accounted for 45 percent of total VC solar funding last year, garnering a total of $262 million spread across 34 deals, up from $269 million over 26 deals in 2012.

Another 3.34 billion was invested in 22 U.S. solar residential and commercial lease funds, 69 percent more than was raised in 2012 when $269 million was raised via 26 deals. Vivint Solar, SolarCity and Sunrun each raised well over $600 million in capital, with Vivint raising some $740 million from an undisclosed group of investors. Nearly $1 billion was raised in 4Q alone, Mercom’s report authors noted.

2013 in solar energy finance

Breaking VC solar investments down further, $104 million was invested in concentrating solar power (CSP) companies across 17 deals. That compares with $146 million in 15 deals in 2012, a 25 percent decline in dollar-amount invested. A total $104 million in 17 deals was raised by PV companies as compared to $114 million in 17 deals in 2012, an 8.77 percent decline. Investment in thin-film companies dropped the most (77 percent), totaling $72 million last year as compared to $314 million in 2012.

Also highlighting activity in solar energy in 2013, more than $1 billion was raised in seven solar IPOs. In all, public market solar equity financings totaled $2.8 billion spread across 39 deals. That’s more than triple 2012′s total, which came in at $893 million across 23 deals, and $1 billion in 13 deals in 2011.

Solar debt financings totaled $6.2 billion in 38 deals as compared to $6.9 billion in 34 deals in 2012 and $20 billion in 41 deals in 2011. China Development Bank was the single largest provider of solar debt financing, extending credit to five Chinese solar companies, some of the largest of which have been fighting to avoid insolvency and bankruptcy.

9 gigawatts of large-scale solar in development

Credit: Mercom Capital Group
Funding for large-scale solar projects also surged higher, with Mercom tracking 9 gigawatts (GW) of new large-scale project announcements in various stages of development as of 4Q. Some $13.6 billion in 152 deals worth of large-scale solar projects were financed in 2013, a jump of over 56 percent from $8.7 billion in 84 deals in 2012. Activity in 4Q, at $6 billion in 46 deals, was the highest since 2010.

The U.S., far and away, continues to be the predominant market for solar VC funding. U.S. VCs accounted for $432 million of a total $600 million (72 percent) in VC solar funding in 2013 and 68 of 97 transactions (70 percent).

Credit: Mercom Capital Group

Credit: Mercom Capital Group

Mercom recorded 97 VC investments totaling some $600 million in the solar sector in 2013, around 40% less than 2012′s total of $992 million. The deal count dropped just 8 percent year over year, with an average size of $6.2 million, down from $9.6 million in 2012. Average deal size has been falling steadily since peaking in 2010 and 2011, according to Mercom.

Solar M&A activity was nearly 90% higher year over year in 2013, totaling $12.7 billion across 81 transactions, according to Mercom, up from $6.7 billion in 51 transactions in 2012. Deal activity jumped 60%.

On the downside, 28 solar companies field for insolvency or bankruptcy in 2012, with PV manufacturers being the most numerous at 18. Overall solar insolvency and bankruptcy filings were down 12 percent from a peak in 2012.

Image credit: Seth Anderson, courtesy flickr

The post IPOs, Downstream and Solar Lease Funds Highlight 2013 in Solar Finance appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

January 13 2014

23:22

Infographic: Americans Vote for Solar

Americans want residential solar

This infographic from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) underscores how Americans really feel about solar energy. Despite the misleading characterization of solar and cleantech from the likes of 60 Minuets and Fox News, Americans understand the importance of going solar and want more of it.

A recent study by BrightCurrent shows that 91 percent of those with installed solar systems would recommend going solar to their friends. The study also said that residential solar grew dramatically over the past three years, doubling in 2011 and expanding by 60 percent in 2012. According to the research, the biggest challenge for solar is not technology or cost, but how the sector is misrepresented and therefore misunderstood by the general public.

92 percent of American Voters feel it is important we develop and use more solar power

The post Infographic: Americans Vote for Solar appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

November 01 2013

14:19

U.S. Solar Industry Breaking Records in 2013

The U.S> solar industry makes great strides in 2013The U.S. solar industry has logged one of the strongest quarters ever and it has already eclipsed last year’s record breaking growth. The U.S. is riding the crest of a solar tsunami that is sweeping around the planet. Declining photovoltaic (PV) prices along with attractive incentives in Asia (Japan and China) are helping to power solar’s global growth in 2013. Around the world solar PV added 30.5 Gigawatts (GW) of new capacity in 2012 and Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that we will see 36.7 GW of additional PV capacity worldwide in 2013. The growth of solar power is so strong that it is outpacing wind energy for the first time this year.

Growth of solar 

In 2012, the U.S. brought more new solar capacity online than in the combined totals of the three previous years. In the first quarter (Q1) of 2013, solar power production was 537 megawatts (MW) of the 1,880 MW of utility power brought online. This represents about 30 percent of the new generation capacity. In Q2 Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reports that the U.S. installed 832 MW of photovoltaic (PV) solar power which represents a 15 percent increase over Q1. This is the second largest quarter in the history of U.S. Solar. It is worth noting that these numbers reflect only the larger generating facilities and not systems on homes or small businesses.

As of the end of Q2 2013, the cumulative commercial solar deployment totaled 3,380 MW and was located at more than 32,800 facilities across the country representing an increase of more than 40 percent over 2012. According to data from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, as of August 2013, the U.S. had already surpassed the year end totals for utility-scale solar installations in 2012 (1,774 MW compared to 1,476 MW).

