New Job Numbers Show Bright Future For Solar Energy

Posted on February 10th, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.

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(www.forbes.com)

Trump promised to create jobs and revive America’s struggling coal industry throughout his campaign. The decline in coal plants and the rise of natural gas and solar power makes that unlikely. New jobs data suggests that the real growth in energy jobs is coming from the sky, not the ground.

The solar power industry now employs twice as many people as coal does, according to the 2017 Employment and Energy report from the Department of Energy. A jobs census by the Solar Foundation calculated that the industry added 73,615 jobs in 2016 -- more jobs than oil, natural gas and coal combined. The foundation itself uses a stricter definition of solar jobs, according to which the industry added 51,000 roles. What's more, solar accounted for two percent of all new jobs created in 2016 and is hiring faster than its competitors.

Solar workers can make respectable wages, too. The median national hourly wage is $45 for sales jobs and $26 for installers, according to the Solar Foundation. Construction workers who pursue training in solar technology can expect to move on to jobs paying $20 or $22 an hour after a year, according to a 2015 report on Maryland solar jobs by the foundation.

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Iran Approves $3 Billion Worth Of Foreign Renewable Energy Investments

Posted on February 10th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.

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(www.cleantechnica.com)

 Iran’s Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian said earlier this week that the Finance Ministry had approved foreign investments in the country’s renewable energy industry worth $3 billion.

“Iran intends to launch a large-scale project to construct renewable energy power plants over the sixth Five-Year Development Plan to generate five thousand megawatts [5 GW] of energy in the country,” explained Hamid Chitchian.

Speaking at the inauguration of a second 7 megawatt (MW) solar plant at the Shahid Mofatteh Power Plant in Hamedan on Saturday, Minister Chitchian added that so far foreign developers had applied to develop up to 1.5 gigawatts (GW) worth of of renewable energy in the country. Minister Chitchian also announced three more 7 MW of solar at Hamedan.

“But today, two 7-megawatt power plants have been launched in Hamedan and the construction of three more have been started,” Chitchian said.

Iran has set itself a target of increasing its renewable energy capacity to 7.5 GW by 2030. Some reports appear to be suggesting that the new announcement of $3 billion in investments is worth 5 GW, however the reports from the Islamic Republic News Agency only says the investments are worth 1.5 GW.

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Stanford engineers create a low-cost battery for storing renewable energy

Posted on February 9th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.

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(www.news.stanford.edu)

A battery made with urea, commonly found in fertilizers and mammal urine, could provide a low-cost way of storing energy produced through solar power or other forms of renewable energy for consumption during off hours.

Developed by Stanford chemistry Professor Hongjie Dai and doctoral candidate Michael Angell, the battery is nonflammable and contains electrodes made from abundant aluminum and graphite. Its electrolyte’s main ingredient, urea, is already industrially produced by the ton for plant fertilizers.

“So essentially, what you have is a battery made with some of the cheapest and most abundant materials you can find on Earth. And it actually has good performance,” said Dai. “Who would have thought you could take graphite, aluminum, urea, and actually make a battery that can cycle for a pretty long time?”

In 2015, Dai’s lab was the first to make a rechargeable aluminum battery. This system charged in less than a minute and lasted thousands of charge-discharge cycles. The lab collaborated with Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) to power a motorbike with this older version, earning Dai’s group and ITRI a 2016 R&D 100 Award. However, that version of the battery had one major drawback: it involved an expensive electrolyte.

The newest version includes a urea-based electrolyte and is about 100 times cheaper than the 2015 model, with higher efficiency and a charging time of 45 minutes. It’s the first time urea has been used in a battery. According to Dai, the cost difference between the two batteries is “like night and day.” The team recently reported its work in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Renewable energy storage

Unlike energy derived from fossil fuels, solar energy can essentially be harnessed only when the sun is shining. A solar panel pumps energy into the electrical grid during daylight hours. If that energy isn’t consumed right away, it is lost as heat. As the demand for renewable technologies grows, so does the need for cheap, efficient batteries to store the energy for release at night. Today’s batteries, like lithium-ion or lead acid batteries, are costly and have limited lifespans.

Dai and Angell’s battery could provide a solution to the grid’s storage problem.

“It’s cheap. It’s efficient. Grid storage is the main goal,” Angell said.

