Energy

Cleantechnica.

Over the years, there have been several attempts to build extra-environmentally friendly solar farms, incorporating traditional farming with its 21st century cousins — sheep and free-range poultry ranging in between and underneath solar panels, grazing and generally keeping things tidy.

In the same tradition as these farms, Primrose Solar has selected Solarcentury to help build a solar farm to the highest environmental standards in Portsmouth, using a holistic approach to the construction and operation.

Solar farm with wildflowers Image Credit: Solarcentury

We don’t normally cover small project announcements — the Portsmouth solar farm, to be located on the Southwick Estate in Fareham, is coming in at only 48 MW.

However, from my days covering global warming and climate change through to today, where I cover mostly investment and analysis, I have always had a penchant for the “extra-effort,” so to speak.

The Southwick solar farm will generate 48 MW of solar power, which is enough to power approximately 11,000 homes, and is expected to begin construction this month.

But in addition to adhering to the usual STA 10 commitments, Solarcentury will be taking it a step further, “piloting an environmentally stringent onsite waste and energy management programme,” while in turn, Primrose Solar will take “an industry-leading approach to biodiversity and ecological enhancements at the site.”

Primrose Solar is already working with Wychwood Biodiversity to carry out a full ecological survey and initiate the creation of a habitat management plan for the site. According to Solarcentury’s press release:

Wildflowers will be sown using native seed mix to help reverse declining pollinator species such as bees and butterflies whose habitats have been decimated by intensive farming practices in recent decades. In autumn and winter, sheep will be grazed among the panels, so the land will be used for food production as well as producing clean solar electricity.

“Our responsible approach to building solar farms, together with Primrose Solar’s continued investment over the lifetime of the project, is really going to make Southwick solar farm an environmentally robust site,” said Frans van den Heuvel, Solarcentury’s CEO.

“Our waste and energy management programme will see a number of new initiatives employed during the build that we’re looking to roll out across all of our future sites.”

Looking beyond the agricultural aspects of the project, during construction, Solarcentury will be relying on solar-powered and biodiesel generators, onsite food provision to minimise lunchtime driving, recycling as much as possible (including the food and canteen waste), on-site composting toilet facilities, car sharing, and a CCTV setup running on hydrogen fuel cells.

“We are excited about setting a new environmental standard for building Southwick solar farm, working together with Solarcentury, a perfect choice for the build because of our shared values,” said Giles Clark, CEO Primrose Solar.

“And this is just the start. We’re in this for the long term. For the next 25 years, Primrose wants to be a ‘good neighbour’: supporting the local community and working with the landowner to demonstrate responsible stewardship of the land for the lifetime of the solar farm.”

Source: Cleantechnica. Reproduced with permission.

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I've been monitoring and writing about battery technology advancements for years, and was let down so many times. This time, a li-ion battery technology that can be recharged to 70% in 2 minutes has been developed, and it can theoretically last 20 years!

NTU's Assoc Professor Chen Xiaodong with research fellow Tang Yuxin and PhD student Deng Jiyang. Image obtained with thanks from NTU.

NTU's Assoc Professor Chen Xiaodong with research fellow Tang Yuxin and PhD student Deng Jiyang.
Image obtained with thanks from NTU.

This technology is facilitated by the use of a titanium dioxide-based gel in the anode, unlike conventional lithium-ion batteries which often contain graphite anodes. Titanium dioxide is an abundant, cheap, and non-toxic material. That is a step in the right direction for battery manufacturing.

According to NTU,

Naturally found in spherical shape, the NTU team has found a way to transform the titanium dioxide into tiny nanotubes, which is a thousand times thinner than the diameter of a human hair. This speeds up the chemical reactions taking place in the new battery, allowing for superfast charging.

The previous advancements usually had a significant flaw, or just didn't make it to the market, or at least not yet. For example: MIT's battery that charges in 20 seconds, and is cheaper than the others.

That was one of few technologies which didn't appear to have any serious flaws. It would be a game changer if it was commercialized.

It could have a great impact on the electric vehicle industry. A key issue affecting electric vehicle adoption is battery charge time. If electric vehicles could recharge quickly enough, they would not need much range. Range is currently an issue because people won't want to sit in a public place for hours waiting for their vehicles to charge.

People rarely drive more than 30 miles at a time, and even if they wanted to do a 400-mile trip in a car that has only 80 miles of range, they could recharge it for 2 minutes every 80 miles (or ever 30-60 minutes). While that isn't difficult, if you think it is, most people won't have to do it anyway.

