– Re-charge your batteries with solar charging trees

The “Sun Mobility” project is an initiative by Møller Mobility Group to make Oslo city cleaner and greener in the lead up to Oslo being Europe’s Green Capital in 2019.

The Sun Tree is a social meeting place where you can charge anything from mobile phones and computers to electric grills, guitar amps or food truck equipment – all powered by the sun. Each solar tree can charge 1500 mobile phones per day. The solar trees show how effective solar energy is, even in the Nordic climate, contributing to meet the increased demand from Oslo citizens towards environmentally friendly, alternative mobility solutions in the city.

The project is driven by a new way of thinking around urban life and mobility, and exemplifies a greener, emission-free and sharing-based mobility.

Source: Solar Power Europe

– New residential solar panels deliver record-breaking efficiency

Solar Panels Insolight
Credit: Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

The solar panels developed by startup Insolight boast an impressive 29 percent yield – a record for the retail market. These systems, which have now been standardized for mass production, contain lenses that focus sunlight on tiny high-yield photovoltaic cells, employing what is a pioneering approach for the solar-power industry.

All rooftop solar panels look pretty much the same from the outside: same size, same thickness and even the same installation system. But on the inside, the solar panels developed by EPFL spin-off Insolight stand apart. They deliver yields of 29 percent – nearly twice as much as the others currently on the market (which have yields of 17–19 percent ). Insolight’s panels, which were recently tested by an independent lab, use a patented optical system that concentrates sunlight on a kind of miniature photovoltaic cell normally used in satellites

Boosting efficiency while keeping a lid on costs

Studies have shown that the average yield on commercial solar panels has increased by just 3.5 percentage points since the 2000s and seemed to be reaching a plateau. But Insolight’s three founders – Mathieu Ackermann, Laurent Coulot and Florian Gerlich – wanted to push yields further and decided to try something radically different: build residential solar panels that employ the same kinds of cells used in satellites, which are very efficient but also very expensive. To keep costs down for the retail market, they developed a protective glass on which optical lenses can be placed that concentrate sunlight by some 100x and direct it to the tiny surface of the high-performance cells. That means the cells need to take up less than 0.5 percent of the solar panel surface. The founders also designed a mechanism that can move the cells horizontally by a few millimeters each way in order to follow sunlight throughout the day.

Because the cells occupy just a tiny fraction of the solar panel surface, Insolight’s system can even be installed on top of conventional solar panels to boost their yields. “This hybrid approach is particularly effective when it’s cloudy and the sunlight is less concentrated, since it can keep generating power even under diffuse light rays,” says Ackermann, Insolight’s CTO.

The ultra-thin system has the same look and shape as regular rooftop panels and can be installed in the same way. “The real challenge for the retail market is to increase yields without pushing costs too high, while keeping the equipment both robust and easy to install,” says Coulot, the firm’s CEO.

Insolight’s technology first set a record in lab tests two years ago, when it achieved a yield of 36 percent. The system has since been standardized for mass production with a 29 percent yield – far ahead of competitors’ 17–19 percent yield – as confirmed in tests by the Institute of Solar Energy at the Technical University of Madrid (IES-UPM).

The system was also tested for a full year on rooftops at an EPFL pilot site. “Our panels were hooked up to the grid and monitored continually. They kept working without a hitch through heat waves, storms and winter weather,” says Ackermann proudly.

Insolight Photovoltaic System
Credit: Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

Cutting energy bills by 30 percent

According to the founders, Insolight’s solar panels offer a better return on investment than competing solutions. “Our technology can cut household energy bills by up to 30 percent in sunny regions,” says Coulot. This calculation – performed according to standard industry practice – factors in the panels’ cost, useful life and yield, as well as local power costs, weather conditions, borrowing costs, and maintenance and cleaning costs.

The firm’s three founders met at EPFL and established their company at the school’s Innovation Park. Today they are in talks with several solar panel manufacturers to license their technology. “Making our panels entails a few additional steps during the assembly stage. These steps could be tacked on to the end of standard production processes,” says Coulot. The company plans to launch its first product on the market in 2022.

Source: Tech Xplore

– NDP government gets ready to announce electricity rate increases

B.C.’s private power vision shows up as big charge to hydro bills

NDP tracks B.C. Liberal donations while long-term contracts signed

Construction camp for Toba Inlet run-of-river power project
Construction camp for Toba Inlet run-of-river power project – 2009
Tom Fletcher/Black Press

Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell’s rush into private electricity projects has turned into a high-voltage political battle over their long-term impact on B.C. Hydro rates.