According to Angell, grid storage is also the most realistic goal, because of the battery’s low cost, high efficiency and long cycle life. One kind of efficiency, called Coulombic efficiency, is a measurement of how much charge exits the battery per unit of charge that it takes in during charging. The Coulombic efficiency for this battery is high – 99.7 percent.

Though also efficient, lithium-ion batteries commonly found in small electronics and other devices can be flammable. By contrast, Dai’s urea battery is not flammable and therefore less risky.

“I would feel safe if my backup battery in my house is made of urea with little chance of causing fire,” Dai said.

The group has licensed the battery patents to AB Systems, founded by Dai. A commercial version of the battery is currently in development.

Future directions

To meet the demands of grid storage, a commercial battery will need to last at least ten years. By investigating the chemical processes inside the battery, Angell hopes to extend its lifetime. The outlook is promising. In the lab, these urea-based aluminum ion batteries can go through about 1,500 charge cycles with a 45-minute charging time.

According to Dai, there is plenty of demand for a grid-suitable battery; he receives numerous emails from firms or individuals interested in developing aluminum batteries. And with the battery now in development, its success rests on the interest of companies and consumers.

“With this battery, the dream is for solar energy to be stored in every building and every home,” Dai said. “Maybe it will change everyday life. We don’t know.”

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Carter: Renewable energy can help Trump create jobs

Posted on February 9th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.

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(www.foxnews.com)

Former President Jimmy Carter said Wednesday millions of jobs could be created in the United States if President Donald Trump embraced renewable energy sources such as geothermal, solar and wind power.

Carter, a Democrat who was the first U.S. president to install solar panels at the White House, said he hoped the Republican Trump would give it "deep consideration."

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"Sometimes there's a philosophical objection to this by some — I'll say right-wing Republicans — but he has a high priority of job creation," Carter said in an interview with The Associated Press. "If they just remember the tremendous potential of creating millions of jobs in America just from renewable energy sources, that would be a very good counter-argument to those who oppose the concept of global warming being caused by human activity."

Trump has sent mixed signals on whether he will try to slow Earth's warming temperatures and rising sea levels. During the transition, Trump met with prominent climate activists Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio, but he has also appointed oil industry champions who want to reverse President Barack Obama's efforts to rein in emissions.

The vast majority of peer-reviewed studies and climate scientists agree the planet is warming, mostly due to man-made sources. Under Obama, the U.S. dramatically ramped up production of renewable energy from sources such as solar, in part through Energy Department grants.

Carter, a former peanut farmer from southwest Georgia, on Wednesday celebrated the installation of solar panels on 10 acres of farmland he owns in Plains, where he and former first lady Rosalynn Carter grew up and still have a home.

Carter, who is 92, leased the land to Atlanta-based SolAmerica Energy, which owns, operates, and sells power generated from solar cells. The company estimates the project will provide more than half of the power needed in the town of 755 people.

"It shows what a small town can do, what one farmer can do," said Carter. "It's also a very good source of income for farmers who can get as much as $500 per acre per year by allocating some of their land to solar panels."

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Renewable Energy Continues to Beat Fossil Fuels

Posted on February 9th, 2017 in environment by Spencer R.

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(www.time.com)

 Clean energy grew at a record pace as the United States added 22GW of capacity — the equivalent of 11 Hoover Dams — to the grid from renewable sources last year, significantly trumping new fossil fuel additions, according to a new report.

The report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) cites the declining cost of wind and solar power, largely due to advances in technology, as prime reasons for the rapid adoption of renewables. The cost of building large utility-scale solar photovoltaic power plants for example has been fallen by 50% in just five years.

Renewable energy companies have also benefited from the quick decline in coal power that has resulted from a combination of factors including stiff competition from cheap natural gas and environmental regulation. Coal-fired power plants now provide only 30% of the country's electricity compared with nearly half of the supply in 2008.

"The contributions of sustainable energy to the country’s economic competitiveness are direct, dramatic and dynamic,” says Lisa Jacobson,

president of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, a non-profit that promotes market solutions to environmental issues, in a press release.

Cheap natural gas prices and increased use of low-cost renewables has ultimately benefited consumers, according to the report. Electricity costs have fallen more than 2% in real terms between 2015 and 2016 and American consumers spent less than 4% of their household spending on energy for the first time ever.

Climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions declined to their lowest level in a quarter century even as the economy continued to grow, according to the report. The finding is the latest evidence answering the question policymakers long-debated about whether economic growth can be decoupled from carbon dioxide emissions.

