Published on June 21st, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan1
Solar Tech Improvements; Solar Project News; Solar Manufacturing News… (Solar Energy News Roundup)
Other than the solar energy news we’ve already posted on, here’s some more solar energy news from the last week or so from around the cleantech interwebs:
Solar Technology News
Changing the concentration of indium allows researchers to tune the material’s response so it collects solar energy from a variety of wavelengths. The more variations designed into the system, the more of the solar spectrum can be absorbed, leading to increased solar cell efficiencies. Silicon, today’s photovoltaic industry standard, is limited in the wavelength range it can ‘see’ and absorb.
But there is a problem: Indium gallium nitride, part of a family of materials called III-nitrides, is typically grown on thin films of gallium nitride. Because gallium nitride atomic layers have different crystal lattice spacings from indium gallium nitride atomic layers, the mismatch leads to structural strain that limits both the layer thickness and percentage of indium that can be added. Thus, increasing the percentage of indium added broadens the solar spectrum that can be collected, but reduces the material’s ability to tolerate the strain.
Sandia National Laboratories scientists Jonathan Wierer Jr. and George Wang reported in the journal Nanotechnology that if the indium mixture is grown on a phalanx of nanowires rather than on a flat surface, the small surface areas of the nanowires allow the indium shell layer to partially “relax” along each wire, easing strain. This relaxation allowed the team to create a nanowire solar cell with indium percentages of roughly 33 percent, higher than any other reported attempt at creating III-nitride solar cells.
New Energy Technologies and NREL have created an improved process for technology capable of generating electricity on see-through glass. New Energy Technologies has announced “an improvement in its manufacturing technique that should lead to higher speed, lower costs and greater durability” for its see-through solar cells for generating electricity on glass. “Teaming with the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, New Energy Technologies Inc. (OTCQB: NENE) has developed the use of low-cost materials and a special application technique that could help optimize the movement of electrons within the ultra-thin solar cells. This should increase the amount of electricity produced when New Energy’s see-through SolarWindow™ prototype is exposed to natural or artificial light.”
Technology innovation and continual cost decreases are fueling the spread of net-zero-energy buildings, Pike Research finds in one of its latest reports. “Several forces, including concerns about corporate image and branding in an increasingly sustainability-focused marketplace and growing interest in staying on the cutting edge of technology, are driving many in the construction industry toward the goal of producing zero energy buildings, i.e., buildings that produce as much energy as they consume through on-site and renewable energy systems. Many of the technologies needed to deliver zero energy buildings, such as energy efficient HVAC systems, have already been developed. Others, however, such as triple glazed windows and solar panels, are not considered cost-effective in comparison with conventional alternatives. According to a recent report from Pike Research, over the next few decades, cost decreases in these existing technologies and innovation in emerging technologies, driven by stringent government regulations, will help make zero energy building more attainable.”
SolarEdge Technologies, a provider of solar power optimization and monitoring systems, has received the 2012 Intersolar Award for Innovation in the Photovoltaic category. The Intersolar Award honors solar companies for innovative ideas and technological breakthroughs.
SolarEdge received the award for its power optimizer, which features independent optimization technology to allow broader market adoption. Designed with a new set of semiconductor chips developed by SolarEdge, the company says it allows for a much smaller product with increased reliability, durability and efficiency. Additional benefits include increased safety and module-level PV monitoring.
Solar Project News
8-MW solar system saves community college $15 million. “An 8-megawatt solar project installed by the Mercer County Improvement Authority (MCIA) at Mercer County Community College (MCCC) is expected to save the college $15 million over the next 15 years at no upfront cost to the College. This will allow MCCC to stabilize its budget after years of significant cuts, and help keep tuition affordable.”
Mitsubishi Corporation and Osaka Gas have announced the intention to acquire 100 MW of solar projects from Recurrent Energy. Recurrent Energy will probably soon “sell a portfolio of Ontario, Canada solar photovoltaic (PV) projects to Mitsubishi Corporation and Osaka Gas. The transaction will represent approximately 100 megawatts (MW) of solar power that will be made available to the Ontario Power Authority (OPA). The acquisition is scheduled to occur once the facilities achieve commercial operation.”
Canadian Solar is set to deliver 122 MW of utility-scale solar projects in the US. The company yesterday “announced the acquisition of, or joint venture in 122MW of utility-scale solar development projects within the United States. The 11 photovoltaic (PV) power plants range in size from 2MW to 29MW and construction is planned to begin in 2012 with the last project set to be completed in 2014.”
