Solar Energy in Seville

Solar Seville

Solar SevilleSeville, Spain is hosting the first commercial operation of solar tower technology, which features more than 1,000 freestanding heliostat mirrors, following the arc of the sun. In a process referred to as Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), the mirrors reflect solar rays to the tower, where water is boiled, and steam generated in order to drive a turbine, that produces electricity. The electricity is then sold to the national grid.

To make this happen, Spain’s government has provided incentives and subsidies supporting the solar industry. The upfront investment is enormous, and most of the money goes into building the plant. The investor community tends to see solar plants as high risk. After the economics of scale are achieved, solar power is one of the cheapest sources of energy. The report also makes the argument that it is quite difficult to detect the value of solar power currently.

When conventional sources of electricity are subsidized, it succeeds at artificially making them appear cheap. The magazine GOOD reported that “concentrated solar power…will be a core element of the transition from dirty coal to clean energy.

Gus Schellekens of PricewaterhouseCoopers said:

“Solar has a huge role it can play, the fact that it’s an endless supply of energy…the one thing that’s needed to unlock much of that is the political leadership and will.”

The Jobs Project

A group devoted to creating alternative energy jobs in Central Appalachia, The Jobs Project is building a set of rooftop solar panels, assembled by unemployed coal miners and contractors. The 40- by 15-foot solar array is to be set on top of a doctor’s office.

Nick Getzen, spokesman for The Jobs Project said:

“This is the first sign for a lot of folks that this is real, and that it’s real technology, and they can have it in their communities…In no way are we against coal or trying to replace coal. There’s still going to be coal mining here. This is just something else to help the economy.”

The Jobs Project merged last year with Mountain View Solar & Wind of Berkeley Springs, a solar energy company from the Eastern Panhandle, with the objective to develop a privately bankrolled job-training program. The 12 employed trainees are earning $45 per hour for three days of work, and some local laborers are earning $10 an hour for helping out.

Mountain View owner Mike McKechnie said:

“We are not funded by any state organization. We’re doing this as a business because we want to grow the solar infrastructure and industry…We’re West Virginians, and we think it’s important. There’s a need here that’s not being met…This training model we’re unleashing in Williamson is something we’ve proven…It’s not a pilot project. It’s something we’ve shown works…What we’re doing is giving them a crash course. They get an introduction, and if they want to continue, then that’s who we’ll call in the future…”

If they enjoy the work, they are to follow up with additional training in the Eastern Panhandle “to get them to a certain caliber, and then they’ll continue their training as we start to do work down there…We’re hoping they will go out on their own and find some sales leads and close those sales. We want to develop the entrepreneurial spirit so eventually they can go out on their own…The public wants it and they can’t find it…”

He continued:

“We’re impressed with the focused enthusiasm and boldness of Mountain View Solar and Wind, and its partnership with The Jobs Project to spread the economic activity and financial savings of solar, and we want to do whatever we can to support and enhance the effort…”

Just Another Solar Powered President

Last month, the White House snubbed a proposal by activists to reinstall one of former President Carter’s solar panels atop the executive mansion.

This was not, however, a snub of solar energy, altogether.

Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Nancy Sutley, and energy secretary, Steven Chu will unveil plans to put photovoltaic solar collectors and a solar hot water heater atop 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Secretary Chu said in a statement:

Solar Whitehouse

“This project reflects President Obama’s strong commitment to U.S. leadership in solar energy and the jobs it will create here at home…Deploying solar energy technologies across the country will help America lead the global economy for years to come.”

President Carter’s solar array was dismantled in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan; but the first President Bush installed a modest solar-charged system to power a maintenance building and heat the White House swimming pool.

The solar power industry applauded the White House action as a sign of its commitment to renewable energy.

“As we enter the second decade of the 21st century experiencing a horrific oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a devastating natural gas explosion in California, death of 25 West Virginia coal miners, kidnapped uranium miners in Niger — it’s about time for the United States to reposition itself as a global leader in solar and the entire portfolio renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies critical to our economic and national security.”

Explained Scott Sklar, president of the Stella Group, which promotes renewable power generation.

