Renewable energy could generate up to 500,000 jobs in Morocco by 2040

Posted on January 3rd, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.



Investments in renewables are starting to pay off in Morocco. A new report published by the Mediterranean Forum of Institute of Economic Sciences (Femise) claims that the renewable energy sector could create between 270,000 and 500,000 jobs in two decades.

Morocco has been one of the most ardent supporters of renewable energy. The country recently switched on the Noor solar plant. The complex alone carries a 160 megawatt capacity, with plans to expand it to 350 megawatts. After the entire plant is completed and switched on, it will provide electricity for 38% of the country. This initiative is expected to greatly help the country’s developing economy – not only by generating cheaper and more efficient energy but also by creating jobs. First released at the COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco, the Femise report highlights the opportunities brought by renewables: “Despite the difficulties of some countries, the prospects for the Mediterranean region are not unfavorable, particularly for the ER sector. FEMISE researchers estimate that about 270,000 to 500,000 jobs could be created in Morocco by 2040, in the field of renewable energies.”

The report focuses on the challenges Mediterranean countries will face, especially in a changing climate. Water scarcity is expected to become more and more common, and this scarcity will exert great economic pressure. For Morocco, a country of 33 million people, these extra jobs could prove extremely helpful. Through the ambitious Desertec Industrial Initiative, Morocco hopes to establish itself as one of the main energy suppliers in the area. Being the only African country with a power cable link to Europe, Morocco expects to generate massive revenue from exporting energy across the Mediterranean sea.

With the recent announcement that solar energy is cheaper than fossil fuel energy, it’s becoming clearer each year that renewables offer great prospects for the economy. Hopefully, other countries will follow these trends and take advantage of these opportunities, instead of continuing to finance coal and other fossil fuels.


The dawn of architectural solar

Posted on January 3rd, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.



Since the beginning of the modern architectural era, humankind has dreamed of self-sustaining buildings that generate their own power. Futurists of the early 20th century looked ahead to the days when the sun would power our homes and commercial buildings and we would be transported to and from our workplaces in flying cars. Unlike the overly ambitious estimates concerning personal air transportation, today the concept of a solar-powered building is neither remote nor unachievable.

In fact, over the past six years in America, solar power has exploded into the energy sector with the kind of industrial vigor not seen since the 1950s. In 2010 America had less than 1 gigawatt of deployed solar generation. Today that number has ballooned to over 30 gigawatts and continues to increase at an astonishing rate of growth.

This enormous upswing in solar generation is due in large measure to a precipitous decrease in the cost of solar generating materials. In 2006 a solar cell cost between $3.75 and $4.25 per watt. Today that same solar cell is 20 percent more efficient and costs about $0.35 per watt. Significant increases in demand have spurred the growth of production capacity and economies of scale have propelled the solar energy markets at unprecedented rates. A dramatic increase in the cost of electricity in many parts of the country in combination with a generous investment tax credit provided by the federal government have provided further motivation for investment in solar generation.

In addition to these market propellants, a vast network of solar technicians and solar suppliers also has sprung up in the new American energy market. Thousands of installers and electrical contractors are fully invested with solar skills and technology and every major electrical supply house in the nation provides a comprehensive line of electrical management systems to support solar energy integration. Solar energy is fully embedded in the National Electrical Code and utility-grid connection of solar generators is widely permitted.

In short, solar technology is now settled science and has become an accepted part of our mix of energy resources in America. There is still nearly unlimited room for growth but it is safe to say that solar energy is here to stay.

Resting on the foundation of this extraordinary American solar success story sits the framework of the next generation of solar technology, architectural solar or as it is known in the industry, building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). This market segment is the logical progression of solar energy generation and is ripe for exponential growth.

Architectural solar is defined as a BIPV component, which forms part of the structure of a building. It is not a solar panel attached to a structure but rather a typical building component such as a window, spandrel panel or other cladding component adapted to produce electricity. If a building integrated photovoltaic component were to be removed from a structure, the resulting gap in the façade would be filled with a substitute building material.