Canadian Solar is also supplying 17 MW of solar modules to Potentia in Ontario. Potentia, an Independent Power Producer in Ontario, “will use the solar modules to power a number of commercial rooftop solar systems to be installed in major urban areas in Ontario.”
Nearly 20-MW solar project is up in Texas, combines water and electricity. “CPS Energy’s President and CEO Doyle Beneby, Mayor Julián Castro and other leaders ceremoniously cut a unique bowtie-styled ribbon to dedicate the utility’s newest source of solar energy – the William R. Sinkin Centennial Solar Farms 1 and 2. Named after local solar energy advocate Bill Sinkin, who is known for wearing bowties, the 19.8 megawatt (MW) project will produce enough clean power for an estimated 2,550 average Texas homes annually…. Two sites feature a total of 83,034 photovoltaic solar panels that track the sun from east to west. The solar arrays are located on nearly 200 acres of land at the Dos Rios Water Recycling Center owned by the San Antonio Water System (SAWS).”
Solar Manufacturing News
Soitec Solar has received $25 million from the US DOE for its solar manufacturing facility in San Diego. The money comes through a SUNPATH award.
SUNPATH, which stands for Scaling Up Nascent PV At Home, seeks to increase America’s manufacturing competitiveness in the global solar market.
Last December, Soitec acquired a 176,000-square-foot manufacturing center on 14.8 acres of land located in San Diego to support over 300 megawatts (MW) of well advanced projects throughout San Diego and Imperial Counties. The new factory will enable a manufacturing capacity of 200 MW (275 MWp) of Soitec’s fifth generation of Concentrix™ concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) modules, and will be the world’s largest CPV manufacturing facility. This major project represents an investment of more than $150 million and is expected to create 450 on-site jobs and more than 1,000 indirect jobs at full capacity. Construction is currently underway, and the first phase is scheduled to be operational by the fourth quarter of 2012.
3M has completed expansion of its U.S. manufacturing plant for 3M Ultra Barrier Solar Film in Columbia, Missouri. ”This manufacturing expansion helps us support our customers’ manufacturing scale-up plans by providing ample capacity to this growing market,” said Derek DeScioli, Global Business Development Manager for the 3M Renewable Energy Division. “With our new production equipment and continued product innovation, 3M is well positioned to not only increase the performance of our Ultra Barrier Solar Film, but also significantly drive down the costs, further enabling our customers to provide competitive photovoltaic solutions to the commercial rooftop market.”
Ascent Solar is supplying 50,000 of its new EnerPlex solar chargers for Apple iPhones. “The EnerPlex charger was launched in early June, and it was displayed at Ascent’s annual shareholder’s meeting. It was first publicly displayed to the industry at Intersolar in Europe last week. The product takes advantage of Ascent’s ultra-light, thin and flexible solar panels and enables iPhone users to provide supplementary charging of their iPhones with sunlight.”
Westinghouse Solar and CBD Energy have teamed up to “begin distributing Westinghouse Solar Instant Connect™ Solar Power Systems to Harvey Norman Commercial Division…. This five megawatt purchase commitment is expected to be delivered over approximately six months following certification, and is subject to the system being certified in Australia. The certification process is currently underway and is expected to take approximately three months to complete. Once certifications are achieved, the company expects to begin shipping product in the fourth calendar quarter of this year. The Harvey Norman brand name is a retail icon throughout Australia with 185 franchised complexes throughout the local market.”
The chief executive of telecommunications and Internet company Softbank Corp.—these days best known as the man who brought Apple Inc.’s iPhone to Japan—says he told his board he was so concerned by the [Fukushima] accident that he couldn’t concentrate on his job anymore. Mr. Son said he planned to quit and work on energy issues instead.
“We had a big, big fight,” Mr. Son told attendees at a renewable-energy conference earlier this year. “Shouting…banging the table.”
The volatile Mr. Son was ultimately persuaded to stay. But he has also become one of the most outspoken advocates of a new energy era in Japan, arguing that solar and wind power, and some outside-the-box thinking, could take the place of electricity generated by nuclear reactors—and many fossil-fuel plants as well….
Mr. Son now proposes replacing all of Japan’s nuclear generation with renewable energy, including hydroelectric, for a whopping 50% to 60% of Japan’s total energy production by 2030, one of the most ambitious targets anywhere.