He continued:

“This project reflects President Obama’s strong commitment to U.S. leadership in solar energy and the jobs it will create here at home…Deploying solar energy technologies across the country will help America lead the global economy for years to come.”

The President’s move, indeed, is a step in the right direction; but he has not by any means one-upped his predecessors. He is no more innovative than Carter or Bush, and therefore he is not actually doing anything for the green revolution. Cap and Trade is an unfulfilled dream – an idea in vain, perhaps. And oil and coal prices have not been raised in order to make room for the alternative energy industry, like electric cars, for example. Coal power still accounts for about half of the country’s electricity; and we continue to increase our fossil fuel supply by engaging in offshore drilling.

Israel Defense Forces Set an Impressive Ecological Example

According to the blog, TheCoolJew:

“The IDF announced today the implementation of its new plan, “IDF Protects the Environment“, to the sum of one billion NIS, in which it will mend past damages and prevent future harm to Israel’s natural landscapes. The initial phase of the plan was marked by the opening of the IDF’s first “green base”, the newly-renovated Officer Instruction School.”

The plan was kicked off with a ceremony featuring attendance by Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, Commander of the Ground Forces, Maj. Gen. Shlomo (Sami) Turjeman, Head of the Technology and Logistics Branch, Maj. Gen. Dan Biton, and Commander of the Officer Instruction Base and Col. Yehuda Fox.

During the event, Chief of General Staff, Ashkenazi unveiled the “Solar Farm Project”, which includes 400 solar panels expected to save up to 90,000 liters of solar fuel per year.

The new facilities at the renovated Officer Instructor School were constructed in order to conserve water and electricity. They include: volume-calculating systems (that save up to 25-35% of electricity), T5 fluorescent bulbs (that save up to 30% of electricity) and rationing water faucets (saving up to 20-50% of water).

“The change in perspective which the IDF is currently undergoing,” reads the IDF blog, “particularly within the Officer Instruction School, is part of the ongoing training process of the future generation of officers.”

Jeans and Solar Cells

Brilliant Cornell University Researchers say that they have found a solution to creating yet more proficient solar cells. Well, as it turns out, particular molecules found in blue jeans and some other ink dyes may be used in a process for assembling a structure called “covalent organic framework” or COF, which help to make cheaper, flexible solar cells.

While organic materials have failed to prove ease of use in the creation of solar cells, the researchers are finding that these molecules found in every-day materials might be just what we needed.

The process makes use of phthalocyanines – common industrial dyes similar in structure to chlorophyll. It can absorb the entire solar spectrum, and is therefore ideal for maxium solar cell efficiency.
By using this molecule and a new process, the researchers have come up with something special.

According to Life Sciences:

“The strategy uses a simple acid catalyst and relatively stable molecules called protected catechols to assemble key organic molecules into a neatly ordered two-dimensional sheet. These sheets stack on top of one another to form a lattice that provides pathways for charge to move through the material.”

So, not only is it easy to build, but the structures may be taken apart and re-made to correct any errors. Thus far, the research has yielded but a structure for a solar cell, that is, not an actual solar cell. But the researchers hope that it is a model which can be used in manufacturing more effecual solar cells in the near future.

The Green Light is on Beer

We are on the heels of the hot sunny summer season – and what with global warming, things are only going to be getting hotter. Let’s face it, you’re going to want something cold to drink – and if you’re anything like me, you’ll go for a beer.

Since environmentalists love The Ancient Brew of Hops, in our environmentally aware time we’ve witnessed a boom in green, organic spirits, sustainable and renewable energy-powered breweries.

There’s a lot that you can do to be a green drinker: you can support sustainable and even solar powered breweries, you can drink strictly organic, pesticide-free beers. And by God steer clear of excessive packaging in cans and bottles.

Luckily, organic beer is a growing force in the booze industry. If a beer bears an organic label, that means that it has been certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It adheres to strict, legally binding farming regulations. It means that you can expect the barley and hops to be organically grown: no toxic pesticides, no chemical preservatives and no artificial fertilizers. Drinking and buying organic is also a nice way to support more sustainable agriculture, and even to contest global warming.