Unlike traditional solar energy generation however, architectural solar generation is quite a bit more complex and depends on the cooperation and collaboration of numerous stakeholders. The success of architectural solar relies heavily on buy-in from building-owners, architects, construction companies, glaziers, building envelope suppliers and civil electrical contractors. Furthermore, until very recently, there has been no supply chain to support architectural solar in America. There have been boutique BIPV suppliers; however, none significant enough to be embraced by the mainstream construction market sufficiently to create a real market.

Most significant, the construction industry has been reluctant to fully embrace architectural solar because it was uncertain of the reliability of the warranties provided by the nascent industry. Over the past few years, the birth of the solar energy market often has been turbulent and uncertain, with many players failing to rise due to rapidly changing market conditions. To sum it up in a phrase coined by a construction company executive: "How can I accept a 20-year warranty from a company that has only been in business for six months?" This sentiment has been echoed by many construction industry professionals and exposes the fact that they are looking for integrated solutions from legacy players, not start-up companies without measurable track histories.

For this reason, companies such as California-based Walters & Wolf Glass Company have embraced this nascent architectural solar market and are bringing their considerable resources, reputation and expertise to it. Major construction companies and building developers will be able to incorporate architectural solar into new projects with the confidence provided by a venerable 40-year building envelope provider. Walters & Wolf can offer one-stop shopping for their clients and provide the confidence of supply chain reliability, technical excellence and warranty security.

Furthermore, the opening of this market has created tremendous opportunity for the new development of creative and unique architectural solar concepts. One such developer of this new architectural solar technology is Solaria Corporation of Fremont, California. Solaria has developed groundbreaking photovoltaic technologies that are ideal for use in building integrated photovoltaic components. Solaria’s unique solar cell singulation technology has allowed it to develop an architecturally beautiful vision glass that can be used in typical window openings providing a see-through window that generates electricity. Solaria’s other architectural solar products such as spandrel and solar cladding are equally aesthetically appealing and are creating a great deal of buzz in the architectural community.   

Going forward, as more players enter this market segment, it is expected that dramatic new breakthroughs will be made in architectural solar technology. As the new technology takes root, architects will be encouraged to evolve their building designs to incorporate more building integrated photovoltaic components. As a result, it is expected that buildings will generate incrementally greater amounts of electricity.

Many industry watchers have wondered why architectural solar has not flourished sooner, but to be completely frank, the market has not been mature enough to support it until now. In the past, architectural solar was considered very expensive with a poor return on investment based on energy generation. Today, with low raw material cost and tax incentives, architectural solar looks very attractive indeed. Furthermore, much of the cost of installation and maintenance is shared with the building. This allows more money to be allotted to high quality architectural solar components using money that otherwise would be spent on PV infrastructure. The result is that architectural solar can legitimately compete with traditional solar energy for return on investment in addition to being aesthetically beautiful.


Over the next decade, it is expected that architectural solar will become a standard practice on all new construction and soon the idea of erecting a new structure without it will be architectural heresy. Once the full power of the shared imagination and technical capabilities of this robust new market are brought to bear, we finally will realize the dream of those visionaries of yesteryear. Soon we will look out over the cityscape through the windows of our cars as we fly to work and wonder how we ever lived in a world that did not draw its energy from the sun.


Solar Energy is Making Useless Land Useful Again

Posted on January 3rd, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.



Solar panels installed on two closed landfills are powering equipment needed to ensure gases and toxins are not polluting the air and water.

The panels were installed last year at the Washington Co. landfill in Lake Elmo and the Lindenfelser landfill in St. Michael.

The panels produce up to 80-percent of the power needed at the Washington Co. landfill and all of the energy plus some at Lindenfelser.

“The excess energy we sell back to the grid,” Walker Smith with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) said.

The MPCA applied for the solar use through the Minnesota Department of Commerce and used land sales to pay for $320,000 in panels.

Walker says the grids should pay for themselves in 10-15 years while the landfills are unlikely to ever be developed or sold.

“There's really not much else we can do with the land out here just because of the equipment that's on it,” Walker said.

The Washingotn Co. landfill operated in the 1970’s. The state took control of it in the 1990’s as part of the Closed Landfill Program, which allowed the state to pay for environmental protection systems that protect the air and water in the area.