As the NDP government gets ready to announce electricity rate increases to cover the $10 billion Site C dam and $5.5 billion in deferred debt from utility operations that kept rates artificially low during the B.C. Liberal years, it has issued a new report on the impact of run-of-river and other private power deals that Campbell’s government launched in 2002.

Published on February 14, 2019, by Vancouver Sun

Those contracts with mainly run-of-river hydro, wind and biomass power producers, are expected to cost the utility $16 billion over the next 20 years, according to a new report commissioned by the government from former B.C. Treasury Board director Ken Davidson. Entitled “Zapped,” the report calculates the extent of what the opposition NDP said at the time, that B.C. Hydro was paying over market price for intermittent power that is generated mostly in spring when B.C.’s large dams are at full capacity.

Related: NDP’s Horgan reluctantly proceeds with Site C dam completion

Ralated: Power producers plead their case

Campbell’s 2002 B.C. Energy Plan set the direction, ordering B.C. Hydro to expand its electricity supply through long-term purchase contracts with private suppliers. The plan also required the utility to become self-sufficient in energy, rather than buying surplus power on the North American grid that may be from fossil fuel sources.

As Energy Minister Michelle Mungall prepared to release results of the NDP government’s review of B.C. Hydro performance Thursday, the political battle began with the NDP adding up $3 million in campaign donations collected by the B.C. Liberals from private power producers as their business boomed in B.C.

Campbell’s vision of B.C. as a climate change leader and clean energy exporter to California to replace fossil fuel sources was soon undone by technology and global events.

“Market prices for natural gas, and hence for electricity, remained strong until 2008,” Davidson’s report says. “The financial crash of 2008 reduced demand and prices. Unfortunately, this crash was timed with a major development in the oil and gas industry, which wasn’t fully appreciated until large amounts of new gas appeared in the market: shale gas and oil and hydraulic fracturing.”

B.C.’s private power contracts included biofuel cogeneration at sawmills and pulp mills, wind energy in the Peace region and the biggest player, run-of-river hydro. One of the largest-scale projects was by Plutonic Power on the Homathco River at Toba Inlet on the B.C. coast.

A second, larger phase with multiple river sites at Bute Inlet was cancelled as California and other major energy markets embraced gas-fired power.

Source: Columbia Valley Pioneer

– Salmon Arm to investigate solar power potential of 3 city buildings

Salmon Arm Art Gallery, city hall and downtown fire hall to be focus of study

Three city buildings will be scrutinized with solar power in mind.

City council has agreed to hire a consultant to look into the feasibility of installing a solar photovoltaic system at the arts centre, city hall and fire hall #3 on Ross Street.

The aim will be to evaluate and then select one of the three buildings to be equipped with solar power.

Coun. Tim Lavery, who’s been leading the initiative, said the idea all along has been to have a pilot project to reflect the energy usage and requirements of average residents.

The first stage of the project would be funded to a maximum of $5,000 from the city’s climate action reserve.

Lavery said while it can takes 12 to 13 years for a system to pay for itself, they can last 20 to 25 years.

Related: Harnessing sun in Shuswap

Coun. Syliva Lindgren says she’s excited as the project opens up a lot of possibilities.

“I’ve attended a couple of meetings of the solar society,” she said, noting there’s good evidence this is a worthwhile project.

Coun. Debbie Cannon said she supports the plan and has wanted to see this happen for a long time.

Mayor Alan Harrison thanked Lavery for his leadership.

Related: City warms to solar power

A Dec. 2018 report to council from Carl Bannister, the city’s chief administrative officer, on the feasibility of installing green technology on a city-owned facility, included cautions about the financial costs of green technology.

“While the pursuit of green technology is important and shows leadership by Council, the economic benefits are often speculative at best. Take, for example, the Geothermal system at City Hall. While this is a sustainable and more environmentally friendly method than utilizing conventional heating sources, the operating and maintenance costs routinely outweigh any energy savings,” he wrote.

Source: Salmon Arm Observer

– Solar Panel costs going up in China

Solar fans got some bad news last week when one of China’s leading solar panel manufacturers dropped word solar that rock-bottom prices for panels made in China will soon be a thing of the past. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean a win for fossil fuel stakeholders.

Solar power CSP Dubai

Solar Panel Costs Going Up In China

Our friends over at Reuters got the scoop on the Chinese PV price hike last week during the World Economic Forum in Davos.

More accurately, it’s a rebound. Prices in China collapsed by 30% last year when policy makers cut support for the country’s solar industry, leading manufacturers to scramble for cash by ditching inventory at rock bottom prices. Now prices have stabilized and are expected to drift upwards again.