Some think that electric vehicles must amount to the 300-500 mile range that gasoline-powered vehicles have, but this isn't necessary. Gas tanks are cheap enough to just make them bigger. Most people's gas tanks can last longer than a week, so they don't even bother to refill them daily.

Apart from that, electric vehicles have the other benefit of recharging at home overnight daily so the user won't have to go to a gas station, and they will have their full range every day, unlike gas-powered vehicle users which can't have that luxury.

This Battery Technology's Impact On Electric Planes

The electric plane industry hasn't taken off yet, and is struggling to do so. However, i'm sure that electric planes could benefit from a reduced recharge time. Planes will sometimes need to top up between flights, and time is of the essence in the airline industry.

The ability to recharge to 70% in two minutes might help the airline industry take another big step towards the electrification of planes.

This technology was developed by a team of researchers including Prof Chen Xiaodong, Tang Yuxin and PhD student Deng Jiyang at Nanyang Technology University (NTU) in Singapore.

Source: NTU.

Follow me on Twitter: @Kompulsa.

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The Solar Impulse 2 is a solar-powered airplane that will make the first solar flight around the world. The flight will start and end in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to Masdar.

H. E. Dr. Sultan Ahmad Al Jaber, UAE minister of state and chairman of Masdar said: 'Abu Dhabi, Masdar and Solar Impulse have in common a pioneering spirit, a long-term vision and a desire to explore new horizons. We share a commitment to foster the development of technological advances in alternative energy sources in order to contribute to a cleaner, more sustainable future.', according to the Masdar press release.

I agree with that. Masdar's projects are long-term. They don't build temporary or transitional hybrid projects that still rely heavily on fossil fuels. They build self-sustaining solar and wind-powered projects. They are even working on a renewable energy-powered desalination project.

The Solar Impulse Project Paves The Way To A Future Of Clean Transportation

The Solar Impulse project facilitates transportation around the world without reliance on fossil fuels. These are all what I consider long-term projects, because they can be relied on for many years to come, regardless of fuel supply disruptions and scarcity.

These projects also provide proof-of-concept, and hence, motivation to prospective technology developers in the UAE to develop equally (or more) brilliant technology.

As Bertrand Piccard, the co-founder of Solar Impulse said:

'This well-matched partnership will showcase Abu Dhabi as a centre of expertise when it comes to renewable energy and at the same time Solar Impulse will demonstrate the far-reaching applications of clean energy during the first solar-powered flight around the world,”

André Borschberg, the other founder of Solar Impulse continued: 'We have chosen this location as being the best and most suitable departure and return point for the round-the-world tour, due to its climate, infrastructure and commitment to clean technologies.'

The new Solar Impulse 2 is built with a wider wingspan (72 meters, which is greater than that of a 747), it is made from lighter materials, it has more efficient motors, 17,000 solar cells and an improved cabin.

Who said that solar airplanes should be built like traditional ones? I think it was smart to take advantage of the wide wings that aircrafts have, make them even wider, and install solar cells on them. Solar power systems are easiest to integrate into flat surfaces. Curved surfaces require inefficient flexible solar panels.

Despite the wide wingspan, it weighs only 2,300 kg (5,070 pounds). The Solar Impulse 2 will be delivered from the Payerne aerodome in Switzerland near the end of this year. It will be displayed during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week at the World Future Energy Summit.

Main source: Masdar.

Masdar has obtained a 35% stake in the Dudgeon wind project. Dudgeon is a 402 MW wind farm off the coast of Norfolk, East England, U.K. This will help the budding U.K. wind industry to take off.

The U.K. already has one of the greatest offshore wind industries in the world, and the Dudgeon project, which was done in partnership with Norway's Statoil and Statkraft, will help it to grow even further. This is especially important as offshore wind projects face opposition and are criticized for their higher energy cost.

Offshore wind power is much more expensive than onshore wind power, however, this doesn't mean it should be thrown out the window.

Every technology starts out expensive and has to go through the painful process of gaining recognition, economies of scale, and other technological advancements which reduce the higher upkeep cost of offshore wind turbines, such as the replacement of geared wind turbines with the mechanically simple gearless ones.

Now for the positive side of offshore wind: Offshore wind farms produce a more stable supply of electricity than onshore farms due to the fact that wind tends to be more consistent offshore.

The reduced power fluctuations mitigate the need for energy storage and that helps to compensate for the higher cost of offshore wind power. There is a good and bad side to everything!