The solar electric market will have another record year in 2013, with a projected year end total of 4,400 MW of PV (which represents 30 percent growth over 2012 installation totals) and over 900 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP). Together PV and CSP total energy output is equivalent to the energy required to power 860,000 American homes. Cumulative PV capacity is projected to surpass 10 GW by years end.

Drivers of solar

The most powerful driver of solar growth is declining prices. We have seen an 11 percent decrease in PV over the past year. Over the past two years PV prices have fallen by nearly 40 percent, and over the last three years the average price of solar panels has declined by 60 percent.

Other factors are also at play and they include renewable portfolio standards and renewable energy credits that have forced utilities to add in more solar. Businesses are looking to reduce their environmental impacts and cut energy costs. Across the board solar is being accepted as an increasingly mainstream and less esoteric form of energy.

Solar is an abundant source of energy, if only 1 percent of global landmass were covered in solar panels we could power all of the world’s energy needs. Solar is also a very popular energy source in the U.S. As revealed in a 2012 poll, 92 percent of American voters support developing more solar energy.

Economy and Employment

Solar is not just good for the environment it is also a powerful economic driver. According to the Solar Foundation, as of 2012, 119,000 Americans were already employed in the solar industry, this represents a 13.2 percent increase over the preceding year.

There are a total of 6,100 businesses operating across the U.S. In 2012 the total value of solar electric installations was $11.5 billion, compared to $8.6 billion in 2011 and $6 billion in 2010.

Business

SEIA and the Vote Solar Initiative (Vote Solar) released their annual Solar Means Business report on October 15, they found that some of the biggest corporate entities in the U.S. Are helping to drive the growth of solar energy power production. The top 25 U.S. companies have deployed 445 megawatts of solar capacity, a 48 percent increase from one year ago.

SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch said solar is,  “helping to create thousands of American jobs, boost the U.S. economy and improve our environment.  At the same time, they’re reducing operating expenses, which benefits both their customers and shareholders.”

Solar proves a competitive business advantage for some of America’s largest corporations. However, it is not just well known corporate behemoths like Walmart that are getting in on the action. A restaurant called Pizza Port in California has also installed solar panels into its operation, and the chain of five restaurants and breweries, expects to reduce energy costs by as much as $30,000 annually.

“For years, the promise of solar was always ‘just around the corner.’ Well, solar has turned the corner, and found itself on Main Street, USA. These companies – titans of American business – may have vastly different products, business models, and geographic locations, but they all have something in common: they know a good deal when they see one, and they are going solar in a big way,” said Adam Browning, Executive Director of Vote Solar.

Surprising States

There are several states that are well known solar players, they include California, Hawaii, Arizona, New Jersey, and North Carolina. However, as pointed out by GTM Research, there is a surprising amount of solar power anticipated from unlikely places with “hidden growth opportunities.” They include Minnesota, Virginia, Washington D.C., Louisiana and Georgia. GTM Research projects a total of over 1 GW of solar PV demand in these markets between the second half of 2013 and 2016.

Solar is providing an ever growing amount of energy to utilities, businesses and homes. Despite retrenchments due to oversupply and resultant low prices, U.S. solar will continue to shine well into the future.
——————–
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Lance Cheung, courtesy flickr

 

The post U.S. Solar Industry Breaking Records in 2013 appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

October 28 2013

19:45

I Have a Solar Job: Insider Dispels 5 Myths about Solar Energy in the U.S.

5 myths about solar energy in the United StatesThere are over 120,000 people with solar jobs in the US and I am one of them.

I sell solar PV (photovoltaic) to home and business owners in Washington State and the majority of my job is education. The more the public is educated on the facts of solar power the better the solar industry will do.

Can you think of many professions where most people know little about the product and what they think they know is often false? Most people in America have an opinion about solar energy, yet few of them have any experience with it. When it comes to solar the American public is highly opinionated and minimally educated, a combination that too often creates mass confusion. To combat this problem here are 5 myths about solar energy in the US.

  1. Solar is only for the wealthy:  media outlets often suggest that solar is only for rich people. A report just published  proves that over 60 percent of the households going solar in the California, Arizona and New Jersey earn below $90,000. If you live in a state that allows leases or purchase-power-agreements (PPAs) then you can go solar without any upfront cost.
  2. Solar must always be subsidized to make economic sense: opponents will tell you that solar is not good because it is subsidized. The implication here is that coal, natural gas, oil and nuclear power are all not subsidized by the US government. The US government subsidizes all energy sources, sometimes in really complex and discrete ways.
  3. Solar companies in the US are failing: Listening to the news, especially certain networks, you’d get the impression that solar companies in the US are all failing. While solar manufacturers in the US are having a really hard time competing on the global market, isn’t this true for all US manufacturers of electronic products? Installers of solar are doing really well in the US, and US companies are leading the way. SolarCity is the US solar installer with the highest profile, they went public last year and their business has continued to grow with their stock price.
  4. Solar won’t work because the sun doesn’t always shine: The argument oft-heard argument is that since the sun doesn’t shine all the time it just won’t work as an energy source. There is an issue of storing excess electrical production but this is a solvable problem and strategies like Net Metering are doing the job. The other issue is that we use power when the sun is not shining. That’s why we have multiple sources of electricity that complement each other. The electrical grid in the US needs to be updated to fully utilize the benefits of renewable energy, this updated grid is called the “smart grid.”
  5. Unlike sun-drenched Germany, there isn’t enough sun in the US for solar to work. Leave it to Fox News to make the the most ridiculous claim ever regarding solar. With perfectly straight faces, their morning “news” crew claimed the reason solar won’t work in the US is because we don’t get enough sun, unlike Germany, a leader in solar power, due to the ample amount of sunlight that they get. Check out the solar irradiance map of the US and Germany in the following video clearly showing how much more sunlight falls in the US on average (except for Alaska) than in Germany.