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UC Riverside Conference to Focus on Solar Energy

Posted on February 8th, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.

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(www.ucrtoday.ucr.edu)

California leads the nation in solar energy, with more than 580,000 projects and 4,500 megawatts installed statewide. To achieve even higher penetration, researchers, the solar industry, and government leaders are turning their attention to new technologies that will improve the performance of solar energy projects and lower their costs.

The latest breakthroughs and how they can be leveraged in the Inland Empire will be discussed at UC Riverside’s third annual solar conference, “Solar Energy Directions for Inland Southern California: Where is it Going?,” which is set for 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 23 at the Bourns Technology Center, 1200 Columbia Ave., Riverside, 92507. The conference is designed for government leaders, planners, council members, businesses, utilities, and the general public. The cost is $85 for non-students, $40 for non-UCR students, and $25 for UCR students. Those planning to attend should complete the online registration form.

Andrew McAllister, commissioner of the California Energy Commission, and V. John White, executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, will be among the speakers. Panel sessions throughout the day will explore challenges and opportunities for incorporating solar energy, including how the marketplace works, local policies, and the latest breakthroughs. This year, the conference will have a panel dedicated to solar-related research being done at the University of California. A full agenda is available online.

UCR’s Alfredo Martinez-Morales, managing director of the Southern California Research Initiative for Solar Energy (SC-RISE) and one of the conference organizers, said the event will highlight some of the most successful initiatives already in place, with a look to further increasing solar energy generation across Southern California.

“As the interest in solar energy continues to grow, this conference is a resource that can help government agencies, utility companies, end-users, and the technology community make the right decisions about how to apply solar power economically and efficiently,” Martinez-Morales said.

This event is hosted by UCR’s College of Engineering-Center for Environmental Research & Technology(CE-CERT), the UCR School of Public Policy’s Center for Sustainable Suburban Development, andSouthern California Research Initiative for Solar Energy, and co-sponsored by SolarMax Technology, Inc., SunPower, Riverside Public Utilities, Western Riverside Council of Governments, City of Corona, and First Solar.

 

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Women’s mosque goes solar in India clean energy push

Posted on February 8th, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.

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(www.climatechangenews.com)

Set up 20 years ago in a remote corner of Lucknow, Ambar Mosque is known for promoting women’s rights and putting up visitors to a nearby hospital.

Now the female-led faith centre – where women pray alongside men – is installing solar panels to set an example of clean energy in Uttar Pradesh, a state lagging behind its targets.

At 1kW, the system generates a fraction the electricity of the coal plants that dominate India’s power mix. But it is expected to meet three quarters of the mosque’s modest lighting and cooling needs – and its founder hopes to inspire others.

“Over the last few years, air quality in the city has become worse while rural areas of Uttar Pradesh have been suffering frequent power cuts,” said Shaista Ambar.

“We must all do our bit… If everyone starts using solar energy then Lucknow’s air quality will start to improve as well as reduce power cuts.”

Narendra Modi’s government aims to install 100GW of solar panels across India by 2022, to light up more homes and reduce reliance on polluting coal.

The technology can increasingly compete on cost with new coal plants, albeit on a smaller scale, where the policy, network and financing conditions are right.

But policy from Delhi is unevenly applied at state level, Arjun Srihari, head of marketing for solar company 8minutes told Climate Home: “Effective policy implementation is a major, major stumbling block.”

Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, is only 13% of the way to an interim goal of 1.8GW solar capacity by March 2017, according to analysis firm Equatorials.

Energy access tops the list of concerns for UP voters, with 38% experiencing daily power cuts, a poll this month by FourthLion shows. The same survey found 87% were willing to use energy from the sun if it would curb air pollution.

Lack of information is another barrier to take-up. 8minutes gifted the 79,000 rupees (US$1,200) solar package to Ambar Mosque in a bid to spread awareness.

“We are trying to incentivise people to switch to solar and we wanted to use this case as a model for the community,” said Srihari.

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UPS to spend $18 million on solar panels

Posted on February 8th, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.

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(www.dcvelocity.com)

Global parcel delivery giant UPS Inc. will spend $18 million on solar energy panels, allowing each building in the initiative to produce half of its daily energy requirement from the sun, the company said Tuesday.

Atlanta-based UPS currently collects power from panels mounted on its buildings in Palm Springs, Calif., and in Lakewood, Parsippany, and Secaucus, N.J. The company will now purchase more than 26,000 additional solar panels, leading to a nearly fivefold increase in the amount of power generated from solar at UPS facilities today.