According to WAM, Helge Lund, CEO of Statoil, said, 'The Dudgeon Project represents an important part of Statoil’s renewable energy strategy, and it will generate value to the owners, the offshore wind industry and the U.K. community. Statoil brings extensive offshore competence, while Statkraft brings expertise from the power generation industry. Masdar’s experience and ambitions within renewable energy will add to the quality in this project.'

The U.K.'s Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Davey, said, 'Masdar’s investment is a strong endorsement of the U.K. as the best place in the world to invest in offshore wind – and it shows the Government’s plan for green growth is working. Since 2010 we have seen, on average, GBP7 billion a year invested in renewables and we expect to see up to GBP50 billion more between now and 2020.'

Masdar is an energy company based in Abu Dhabi which focuses on renewable energy development in the region.

Source: WAM.

The Rockefeller family made an enormous fortune in the oil business during the late 19th and 20th centuries.

Now that the world is developing an interest in alternatives to oil (and in many cases, switching to them), what should a family who makes so much money from the oil industry do?

The Rockefeller family could have fought alternative energy like the rest of the oil industry is doing, but that wouldn't be the ethical thing to do. It is also not a viable long-term solution, as the world is transitioning from oil.

Members of the Rockefeller family have now chosen to divest from their fossil fuel investments. They, along with various organizations and individuals pledged to divest a total of $50 billion as part of the divestment movement which began a couple of years ago.

It was the Rockefeller Brothers Fund that joined the divestment movement.

Most of that $50 billion divestment was done by governments and educational institutions including Stanford University.

The divestment movement 'was born in 2011 on just half a dozen college campuses where the students called on their administrations to divest endowments from coal and other fossil fuels,' according to an Arabella Advisors report. (Thanks to Al Jazeera for discovering this).

'Since January 2014, the number of commitments by campuses, churches, cities, states, hospitals, pension funds and other institutions — both in the United States and abroad — have more than doubled, from 74 to 180.', according to the report.

This divestment doesn't mean that the fossil fuel industry is finally giving in. The Rockefeller family has created over 20 national parks and open spaces, including the Nature Conservancy. They care (at least a little) about conservation, unlike the rest of the fossil fuel industry.

Stephen Heintz, a heir of John D. Rockefeller said that he was an astute, forward-thinking business man who would agree with the divestment decision, according to Business Insider.

Electric vehicle battery technology is usually of the lithium-ion chemistry, and it costs $400 to $500 USD per kWh, down from $1,000 a few years ago. They have certainly made strides, and they are set to make even bigger strides in the near future, possibly to $100 per kWh of batteries.

Tesla Model S Drivetrain. Tesla's Gigafactory could make electric vehicle batteries cheap.

Tesla Model S Drivetrain.
Image Credit: Kompulsa.

Tesla Motors has aimed to reduce the cost of lithium-ion battery technology by 30% via their Gigafactory. However, Elon Musk thinks that is conservative, and said that he would be disappointed if he didn't achieve a battery cost of $100/kWh within 10 years. The Tesla Gigafactory will also hire up to 6,500 people.

The Tesla Gigafactory Could Make Electric Vehicles Cheap

The Tesla Gigafactory should reach its full capacity of in 2020, which is 35 GWh of lithium-ion cells, and 50 GWh of battery packs per year, enough to produce 500,000 electric vehicles per year.

The Tesla Gigafactory's cost reductions could lead to a Nissan Leaf battery pack that costs only $2,400, as opposed to the $5,500 it costs now (after a $1,000 discount for turning in the old pack). Nissan Leaf vehicles could cost as little as $18,410 after federal tax rebates at that price!

Also imagine a Tesla Model S 85kWh (265 miles on average) battery pack that costs only $8,500. Compare that to the (estimated) $17,000 to $21,250 that it costs now. Please note that $21,250 translates to an unusually low cost of $250 per kWh.

That $12,750 cost reduction could reduce the cost of the 85 kWh model from $79,900 to $67,150, and that is an awfully nice car.

This cost reduction is likely to lead to the use of larger capacity batteries to extend electric car range to a few hundred miles.

That Much Additional EV Range Isn't Necessary - It's Time To Be More Fair To Electric Vehicles

Gasoline-powered vehicles can achieve over 300 miles per tank on average, but that doesn't mean that they must have that much range. Electric vehicles do not need that much range either.