Image credit: USFWS Mountain-Prairie, courtesy flickr

The post I Have a Solar Job: Insider Dispels 5 Myths about Solar Energy in the U.S. appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

October 21 2013

18:14

Enviro News Wrap: LA Times Says NO to Deniers; Economic Impact of Climate Change; Challenges to EPA Carbon Regulation, and more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • The LATimes has decided to not publish any letters to the editor that contain factual inaccuracies regarding climate change. Not surprisingly, the conservative media freaked out and framed it as a repression of debate. Debate is healthy, but to be of any real value it needs to be based on fact. Ignoring facts makes a real debate impossible.
  • Climate change has an economic impact, and a large one at that. The Asian Development bank did a study and found that climate change could reduce the GDP of Asian countries.
  • Fighting climate change involves more technological development. We have the tools to do some mitigation, but the full effort to avoid climate change involves the continued development of technology. It seems like a trap though, the more we develop technology the more we can deal with the effects of past technologies, but the more we are able to hurt ourselves in the present. I hope its not a paradox that humans get caught in.
  • Environmentalists want the EPA to regulate carbon emissions as a pollutant thus allowing them to reduce carbon emissions. There is a challenge to the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon that will be decided in the Supreme Court.
  • SunPower produces the world’s most efficient commercially-available solar panel. They have been in business for 25 years and it has been a hard fight, especially with the rise of Asian manufacturers. SunPower is surviving and weathering the storm of low Asian prices. Now it is the Asian solar companies that are struggling to stay afloat.
  • The strength of an industry can be shown in the number of new patents it is creating. Solar is creating many new patents and hopefully the innovation will pay off with a future filled with inexpensive, well-built and efficient solar panels.
  • Nuns are allies to the environmental movement. Their voice should be elevated so church-goers are more sympathetic to the good cause.

The post Enviro News Wrap: LA Times Says NO to Deniers; Economic Impact of Climate Change; Challenges to EPA Carbon Regulation, and more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

September 24 2013

15:30

More Wind & Solar Can Reduce Utility Costs and Emissions

renewable-energy-girlThose opposed to spurring development and adoption of renewable solar and wind energy resources continually assert that their intermittent nature not only reduces grid reliability and raises the cost of electricity, but negates the carbon and greenhouse gas emissions reductions that contribute so greatly to their rapid adoption in the first place.

While it’s true that bringing greater amounts of solar and wind-generated electricity on grids means utilities have to cycle more frequently – ramp down and ramp up or stop and start – fossil fuel generators to ensure a smooth, reliable flow of electricity, a study by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) shows that the carbon emissions that result from cycling are negligible – less than 0.2% – of the carbon reductions realized by generating electricity from the sun and winds.

Not only that, but the research revealed that bringing “high levels of wind and solar power [on to the grid] would reduce fossil fuel costs by approximately $7 billion per year across the West, while incurring cycling costs of $35 million to $157 million per year.” That amounts to an increase in operations and maintenance costs of only $0.47-$1.28 per megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity generation for the average fossil fuel power plant, according to a September 24 NREL press release.

How can this be?  The explanation lies in the fossil fuel costs utilities avoid by making greater use of solar and wind energy generation.

Avoiding fossil fuel costs, and pollution

According to Debra Law, the project manager for NREL’s study,

“Grid operators have always cycled power plants to accommodate fluctuations in electricity demand as well as abrupt outages at conventional power plants, and grid operators use the same tool to accommodate high levels of wind and solar generation.

“Increased cycling to accommodate high levels of wind and solar generation increases operating costs by 2% to 5% for the average fossil-fueled plant. However, our simulations show that from a system perspective, avoided fuel costs are far greater than the increased cycling costs for fossil-fueled plants.”

Besides determining that the carbon emissions associated with greater cycling of fossil fuel generating capacity is negligible (<0.2%) compared to the reductions from bringing wind and solar energy generation on to the grid, the NREL project team found that sulfur dioxide emissions reductions from wind and solar are 5% less than expected due to greater cycling of fossil fuel generators. Nitrogen oxide emissions reductions were 2% greater than expected.

This latest study, entitled “Phase 2 of the Western Wind and Solar Integration Study” (WWSIS-2), is a follow-up to NREL’s initial, May 2010 research into “the viability, benefits, and challenges of integrating high levels of wind and solar power into the western electricity grid.”

Source: Western Wind and Solar Integration Study, Phase 2; NREL

Source: Western Wind and Solar Integration Study, Phase 2; NREL

NRELchart_cycling_cost_system

Impacts of 33% renewable energy on the Western Interconnection grid

To calculate the emissions and cost of wear-and-tear, the NREL research team designed five hypothetical scenarios to examine generating as much as 33% of the U.S. portion of the Western Interconnection power system for the year 2020 from wind and solar energy. “This is equivalent to a quarter of the power in the Western Interconnection (including Canada and Mexico) coming from wind and solar energy on an annual basis,” the report authors explain.