The initiative will expand UPS' total solar power generating capacity by almost 10 megawatts—enough electricity to power 1,200 homes annually, and enough to offset 8,200 metric tons per year of carbon emissions produced through electricity generated at fossil fuel-powered plants.

The company also said it would roll out additional solar deployments over the next several years as it identifies the most efficient sites among the 2,580 facilities it operates worldwide.

"Solar technology is a proven way to effectively and efficiently provide long-term power to our facilities," Bill Moir, director of facilities procurement at UPS, said in a release. "We have a significant number of facilities that are well positioned to deploy solar at scale and increase our sustainable energy options for our buildings and electric vehicles."

 

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Solar Panels to Help Cornell Achieve 2035 Carbon Neutrality Goal

Posted on February 7th, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.

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(www.cornellsun.com)

 Solar energy now powers seven percent of Cornell’s energy consumption due to the addition of three new solar panel plants in December, according to Cornell’s Campus Sustainability Office.

Sarah Brylinsky, sustainability communications and integration manager at the Campus Sustainability Office, said that this solar energy change puts Cornell on track to achieve its carbon neutral campus initiative by 2035.

“Wind and solar power technology is currently available to meet the goal,” said Sarah Zemanick, director of the Campus Sustainability Office. “They are competitive financially with fossil fuel power sources, but upfront investments in both energy supply projects and grid modernization are required to create and move the new renewable energy needed.”

When asked what obstacles Sustainable Cornell might face, Zemanick said that progress could be impeded as the University transitions from old to new energy systems.

“Cornell University embraces the challenges of innovation,” she said. “There will be challenges with transitioning from our current energy systems to new ways of producing, operating and managing, but as a University we are uniquely positioned to use these challenges as educational and research opportunities, and share our progress and successes with the world.”

“Cornell Big Red Bikes will re-launch this spring, providing a bike sharing opportunity for students as well as faculty and staff,” she said.
Zemanick also expressed enthusiasm for a “Recyclemania” Steering Committee, which had its kickoff event at the Cornell basketball game against Yale Saturday.

“Last year, Cornell was the nationwide winner afor the Green Game competition, and we hope to beat rivals Princeton, Harvard and others in the total waste reduction this year,” she said.

In order to achieve a sustainable shift the University needs to foster support from the entire Cornell community, according to Brylinsky.

“Our bold ideas and willingness to embrace the challenge will bring us together as a community, and allow us to explore courageous ways of creating a future that is good for the planet, our long-term prosperity and all people,” she said. “Each small step — reducing paper use in one office, or introducing local foods at an event series — displays the power of a community to come together and create real change.”

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China is now the world’s largest solar power producer

Posted on February 7th, 2017 in solar by Spencer R.

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(www.digitaltrends.com)

Not only is it the world’s most populous country, it’s now also the world’s biggest producer of solar energy. On Saturday, the National Energy Administration (NEA) noted that the nation officially claimed the title after doubling its installed photovoltaic (PV) capacity last year. By the end of 2016, China’s capacity hit 77.42 gigawatts, and while this is great in terms of raw numbers, it’s a lot less impressive relative to the country’s massive population.

 

As it stands, solar energy represents only one percent of the country’s energy output. But this may soon change as China devotes more and more of its attention towards clean energy. The NEA says that China will seek to add more than 110 gigawatts within the next three years, which could help the nation up the proportion of its renewable energy use to 20 percent by 2030. Today, it stands at 11 percent.

 

 

China’s geography certainly lends itself to large solar energy farms. Last year, Shandong, Xinjiang, and Henan provinces enjoyed the greatest increase in their solar capacity, whereas Xinjiang, Gansu, Qinghai, and Inner Mongolia ended up with the most overall capacity at the end of 2016.

Weaning itself off of fossil fuels will require quite a hefty investment; one that China appears ready to make. As per a Reuters report, the nation will be pouring some 2.5 trillion yuan ($364 billion) into renewable power generation by the end of the decade.

 

This dedication to environmentally friendly energy sources could put pressure on other nations around the world to do the same. Already, Ireland has passed a bill that would make it the first country to divest from fossil fuels. And some countries are finding increasingly creative ways of moving away from fossil fuels — Iceland, for example, is drilling the world’s largest well for geothermal energy.

 

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