Most people drive less than 30 miles per day, so most of the electric vehicles on the market can cover that range, including the (relatively) low-priced Fiat 500e and the Nissan Leaf vehicles.

Electric vehicle owners wake up to a full 'tank' every morning: Gasoline-powered vehicles cannot refill their tanks automatically every night like electric vehicles can. You have to drive to a gas station and sit their until it refills.

Electric vehicles can charge overnight while you're fast asleep.

Think about the average range a Tesla Model S could get per day, compared to that of a gasoline-powered vehicle. People don't want to visit odorific gas stations frequently, so they wait until they're running low on gas to stop by.

Most of the time, gasoline-powered vehicles have only a fraction of their 300-mile range, because their tanks aren't kept full.

Source: Green Car Reports.

Brainstorm Project

The operation and maintenance (O&M) cost of solar-power plants is very low compared to that of fossil-fuelled power plants in general, and this has had a significant impact on the energy market in some regions (such as Texas, United States). The article pertains to that effect and how it could apply to solar-powered planes (especially passenger jets).

Solar-powered planes (which are electric) don't require fuel (unless they're hybrids), therefore, the only other recurrent cost incurred by the planes is maintenance (apart from employee wages and salaries). Longer trips increase fuel consumption as well as wear-and-tear on traditional fossil-fuelled jets, so longer trips tend to attract a higher fee.

My Theory

The distance of a given flight in a solar-powered plane could affect the cost of travel far less than it would in a fossil-fuelled one due to the lack of a fuel cost. Only the maintenance cost, as well as the working hours of flight attendants and pilots would be increased.

I should note that airlines might still set airfare based on distance.

Potential Implications

The cost of fuel affects our decisions profoundly in multiple ways. We can't work too far away from home, or regularly shop at distant malls/plazas. We can't just casually fly to Australia or Europe for a meeting, as that wouldn't be feasible for most people.

This means that if the non-existent fuel cost of solar-powered planes influenced airfares as much as it could, the cost gap between long and short-distance trips would shrink substantially. If airfares aren't too high, people could end up making far more trips around the world to countries that they would otherwise have never seen in their lifetime (for example: More Americans may visit Australia, Korea, New Zealand, and other geographically distant countries), increasing the likelihood of international business ventures, tourism, greater family unit, and even the creation of new families internationally.

This is a purely theoretical article forecasting what the future of aviation may have in store for us. This article is apart of Kompulsa's Brainstorm Project, which aims to spark discussions on important issues we all face today. Feel free to leave a comment below.

Originally published on Solar Love By Nicholas Brown.

The US Department Of Commerce has introduced new tariffs via a June 2 ruling on solar panels imported from China. GTM Research’s research paper states that it will increase the cost of modules exported to the US by 14%. Chinese suppliers have historically lowered solar panel prices in the US by as much as 25%, helping the solar industry to grow. However, there is more to this than meets the eye.

The research paper is titled The 2014 U.S. China Solar Trade Dispute: Status, Strategies and Market Impacts, and it states that this ruling may cause suppliers to not only increase the cost of delivery to the US, but seek alternative value chain strategies.

According to Greentech Media:

If the eventual margins, including both the countervailing duty and antidumping components, exceed the preliminary countervailing duty margins of 27 percent on average, suppliers are unlikely to preserve their previous shipment strategies. GTM Research expects that some suppliers will elect to ship all-China products into the U.S. and pay the under-order import tariffs imposed in the 2012 solar trade case, while others will sell via internal or OEM manufacturing in locations such as India, South Korea, Poland or Mexico.

Chinese companies supplied 31 percent of the modules installed in the U.S. in 2013, and more than 50 percent in the distributed solar market. The report finds that non-Chinese suppliers are likely to gain share as a result of the erosion of Chinese price advantage in the U.S. market. Likely beneficiaries include REC, SolarWorld, Suniva and LG Solar in the distributed solar market, and First Solar in the utility market.

While a 7 percent to 20 percent increase in module prices from Chinese suppliers will have reverberating effects throughout the U.S. solar market, it will be most disruptive in the highly cost-sensitive utility solar market. GTM Research expects some projects to seek alternate module suppliers, while others may fail entirely.

Was The Government Right To Impose These Tariffs On Chinese Solar Panels?

Foreign policy is a very complicated, sensitive, and controversial matter, so i’ll leave you with my thoughts and you’ll decide.

I do think that the tariff will increase the cost of Chinese solar modules, it might negatively affect America’s relationship with China, and it will make solar panels more expensive to purchase overall. However, another side of me wants to invest in the US economy more and stimulate it.