The researchers’ model also assumes a future average natural gas price of $4.60/MMBtu – an optimistic assumption given the volatility and uncertainty inherent in natural gas prices – as well as “significant cooperation between balancing authorities, and optimal usage of transmission capacity (i.e., not reserving transmission for contractual obligations).”

Modeling the entire Western Interconnection power system at five-minute intervals for each year, the researchers found “that high wind and solar scenarios reduce CO2 emissions by 29%-34% across the Western Interconnection, with cycling having a negligible impact.”

The modeled reductions in sulfur dioxide (SO2) were 5% less than anticipated due to greater cycling, yet SO2 emissions would nonetheless be reduced by 14%-24% in the high solar and wind scenarios. Nitrogen oxide emissions would be reduced by 16%-22%, 1%-2% greater than expected. Added Lew,

“Adding wind and solar to the grid greatly reduces the amount of fossil fuel — and associated emissions — that would have been burned to provide power. Our high wind and solar scenarios, in which one-fourth of the energy in the entire western grid would come from these sources, reduced the carbon footprint of the western grid by about one-third. Cycling induces some inefficiencies, but the carbon emission reduction is impacted by much less than 1%.”

On average, it takes 4 MWh or renewables to displace 1 MWh of coal generation and 3 MWh of natural gas, according to the researchers, with the ramping up and down of coal-fired power plants having the biggest potential increase in terms of cycling.

Other key takeaways from the report include:

  • Because of sunset and sunrise, solar power creates the biggest ramping needs on the grid in this study. However, because we know the path of the sun through the sky every day of the year, system operators can predict these large ramping needs and plan accordingly. Solar variability due to fast-moving clouds is much less predictable, but it creates relatively smaller ramping needs.
  • Errors in day-ahead wind forecasts can make it challenging for operators to decide which power plants need to be online the next day. However, because forecast accuracy increases four hours ahead compared with 24 hours ahead, a four-hour-ahead decision on whether to start up those power plants that can be ramped up relatively quickly can help to mitigate these forecast errors.
  • Despite the differences between wind and solar in terms of grid operations, the study finds their impacts on system-wide operational costs are remarkably similar.

The post More Wind & Solar Can Reduce Utility Costs and Emissions appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

July 18 2013

18:25

Solar is Shining Bright in 2013 and Beyond

Solar industry promises rapid growth in 2013 and beyondGlobally, we have surpassed the 100 GW threshold of installed solar power.  As reported in Triple Pundit, India and Spain have both achieved grid parity and Italy is also competitive. Grid parity is the holy grail of renewable energy, it is the point at which  generating electricity is equal in cost, or cheaper than conventional grid power.

The falling costs of solar panels are making solar energy competitive and this trend is expected to continue. The cost of Chinese solar panels is expected to drop to a new low of 42 cents per watt by 2015, which will make power generated from solar cheaper than both coal and most forms of natural gas within a decade.

Overview of U.S. Solar 2011 – 2012

Solar is an increasingly competitive source of energy. According to U.S. Solar Market Insight: Year-in-Review 2012 by GTM research and the Solar Energy Industries  Association (SEIA), in 2012, the U.S. solar market grew at the astounding rate of 76 percent. This makes solar the fastest growing energy source in the U.S.  The U.S. installed 3,313 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaics (PV) in 2012, a record for the industry.

The market size of the U.S. solar industry grew 34 percent from $8.6 billion in 2011 to $11.5 billion in 2012. As of the end of 2012, there were 7,221 MW of PV and 546 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) online in the U.S. Which is enough to power 1.2 million homes.

In 2012, California became the first state to install more than 1,000 MW in one year, with growth across all market segments. Arizona came in as the second largest market, led by large-scale utility installations, while New Jersey experienced growth in the state’s non-residential market.

The report found that there are now more than 300,000 PV systems operating across the U.S.? Twelve states installed over 50 MW of solar each in 2012, up from eight in 2011?.

“All of these data point to solar having turned the corner,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. “Solar is an affordable option for homes and businesses today, and is well on its way to becoming a substantial part of America’s energy portfolio.”

U.S Solar 2013 and Beyond

SEIA and GTM Research expect the growth to continue into 2013 and beyond. The report forecasts 4,300 MW of new PV installations in 2013, up 29 percent over 2012, and 946 MW of concentrating solar power. Over the next four years, the residential and non-residential markets are expected to gain market share as system prices decline, the industry becomes even more efficient, and new financing channels arise.

Going forward, it would appear that solar will continue to grow at an even faster rate. The International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that solar installations will more than double to 230 GW by 2017. Deutsche Bank has forecasted that solar will be standing on its own feet, saying, “We see the sector transitioning from subsidized to sustainable markets in 2014.”

U.S. solar appears to be growing at ever faster rates. The performance of U.S. solar in the first half of 2013 exceeds the growth of solar in the first half of 2012 (1.8 GW compared to 1.3 GW). The utility-scale market was responsible for at least 45 percent of solar PV installations.

The report forecasts ongoing growth in the North American solar sector, “Cumulative solar PV installations are forecast to increase an additional 80 percent over the next 18 months, surpassing 17 GW by the end of 2014.”

While we have seen strong solar performances from the Southwest and Southeast regions, there are tremendous opportunities for growth in largely untapped areas of the Great Plains and Great Lakes regions.

According to the SEIA report. “Solar PV has been one of the fastest growing energy sources in the U.S. over the past six years, with a compound annual growth rate of over 50 percent since 2007,” Most of Solar’s U.S. growth (83 percent) has occurred since 2010.