The state currently operates 40 closed landfills, 23 of which require the energy powered pollution collection systems.

The MPCA hopes to expand the solar initiative to at least two more closed landfill sites in the coming years.



The $7 a month plan bringing solar energy to rural Africa

Posted on December 15th, 2016 in solar by Spencer R.



In sub-Saharan Africa, over 600 million people do not have access to electricity -- that's 68 percent of the population, according to the International Energy Agency.

That's because the power distribution infrastructure -- plants and the grid -- is severely underdeveloped, requires large investments to improve and ultimately can't keep up with the growth in demand.
One solution to the problem is to go "off the grid," mimicking the rapid distribution of mobile phones: over 90 percent of Africans have one -- more than have access to clean water -- but only a fraction of them owns a landline. In the energy sector, the cellphone equivalent is the solar panel, which is easily installed and can provide power to a household or small business.
Off Grid Electric, an African startup, is applying this formula to rural areas of Tanzania and Rwanda yielding both commercial success and life-transforming results for the recipients.

125,000 households

The company is backed by Elon Musk's SolarCity, one of the largest solar energy providers in the US, and Helios, Africa's largest private equity firm.
In November, at the UN's climate change conference in Marrakech, it won the 2016 Momentum for Change Award, which focused on projects that are addressing climate change in innovative ways.
It already powers 125,000 households and employs around 1,000 people -- about a third as salesmen who offer the energy packages door to door.
"Most of these families were burning kerosene to make light, with a negative impact on their health and wellbeing," Bill Lenihan, Off Grid Electric's President, told CNN.
Kerosene produces smoke and can't power anything but a lantern: "Now they have access to clean energy that can also power radios and TVs."
The system includes a solar panel, installed on a roof, and lithium-ion battery which provides electricity around the clock: "Kids can study at night, entrepreneurs can increase their income because their phones work all day and farmers can better protect their cattle -- it's like night and day," said Kim Schreiber, the company's chief of staff.

$7 a month

There are three different sizes of photovoltaic panels, the smallest of which can power four lights and charge one mobile phone.
"We also provide all the energy efficient accessories that go with these, from lights to chargers, to radios and TVs," said Lenihan.
Customers pay 10 percent of their package upfront, the rest is financed through monthly installments.
The costs are competitive, according to Off Grid Electric: "Just connecting to the grid can cost $300 to $400, whereas our system is $7 a month and after three years you own it and never have to pay again," said Schreiber.
Larger packages cost more: for eight lights, a radio and a 24-inch TV, the monthly fee is about $20. In comparison, a month's supply of kerosene typically costs $4 to $5.
The payments are collected via mobile phone transactions, a popular method in the continent, and a five-year service plan is included if something breaks. The battery can last seven years, and the panel itself up to 20.
In case a customer can't keep up with the plan, Off Grid Electric says it offers "room for flexibility," and ultimately the system will be removed after several months of missed installments. But most customers stay on board, according to Lenihan: "The uptake has been very strong, people continue to pay, and the growth has been really good."

A trillion dollar challenge

Providing electricity to people in sub-Saharan Africa is "a cottage industry and a trillion dollar challenge," said Lenihan.
"We can solve a problem and do it in a way that delivers a return to shareholders, which is the biggest challenge in an industry that, as a whole, has addressed less than 1 percent of this market," he said.
For small businesses, the company offers a package called Zola, which contains everything needed to run a business on solar power, including appliances and entertainment systems.
Off Grid Electric has recently signed a partnership with EDF, the world's largest utility, to expand the program to the Ivory Coast, with a goal of providing clean energy to 2 million people by 2020.


Thousands of remote Indian households to receive solar panels, chargers and batteries

Posted on December 15th, 2016 in solar by Spencer R.



More than 16,000 Indian households across 800 remote villages will be given a solar panel, with an eight-hour battery storage backup, according to the Indian minister for power, coal, new and renewable energy and mines, Piyush Goyal.

In an update on the government’s rural electrification scheme known as DDUGJY, Goyal said that these households would be given 5 LED bulbs, an energy efficient ceiling fan and a solar power-based mobile phone charging socket, free of cost from the Ministry of New and renewable energy (MNRE).