How can these two views coincide?

First, the money spent on Chinese solar panels goes to China’s economy, not the US economy, so despite the fact that Chinese solar panels are cheaper, they would not provide the same job creation benefits for Americans as locally manufactured solar modules would.

When faced with decisions like these (buying American vs Chinese-built solar panels), it is imperative that we understand the flow of money. If you purchase solar panels from an American company that has their panels manufactured in China (this is the most common scenario at the moment), then the American company and their employees will benefit from that. However, some of that revenue has to go to the Chinese factories that built them.

If you purchase from an American company that manufactures in the US, the American company will enjoy all of the above benefits mentioned, and to top it off, it would stimulate manufacturing job creation in the US.

There’s one other very important point as well: if these tariffs drive up costs much (which it seems they are doing), that will result in lower demand and fewer jobs in the solar installation and other downstream solar markets. Many have argued that the job losses in these markets are great than the job gains in the manufacturing market.

Apart from that, the potential of these new tariffs to negatively affect US-China relations should be taken into consideration. The tough question is: Is this tariff worth it?

If you have anything to add to this debate, sound off in the comment section. I would love to hear your thoughts!

Originally published on Green Building Elements By Nicholas Brown.

The US Green Building Council of Kentucky has awarded LEED Silver certification to The Nucleus building of the University Of Louisville in downtown. This is decent, as the LEED certifications are Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum (remember that certifications in general are not common).

The building, which is located at 300 E. Market St., has environmentally friendly features such as a smart Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, energy management systems, motion-sensing lights, and motion-sensing plumbing in all restrooms.

Motion-sensing plumbing saves water because people tend to leave pipes on until they have finished washing their hands. Motion-activated taps shut off while people are soaping up their hands and come back on when they put their hands back under them for rinsing, so water is only used when it is actually needed.

One of the greatest fractions of the average person’s energy usage is due to waste (especially because they didn’t remember to turn off devices such as light bulbs, TVs, air conditioners, heaters, stereos, computers, fans and much more).

A typical 16″ to 18″ fan will consume 50 to 100 watts, while a 30″-40″ tv will consume over 100 watts. Add the 60 watts your computer consumes, a few hundred watts for the light bulbs throughout the house, and you’ll see the problem.

Motion-sensing lights are activated only when people are in the room, as people tend to leave lights on when they aren’t using them. “The LEED designation for The Nucleus follows gold LEED certification for U of L’s newly completed student recreation center on the Belknap Campus. The university has eight LEED-certified buildings, according to the release, and another two are expected to receive LEED certification.”

“Responsible growth continues to be our goal at U of L,” university president James Ramsey said in the release, “and having these buildings achieve LEED certification shows the university’s commitment to long-term sustainability, carbon-footprint reduction and environmentally friendly development.”

Source: Louisville Business First.

Originally published on Cleantechnica By Jake Richardson.

A 2.3 MW solar array will be built in West Nyack, and will be the first landfill with a solar plant in the state of New York. OnForce Solar will own the project and operate the plant. The six million dollar bill will be covered by the company, too. Over the course of its lifetime, the clean power plant is expected to save taxpayers about $4 million dollars. (The West Nyack landfill is capped and has been decommissioned.)

Rooftop solar panels

Rooftop solar panels in Indooroopilly, Brisbane, Australia.
Image obtained with thanks from Micheal Axelsen on Flickr.

CEO of OnForce Solar, Charles Feit, remarked, “We are gratified the Town selected OnForce Solar to execute this project from a very strong list of competitors through a rigorous vendor selection process. Repurposing the closed West Nyack Landfill to create clean energy is a precedent setting project for the State of New York and we expect will act as a catalyst for further development of landfills across the state.”

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) also provided financial support for the project. Clarkstown, New York will use electricity generated by the new plant when it is completed in the fall of 2014.

Repurposing a landfill almost sounds like an oxymoron because such a facility is full of what was thrown away. Turning a landfill into a solar power plant is creative, and serves an example to us of how its our thinking that sometimes locks us into limiting beliefs. The New York Power Authority (NYPA) is preparing a white paper to help other municipalities develop their own solar power plants.

Clarkstown is one of about 600 cities and towns to sign the United States Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement to reduce CO2 emissions. The 84,000 resident town is located about 34 miles northwest of New York City

OnForce Solar has headquarters in the Bronx and offices in Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Vermont. It was founded in 2007 and is the only solar company in the Bronx.