Reuters cites the president of one of China’s top 10 solar panel manufacturers, Eric Luo, who memorably said, “The party is definitely over.” Luo expects prices to climb 10 to 15% this year.

That could have a significant impact here in the US, which is a major market for Luo’s company, GCL System Integration Technology Co.

Adding to the pain is President* Trump’s PV tariff, which went into effect last year, though the pain wasn’t nearly as bad as some expected. State-level renewable energy policies are still the determining factor for solar adoption in the US.

Concentrating Solar Power Costs going down in the US

It’s too early to tell if prices for Chinese solar panels will go up as much as 15% this year. Even if there is an uptick in costs, continued demand for more renewables by local governments and businesses will most likely continue to drive the US market.

Another thing to keep in mind is that solar panels are only one part of the PV market. Concentrating solar power is another element. CSP systems don’t use solar panels. They use specialized mirrors called heliostats to collect solar energy.

One recent development on that score involves the California-based CSP company SolarReserve. The company broke a cost record for CSP in 2017 and it has partnered with the Department of Energy on R&D efforts for the past ten years..

Last fall the company received another DOE award of $2 million to continue work on a next-generation heliostat system that is anticipated to make “substantial progress” in raising efficiency and lowering costs.

Among other projects, SolarReserve is currently laying plans for a 2-gigawatt CSP system in Nevada.

Plot Thickens Around Thin Film

Another rapidly moving development involves thin film solar technology, which was not affected by the Trump tariff. The US thin film market has been picking up. Just last last fall the company First Solar announced plans for a new factory in Ohio to produce its Series 6 thin film technology.

Thin film is not as efficient at solar conversion compared to conventional silicon-based PV panels, but its low cost, light weight, and range of applications make up the difference (check out this thin film market study published in the journal Nature last November, which advocates for thin film base on its high power-to-weight ratio).

Building integrated solar is another part of the market that will not be affected by rising prices for conventional solar panels from China. Building integrated solar refers to PV coatings and other solar technology integrated into roofing materials, walls, and windows.

Solar roofing shingles have been talked up for a while now because they cling attractively to the roofline, unlike conventional solar panels. Not much happened in that area until late last year, when the PV shingle dream finally turned into action. The company RGS Energy (aka Real Good Solar) announced that is picking up Dow’s PV shingle venture, giving Elon Musk’s solar shingles a run for the money.

PV windows are another area in which research has been progressing for several years without a mass market breakthrough. If you have any guesses for when that might happen, drop us a note in the comment thread.

PV-embedded textiles represent another area of application for buildings (think curtains and window shades), as well as tents and other structures.

Circling back around to conventional solar panels on buildings, exterior walls are another application ripe for growth.

Shorter version: China or not — and Trump or not — solar will continue to grow. The real issue is the pace of growth.

Considering the urgency of climate action, it is a national disgrace that the Commander-in-Chief continues to promote fossil fuels and put roadblocks in the way of renewable energy development — though it is certainly not shocking, considering Trump’s track record on any number of other issues.

Nevertheless, Trump’s energy policy amounts to nothing more than a massive game of whack-a-mole, and the moles are winning.

Profit from your roof space: find local deals on solar in your area, eliminate your power bill, and join the solar revolution.

Source: Clean Technica

– Fort Chipewyan: Building Canada’s biggest remote solar project

Pembina Institute reacts to the Government of Alberta’s $3.3m grant to reduce Fort Chipewyan’s reliance on imported diesel for electric power.

Solar Panels Fort Chipewyan
Photo: Lee Todd, Pembina Institute

CALGARY – DAVE LOVEKIN, Director, Renewables in Remote Communities at the Pembina Institute, made the following statement in response to the Government of Alberta’s announcement supporting Fort Chipewyan’s solar photovoltaic and battery hybrid micro-grid system:

“The Pembina Institute is extremely pleased to see the community of Fort Chipewyan make a strong entry into the renewable energy sector with a collaborative solar energy project that will reduce dependence on diesel for electricity. This is a bright day for Alberta, and specifically Fort Chipewyan. The Pembina Institute applauds the progress being made in the province, on this and other initiatives supporting a transition away from diesel reliance in remote communities.

“This project is another strong example of the tectonic shift happening in remote Indigenous communities. These clean energy opportunities not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions and negative environment impacts, but are also a source of pride for community members and a source of revenue for the community.

“When completed in 2020, the new hybrid microgrid system will be the largest solar PV system in a remote Canadian community, and the project is expected to supply a total of 25 per cent of the community’s power, and reduce total annual diesel consumption by 800,000 litres per year.