The declining price of solar since 2011 is driving this growth. “Average installed system prices in the US have declined from around $6 per watt two years ago to approximately $4.25 per watt for residential installations and $3 per watt for large utility-scale PV projects today,” the report states.

The Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative is aiming for $1 per installed watt.

NPD Solarbuzz reports that there are now almost 1,400 solar PV installations in excess of 500kW size which have been completed in 39 different states so far with many others under construction. This has accounted for approximately 5.4GW of new capacity in the US.

Although nearly 40 percent of the new capacity has been installed in California, on the other side of the continent, New York is also rapidly growing its solar energy infrastructure. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is investing in large-scale solar energy projects across the state as part of his NY-Sun initiative.

NPD Solarbuzz latest “North American PV Market Quarterly” reports indicate that due to state incentive programs, the U.S. has installed more than 1.8 GW of photovoltaics (PV) in the first half of 2013, which has pushed the U.S. beyond 10 GW of installed solar power. This is a momentous milestone for the U.S., as the nation now joins Germany, China and Italy, which are already producing more than 10 gigawatts of solar power.

Germany

Germany is the undisputed global leader in solar power. Thanks in large measure to the nation’s feed-in tariffs (FiT), Germany now has five times as much solar power as the U.S.

Germany is a nation that proves the point that solar can supply a substantial percentage of national energy requirements. At various times, between one third and one half of all of Germany was powered by electricity generated by solar plants.

Germany keeps breaking its own solar records. In 2012, German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity (the equivalent of more than 20 nuclear power plants). Germany set yet another record in July climbing ahead of the earlier record of 23.4 GW it set set in June. At its peak on July 7, the output got up to 23.9 GW. This is about 40 percent of the country’s electricity demand.

Approximately 1.3–1.4 million solar power systems were involved in creating that massive electricity output. About 8.5 million Germans live in buildings where solar power systems are used to produce electricity or heat.

Germany is not the only country benefiting from harnessing the sun’s rays, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic actually beat Germany on solar power per GDP.

China

No country is growing its solar energy infrastructure faster than China. According to a July 15 statement from the State Council, China will increase its installed solar capacity to 35 GW by 2015. The country plans to add 10 GW of solar-power capacity annually over the next three years.

China is already the world’s biggest maker of solar panels, but it is suffering from oversupply. The expansion of domestic solar installations is designed to increase demand and address some of the problem of oversupply.

To achieve its ambitious goal, China will help to provide credit support for profitable photovoltaic (PV) manufacturers, encourage overseas investment and offer tax breaks to solar companies that acquire others, merge or reorganize their operations. The government will also encourage partnerships between the makers of polysilicon (used to make solar panels) with chemical companies.

With this consorted national effort, China is expected to surpass Germany as the global solar leader in the very near future.

Large scale solar projects

There are a number of PV power plants that use the abundant renewable energy emanating from the sun. In 2012, the world’s largest solar thermal plant opened in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The new plant is almost double the size of what was previously the largest solar thermal facility (located in Denmark), and it will generate enough power to heat water for a university of 40,000 students. Here is a compilation of  some of the larger solar PV plants around the world:

  • The Huanghe Hydropower Golmud Solar Park in China which generates 317 MWs. It was completed in October 2011 and is located within a group of 570 MW of co-located plants.
  • The Solarpark Seftenberg photovoltaic power plant is located close to the city of Senftenberg, Eastern Germany, which was earlier used as an open-pit mining area. This 78 MW plant, consisting of 62 central inverter stations and around 330,000 crystalline solar modules, is capable of generating 166 MW because it includes another plant sharing the common infrastructure having an overall capacity of 70 MW and one more power plant with a capacity of 18 MW. One of the most interesting aspects of this installation is the fact that it was built in only 3 months.
  • Neuhardenberg Solar Park is located in Germany and was completed in September 2012. It has a production capacity of 145 MW. It is located within a group of 11 co-located plants in the Brandenburg-Briest Solarpark.
  • oul-Rosières Solar Park in France was completed in July 2012 and has a production capacity of 115 MW. The solar park has about 1.4 million thin-film PV panels made by First Solar.
  • The Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant located near Sarnia, Ontario in Canada was completed in September 2010. The 950 acres installation is covered by 1.3 million thin film solar panels and has an annual yield of about 120 MW.
  • Perovo Solar Park Ukraine was completed 2011; it has 440,000 solar panels and has a generation capacity of 100 MW.
  • The Finsterwalde Solar Park was completed in 2010 and has a total capacity of 80 MW.  It is located in Finsterwalde, Germany.
  • The Leiberose Photovoltaic Park operated by the Juwi Group and is located in Leiberose, Brandenburg, Germany, went fully on line in October 2009 and has a total capacity of 71.8 MW. The highly energy efficient solar park consists of 700,000 solar panels.
  • The Montalto di Castro photovoltaic power station located in Viterbo, Italy is the largest photovoltaic power plant in Italy. The total capacity of this plant is 44 MW.

New large scale U.S. solar projects

  • Copper Mountain Solar Facility has a production capacity of 150 MWs. Phase 1 was completed in December 2010 and phase 2 was completed in January 2013.
  • California Valley Solar Ranch, it was completed in February 2013 and has a production capacity of 130 MW.
  • Mesquite Solar project in Arizona will generate up to 700 MW when completed.
  • Agua Caliente Solar Project in Arizona will generate 397 MW when completed.
  • Antelope Valley Solar Ranch in California will generate 230 MW when completed.