Through CSR schemes, firms under the Ministry of Power will also provide solar powered televisions.

Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) also announced recently that it will be tendering on behalf of the far northeast Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh for rural electrification of 1,058 off-grid villages using 300W solar power packs.


SolarStratos will use solar for space tourism

Posted on December 12th, 2016 in solar by Spencer R.



If you ever wanted to play astronaut but weren’t quite ready to dedicate yourself to NASA training, you might soon be in luck. On Wednesday, the Swiss company SolarStratos revealed its “solar plane,” a 28 foot-long aircraft that will be the first manned aircraft entirely powered by solar energy to break the stratosphere and get passengers to the stars.

The aircraft, which has a wingspan of 81.3 feet and weighs 992 pounds, leaves approximately the same carbon footprint as an electric car, the company claims. The wings of the plane are covered by 72-square feet of solar panels, which provide energy to its 32-KW electric engine and 20 kWh lithium-ion battery.

The first mission, which will take place in 2018, will take two hours to ascend to the stratosphere and will stay there for [15 minutes before descending. The company tells Inverse it expects to launch its first flights for commercial passengers in two to three years, but at a pretty steep price; each mission will cost $10 million.

Typically, commercial planes tend to fly in the lower region of the stratosphere, staying at altitudes between 6 and 12 miles. The SolarStratos plane reaches an altitude of 15 miles above Earth. As a comparison, the International Space Station is 220 miles above Earth.

Traditional aircraft require large, environmentally dangerous amounts of helium or gas in order to traverse the distance to the stratosphere.

“This opens the door to the possibility of electric and solar commercial aviation, close to space,” says project lead Raphael Domjan. Domjan previously created the first solar-powered boat to completely circumnavigate the globe in 2012.

In order to keep the aircraft lightweight, instead of a pressurized cabin, pilots will be required to wear pressurized space suits to deal with the -70 degrees Fahrenheit.

The two-seater to space is on the luxury end of solar flight. But SolarStratos is just one of a number of companies trying to make commercial solar flight the norm in the next decade.

Solar Impulse, a project based in Switzerland, completed the first entirely solar-powered circumnavigation of the globe in July with its Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) aircraft. The company is now pushing for innovations that will drive down the costs of solar technology and make solar flights a commercial reality in the near future.

“In nine years and eight months, you’ll have 50 people traveling short-haul on electric planes,” co-founder Bertrand Piccard recently told members of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) airlines association. “Why nine years and eight months? Because since four months I’ve been saying it will be ten years. It will happen.”

And a huge potential of solar energy in travel isn’t limited to commercial use. NASA is also developing a solar-powered ion engine to aid its mission to explore Mars.


UK Wind Energy Sets New Generation Record, Exceeds 10,000 Megawatts

Posted on December 12th, 2016 in wind by Spencer R.



The UK’s wind energy industry has surpassed another milestone, generating more than 10,000 megawatts (MW) for the first time from its fleet of onshore and offshore wind turbines.

The news comes from the UK’s wind energy trade body, RenewableUK, which reported that the record of 10,104 MW was achieved between 2pm and 2:30pm on Wednesday, providing 23% of Britain’s total electricity demand at the time.

“It’s terrific to see wind power smashing another record,” said RenewableUK’s Executive Director Emma Pinchbeck. “It shows that wind is playing an increasingly central role as a reliable part of our new modern energy system. As we install more wind power, more records will tumble. This is a Christmas clean energy bonus — not just for the renewable energy sector, but for all of us.”

The UK is arguably the world’s leading wind energy nation, given its past commitments to both onshore and offshore wind. According to RenewableUK’s figures, the UK has an onshore wind capacity of just over 9,000 MW, and offshore capacity of nearly 6,000 MW. Not surprisingly, there are also numerous offshore wind projects in development throughout UK waters.

Despite the fact that the UK earlier this year announced it would cease allowing onshore wind farms access to the country’s primary renewable energy subsidy scheme, wind energy is a dominant player across the country, and is likely to continue to be so for years to come.