The municipality of Fort Chipewyan is home to three Indigenous Nations that have come together to create Three Nation Energy LP, which will partner with the local power provider to develop and build the project

This partnership is a very positive step in creating opportunities for Indigenous communities to play a leadership role in their energy futures. Through this collaboration, all three Nations will benefit from the revenue this renewable project will produce, while also lessening the environmental impacts to land, air and water from diesel reliance.”

Quick facts

  • This announcement is Phase 2 of a larger solar power initiative in the community of Fort Chipewyan. Phase 1 comprised a smaller 400 kW solar PV project lead by ATCO Electric that will reduce diesel fuel consumption by 150,000 litres per year.
  • Through its Climate Leadership Plan and the Alberta Indigenous Climate Leadership Program, the Government of Alberta is investing $3.3 million for Phase 2, to develop a 2.2 megawatt solar PV and a 1.5 megawatt-hour battery storage system in the northeastern Alberta community.
  • The 2.2 MW solar PV will consist of 6,000 solar panels – in addition to the 1,500 for Phase 1 – located in the community of Fort Chipewyan, which will connect to ATCO Electric’s micro-grid.
  • The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN), Métis Local 125 (Métis), and the Mikisew Cree First Nation (MCFN) have come together to create Three Nation Energy LP, which will develop, build and co-own the new system with local power provider ATCO Electric.
  • There are seven isolated communities in northern Alberta; through other Government of Alberta’s initiatives, there are plans for several to be connected to the provincial grid while others are also being equipped with solar PV and battery systems.
  • Phase 2 of the project is expected to generate approximately 2,300 MWh of electricity per year, enough to power the equivalent of 350 homes, which equates to approximately 70 per cent of the residential building stock in the community.

Source: Pembina Institute

– New approach for a fast estimation of solar energy potential

TU Delft researchers have developed a new approach for calculating fast and accurate the solar energy potential of surfaces in the urban environment. The new approach can significantly help architects and urban planners to incorporate photovoltaic (solar power) technology in their designs. The findings were presented on Monday 4 February in Nature Energy.

3D model by Boston Planning & Development Agency

The work carried out at the PVMD group can be used to calculate the solar photovoltaic energy potential of buildings in complex urban landscapes. The image shows results of the model applied to selected facades and roofs of buildings in the city of Boston, Mass. Roofs are painted with brighter colors than facades which indicates a higher energy potential. Base 3D model by Boston Planning & Development Agency is licensed under CC BY 3.0.
Credit: Boston Planning & Development Agency

Buildings, trees and other structures in urban areas cause shading of solar modules, which strongly affects the performance of a PV system. Accurate assessment of this performance, and the related price/performance of PV systems, will facilitate their integration in the urban environment.

Several tools are available for simulating the energy yield of PV systems. These tools are based on mathematical models that determine the irradiance incident on solar modules. By repeating the calculation of the incident irradiance throughout the year, the tools deliver an annual irradiation received by the modules. However, it is not easy to determine accurately how much electricity a PV system generates in an urban environment. Current simulations become computationally highly demanding, as the dynamic shading of surrounding objects caused by the annual movement of the sun has to be taken into account.

Two parameters

A new approach simplifies the calculation and enables the user to carry out a quick assessment of the solar energy potential for large urban areas whilst keeping high accuracy. It is based on a correlation between a skyline profile and the annual irradiation received at a particular urban spot. This method is explained and validated in a study published in Nature Energy journal. The study demonstrates that the total annual solar irradiation received by a selected surface in an urban environment can be quantified using two parameters that are derived from the skyline profile: the sky view factor and the sun coverage factor. While the first parameter is used to estimate the irradiation from the diffuse sunlight component, the second one is indicative for the irradiation from the direct sunlight component. These two parameters can be easily and quickly obtained from the skyline profile. The study shows that the use of these two parameters significantly reduces the computational complexity of the problem.

Software toolbox

Andrés Calcabrini, PhD student in the department of Electrical Sustainable Energy, developed the new approach under supervision of Dr Olindo Isabella and Professor Miro Zeman. The Photovoltaic Materials and Devices (PVMD) group has already integrated the approach in a software toolbox that can accurately calculate the energy yield of PV systems at any location. Olindo Isabella, head of the PVMD group: “Our fast approach integrated in software tools for calculating the solar energy potential can significantly facilitate design and distribution of buildings with integrated PV systems in urban planning frameworks. It will also help investors to take decisions on integrating PV systems in buildings and other urban locations.”

This research has been carried out as a part of the Solar Urban program of Delft University of Technology.

Source: Science Daily