U.S. solar jobs

There were more than 119,000 Americans employed by the solar industry in 2012. According to the Solar Foundation, between 2011 and 2012 the solar industry adding almost 14,000 U.S. jobs, this represents a 13.2 percent job growth rate. This is particularly impressive when you consider that the overall economy grew at a mere 2.3 percent in this timeframe.

It is clear that the U.S. solar industry is creating jobs in America and helping to grow the economy. “Today, solar is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States, providing good-paying jobs for more than 119,000 American workers,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA.

Innovative solar technologies

There are a number of new solar technologies that can make this industry even more competitive. One of these is Arizona based First Solar (FSLR), the thin-film solar leader, which has developed a new cadmium telluride solar module efficiency record that absolutely crushes the previous record (also held by FSLR).First Solar achieved an NREL-confirmed efficiency of 16.1 percent, which erases the previous record of 14.4 percent that the firm set last year. Researchers are engaged in solar innovation all around the world.

Scientists at Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, have set a new efficiency record for thin-film copper indium gallium (di)selenid (or CIGS) based solar cells on flexible polymer foils, reaching an efficiency of 20.4 percent. This is an increase from a previous record of 18.7 percent set by Empa in 2011.

Israeli startup Solaris Synergy has developed a water based technology to create a floating concentrated photovotaic (CPV) system instead of the traditional land-based solar system. CPV systems focus a large amount of sunlight onto a small area to generate electricity by converting solar radiation into direct current electricity. Solaris Synergy’s floating CPV system features a modular design that supports a wide range of power outputs. The company claims that their solar-on-water solution dramatically lowers the cost of renewable energy production since the water surface is also used for cooling the solar panels. This cooling system keeps the silicon elements used as semiconductors at a low temperature and therfore increases their power generation efficiency and extends their lifespan.

Other firms innovating new technologies include California based companies Reel Solar and Bloo Solar, and Calyxo in Germany to name but a few.

Solar not only provides electricity and heat it is also providing power for a number of traditionally GHG intensive transportation mediums like cars, boats, planes, and even elevators.

Solar may not be a panacea for our fossil fuel dependant energy woes, but it is a vital part of clean power solutions that can help pull us back from the brink of runnaway climate change.

——————-

Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: World Bank, courtesy flickr

 

The post Solar is Shining Bright in 2013 and Beyond appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

July 17 2013

18:13

Solar Gets Smarter: AlsoEnergy Focuses on Efficiency Through Solar Energy Measurement and Management

AlsoEnergy provides industrial scale management and measurement solution for renewable energy providers. Measuring solar

Over the past through years, I’ve had the opportunity to gauge growth in the solar industry in part through my annual attendance at the Intersolar North America conference in San Francisco. As with any new industry, PV solar isn’t immune to growing pains, but each year the solar industry emerges not only stronger, but smarter. One very important key factor to getting smarter is through the management and measurement of all aspects of a solar project, especially at the industrial scale.

Simply saying “you can’t manage what you don’t measure” borders on cliche, but the fundamental truth that lay underneath that pithy phrase is undeniable. With the technology improvements and innovations I’ve seen displayed on the exhibition floor at Intersolar the past few years there is every reason to believe that solar power will continue to become cheaper, more reliable and more abundant with each passing year.

Technological challenges remain for solar energy, particularly in storage and distribution, but with the growth in the size and sophistication of the industry the ability to adequately measure performance and holistically measure an entire energy portfolio are becoming key factors in the industry’s continued success and adoption.

Making solar more efficient

Innovation in providing industrial-scale measurement and management tools and processes is arguably more important than squeezing the last nano-watt of efficiency from a solar panel. For AlsoEnergy, building efficiency and sound management of large solar projects is their bread and butter. Co-founded in 2006 by Robert Schafer and Holden Cain, the two realized then the need for real-time software solutions that integrate renewable energy system performance with business and financial management.

“The biggest gains in improvement in efficiency now comes through better use of the (software and services) we provide,” says Holden. “Whether that’s helping manpower, understanding when to roll trucks or planning or just looking at the entire performance of a site.”

Bringing their experience in hardware and software development to bear on the challenge led to the release in 2009 of PowerTracka cloud-based, fully scalable and customizable commercial energy management and monitoring platform that can provide real-time information on multi-site system performance, current and predicted weather and dozens of other data sources impacting the end-to-end performance of an entire energy portfolio. This information can then be integrated with a variety of back-office functions for invoicing, cost and carbon savings verification and other analytical tools that give project managers, owners and investors real-time alerts and reports to enable reliable, efficient system-wide operation.

PowerRes – PowerOperations

Debuting at the Intersolar Conference that just wrapped last week is AlsoEnergy’s PowerRes, a portfolio management and monitoring package ideal for financiers and developers of residential solar lease programs. PowerRes was developed in partnership with Itron and uses the Itron Sentinel socket meter for cellular-based data acquisition.

PowerOperations is another offering highlighted at the Intersolar show. PowerOperations is an operations management workflow module that integrates with PowerTrack to increase operational efficiencies for maintaining peak performance of PV solar fields. Additionally, integrating PowerRes with PowerOperations enables operators to monitor thousands of residential sites in real-time.

Bankable solar

AlsoEnergy currently monitors more than 1500 sites throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. With the introduction of PowerRes the residential lease market will help continue to drive the company’s growth, which Schaefer says has doubled the past two years. It seems the solar industry is looking for what AlsoEnergy offers: 

“The whole thing is, the key, a system that says ‘this works as predicted’ – and that makes it bankable. It’s financial, it’s an investment. It’s risk, it’s yield and liquidity, just like every other investment in the world.”

What end-users need and want is cheap and reliable (and clean) energy. What investors and operators want is return on investment and the ability to operate as efficiently and reliably as possible.

The key to the new energy economy is not just generating clean energy, but managing the business of clean energy generation. As the industry shakes itself out, those that can best incorporate a holistic, integrated, comprehensive approach to managing and measuring their energy portfolios – in terms of both electrons and dollars – are the ones most poised for success. This holistic management approach is the business of AlsoEnergy and a vital key to the continued growth of the solar industry.

 

The post Solar Gets Smarter: AlsoEnergy Focuses on Efficiency Through Solar Energy Measurement and Management appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

June 20 2013

19:13

Cleaner Power from Innovation: Creative Approaches to Renewable Energy

Renewable energy innovation is the key to a sustainable new energy economyInnovation is the key to the future and central to the expansion of renewable sources of energy. There are a number of innovations that could radically transform the clean energy equation. Although renewable energy is growing exponentially around the world these sources of power have a number of shortcoming that make it difficult to scale-up so that they can replace dirty energy sources like fossil fuels. However, those who doubt that renewable energy will be able to replace fossil fuels lack imagination. We need to get outside the box to envision a future powered entirely by clean energy.

Renewable sources of power are our only hope for the future as we cannot continue to rely on fossil fuels. Professor Lesley Hughes explains, “In order to achieve that goal of stabilizing the climate at two degrees or less, we simply have to leave about 80 percent of the world’s fossil fuel reserves in the ground, We cannot afford to burn them and still have a stable and safe climate.”

Here are a number of examples of recent innovations in renewable energy. While these examples only scratch the surface of creative approaches to clean energy, they give us an idea of some of the ways in which we may be able to provide for all of our power needs while minimizing our impact on the planet.

These innovations are broken down into the following five areas:  Wind, solar,  nano-technologies, small scale renewables, and hydrogen.

Wind energy

Concrete spheres: Offshore wind holds tremendous promise, however the intermittent and unpredictable presence of wind imposes limits on this technology.  Researchers at MIT have developed a way of storing wind energy to be used when there is no wind. This concept employs huge concrete spheres which anchor wind turbines to the sea floor. When a wind turbine produces more energy than is needed, power is diverted to drive a pump attached to the underwater structure, pumping seawater out of a 30-meter-diameter hollow sphere. Then when there is no wind the water would flow back into the sphere through a turbine attached to a generator, producing energy. Initial tests suggest that this is a viable cost effective technology.

Bladeless turbines: Conventional wind turbines are a large and growing source of energy but the turning blades have led to concerns about noise pollution and impacts on bird and bat populations. People have also complained that such wind turbines are an eyesore. The new concept developed by Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science faculty at Delft, converts wind to energy without any moving parts by using the movement of electrically charged water droplets to generate power.

Solar energy

Paper-printed solar cells: A printing process has been developed that harnesses the power of the sun. These simple solar cells can even be folded and unfolded. The robust new technology was developed by a team of researchers at MIT. The vapor-deposition process is inexpensive and scalable for commercial applications. It uses significantly less energy intensive materials (i.e. glass).

Optical battery: 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 so called “optical battery,” has overturned a century-old tenet of physics. The researchers found that a 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 charge separation. This new technique could make solar power much cheaper. Researchers predict that with improved materials they could convert solar power to useable energy equivalent to today’s commercial-grade solar cells.

Space Based Panels: Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and its partner Solaren are trying to get approval from US regulators to purchase 200 megawatts worth of solar energy delivered from solar panels located in space. Unlike the 2007 Pentagon study which concluded that space based solar panels are not economical, Solaren claims it has developed a technology that would make it commercially viable in the coming years.

Ceria Panels: Researchers are looking into the rare earth metal ceria, (also known as cerium oxide) to be incorporated into solar panels. What makes this metal so interesting is its ability to alternatively exhale and inhale oxygen as it heats up or cools down.

High efficiency thin-film: Scientists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) have managed to increase the efficiency of thin-film solar cells. They are employing computer simulations to probe deeper into the indium/gallium combination to increase the efficiency of Copper indium gallium (di)selenide (CIGS) thin-film solar cells.

Thermo-chemical panels: MIT researchers are investigating ways of capturing and releasing solar energy with the help of thermo-chemical technology. Although initially investigated in the seventies, it was found to be too expensive. MIT researchers are working to make this thermo-chemical technology more cost effective.

Nano-Science

Carbon nanotubes: The researchers of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have found that carbon nanotubes discharge powerful waves of electricity under certain circumstances. The MIT team calls it thermopower waves.

Nano-photosynthesis: Nanoscience is working on duplicating the process known as photosynthesis where plants convert sunlight into chemical energy. A team of the University of Florida chemists is trying a new mechanism to transform light straight into motion.

Virus-built battery: Angela Belcher and her team of bioengineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created a virus-built battery.

Superconducting nano-scale wires: Scientists from Bar-Ilan University, Israel, supported by U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) at Brookhaven National Laboratory are producing superconducting nano-scale wires to facilitate faster and more powerful electronic devices.

Small Scale

Window mounted solar panels: Designers, Kyuho Song & Boa Oh have developed a small window mounted solar panel. Its called the Window Socket and it pulls solar power to an internal battery, which can be either used immediately or saved for use during night time or when there is no sun. After 8 hours of charging, the socket provides the user with 10 hours of electricity.

Portable Wind Power: There are several “back-pack” style devices that are on the market including the Rose Wind Turbine. This turbine is a small portable device that fits neatly into the trunk of a car.

Hydrogen

Electrocatalysts that can be used in electrolyzers: Researchers at the University of Calgary are using electrocatalysts that can be used in electrolyzers, which can generate hydrogen. This relatively less expensive approach can create hydrogen energy generated from solar panels or wind turbines.  It can then be used when there is no sun or no wind. The Calgary Researchers have already formed a company, named FireWater Fuel, to commercialize the new catalysts. They hope to have a prototype soon.

No Catalyst: A new process is being tested by chemical engineers at Purdue University to get cost effective hydrogen production at fuel-cell temperature-level without the need for a catalyst.

Photosynthesis: Scientists from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory are  working on a type of photosynthesis as a way to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Most of these technologies will never get off the ground to become commercially viable. However, renewable energy innovation is ongoing and we are finding ways of improving existing technologies or developing entirely new sources of clean power. It takes some imagination, but it is important to allow ourselves to see beyond the technological limitations we face today. The key is to think outside the box and not envision a future limited by the technologies of today.
——————-
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Sandia Labs, courtesy flickr

 

The post Cleaner Power from Innovation: Creative Approaches to Renewable Energy appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

May 13 2013

17:39

Enviro News Wrap Up: 400 PPM CO2 Threshold Reached; Winters and Global Warming; Innovative Solar Financing a Game Changer, and more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • 400 ppm (parts per million) of CO2 has been reached! Congratulations Planet Earth you are on your way to being unsuitable habitat for billions of humans. Humans will watch our animal brethren decline, then we will follow them. If you don’t like this reality, then “clean” up your life and get political.
  • Oil prices are very important for clean energy industries. Higher oil prices encourage consumers to look for alternatives, increase efficiency and decrease use. The other side is that higher oil prices encourage oil companies to develop previously unaffordable sources of oil in environmentally sensitive locations. Think deep water oil exploration and the BP-Transocean-Haliburton Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the Canadian Tar Sands. We need high oil prices but there will be a period of time when oil companies rush to produce as much oil as possible before they get under-priced by clean fuels.
  • Belief in global warming by the American public is always fluctuating, but is it fluctuating with temperature itself? Belief in global warming increased sharply last summer and then rose in the fall again due to the east coast storm Sandy. Then, after a cold winter we have backed down to a nation of 60 percent believers. This shows a real lack of understanding of science on the part of the American people. Its sad when a government by the people, of the people, for the people does not have a people smart enough to understand the more important and complicated issues. Without a united, consistent, overwhelming voice from the American people our government is confused about the issue leaving a void that is filled by dirty energy lobbyists.
  • Man-made dust bowls through climate change will be just like natural dust bowls, people will be displaced and they have to go somewhere. The problem with human caused climate change is that it is happening all over the globe and if people do not have any where to go, what will they do?
  • Solar technology is developing at a steady pace, but the real potential for changing the game in the short term is solar financing (full disclosure: I work for a solar company). When companies get creative and are allowed to fund solar projects in unique ways (like leasing) then solar becomes more affordable for homeowners. Without improving the technology solar can be sold for less than current utility prices. This has happened in California, New York, New Jersey and many more states. Many people do not know that solar leasing is illegal in many states, literally. If our government would just get out of the way deployment of residential solar would explode more than it already is.
  • Banks fund business, so Rainforest Action Network is putting pressure on banks to not fund dirty energy businesses. Bank of America, CitiGroup and JP Morgan Chase are the biggest investors in dirty energy. I quite Chase bank years ago and switched to credit unions, but Bank of America has got me with the credit card. Disassociating and divestment are difficult but we should all slowly figure out how to take our money out of the “dirty economy.”
  • After the devastating loss of the Rainforest Action Network’s executive director Becky Tarbotton RAN appoints an acting executive director, Lindsey Allen.
  • Being the richest nation in the world, you’d think that our drinking water would be, well, drinkable. Too often that is not the case and our government is not setup to ensure its drinkability.
  • Pacific Gas and Electric in California blew up a neighborhood in San Bruno, now their time in court is coming and it could cost them $2.5 billion.  In recent years PG&E has made about a billion dollars of profit annually.

 

 

The post Enviro News Wrap Up: 400 PPM CO2 Threshold Reached; Winters and Global Warming; Innovative Solar Financing a Game Changer, and more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

March 25 2013

18:54

Enviro News Wrap: Growth in US Solar; Changing Perceptions of Global Warming; US Plays Catch-Up in Enviro Policy, and more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

 

 

 

The post Enviro News Wrap: Growth in US Solar; Changing Perceptions of Global Warming; US Plays Catch-Up in Enviro Policy, and more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

March 01 2013

13:13

September 03 2012

20:56

August 17 2012

21:02

On Energy Policy, a Week of Venus and Mars

Mitt Romney talked up fossil fuels, especially coal, while President Obama emphasized the creation of wind jobs.

August 13 2012

14:45

On Our Radar: Paul Ryan's Environmental Record

Citing heavy snow in his home state of Wisconsin, Representative Paul Ryan said that climatologists distort their findings to mislead the public on global warming.

August 08 2012

11:48

Was It Hard, Our Year in the Woods? Yes and No.

Season by season, a family ultimately found the challenges surmountable while living off the grid in the Maine woods.

August 06 2012

17:35

July 31 2012

13:38

July 25 2012

13:27

May 03 2012

15:04
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