Look out for beer companies that are going the distance to achieve environmental responsibility. For instance, Sierra Nevada, powers its brewery with solar power, while Anderson Brewery in Chico, could well be the first truly 100% sustainable brewery. Or check out Cascade Green, an Antipodean beer company that offsets its emissions by 100%. Plus they’re delicious beers.

Bottoms up.

Solarex to Downsize Its Maryland Operations

solar panels

solar panelsSolarex was once a solar energy firm which opened shop in Frederick, Maryland in the 70’s. It was very much a pioneer company and far ahead of its time. Its high visibility plant located next to an interstate highway leading to and from Washington, DC, was partially powered by solar electric energy.

Today, what used to be Solarex is now part of the BP Solar chain of solar production facilities found scattered around the planet. Today, Solarex is beginning to fade into the sun.

BP Solar announced it has ceased silicon casting, wafering, and cell manufacturing at the facility. It has laid off approximately 320 out of 430 positions at the site. Research, sales and marketing personnel will for now remain in Frederick.

The company has been on a solar cost-cutting mission since the beginning of 2009. It cannot compete with high cost solar products in a world where solar prices have dropped between 40 and 50% since the beginning of the global financial crisis about two years ago.

Photovoltaic technology just might have advanced beyond BP’s silicon-based photovoltaic products. This tried and true technology, versions of which BP made in Frederick, are the most effective in terms of conserving energy. But if cost is a larger issue than efficiency, thin film solar, using other technologies such as Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) and Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS) seem to be the new way to go for large scale projects in the megawatt-plus scale, utility grade Reyad Fezzani, CEO of BP Solar had this to say:

“The global solar market is expected to reach 12 GW in 2012 with the US growing to nearly 3 GW, and we are scaling up our supply chain to serve this rapid growth here in the US, in the European, and Asian markets…The company is bringing its worldwide experience gained over 37 years as a solar product supplier and developer to both develop larger scale projects ranging from 1-300 MW in size and supply distribution partners serving residential and smaller commercial segments.”

In 2009 BP Solar increased its sales by more than 26% and expects to grow sales by 50% in 2010.

The departure from high cost solar manufacturing, such as the Frederick shop, has helped BP cut unit costs by an impressive 45% making products more competitive in a global market.

CASE: Forever Looking Good in the Sun

The dream of integrating solar power with building materials has been a source of wonder for decades, but aesthetics has been one of the biggest challenges, according to Anna Dyson, director of the Center for Architecture Science and Ecology, or CASE.

Most applications presented so far, according to Ms. Dyson,

“are pretty ugly and impede your view.”

Let’s face it architects and developers have to have aesthetics in mind, even when it comes to saving energy, because consumers want to be in fashion – and can you blame them?
Many building-integrated solar technologies are also somewhat inefficient, Ms. Dyson said, which means that large parts of a building have to be covered with solar energy-gathering materials, in order to receive significant benefits.

CASE, a research and development collaboration between Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and other engineering and architectural companies are confident in their abilities to overcome these challenges.

The group has developed what it calls a Dynamic Solar Facade — a glass frontage that looks something like an oversize bead curtain, with rows of transparent, pyramid-shaped concentrators, configured in a honeycomb pattern and hung up on wires that move from up to down, or twist from side to side, in order to track the sun.

Every concentrator comes equipped with a lens that magnifies light nearly 500 times and directs it to a postage stamp-size Spectrolab solar cell made of gallium arsenide.

The concentrators also bring light into the building while deflecting heat and glare, thereby reducing the need for artificial light during the day.

Meanwhile, heat sinks placed behind the solar cells absorb the sun’s warmth and may be used to heat water in the building.

Together, the Dynamic Solar Facade uses the sun’s light and heat with 60 to 80% efficiency, Ms. Dyson said, who also added that savings in electricity and heating costs could pay for the system in as little as two and a half years.

CASE has installed its first full-scale demonstration project – 64 concentrators in an 8-by-10-foot glass installation at the Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems. It is scheduled to open in March.

Commercialization also depends on the ability of Spectrolab, which makes the gallium-arsenide cells.

The technology is apparently stylish enough to satisfy one prominent client: the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Though still a few years away, they have plans to include the solar facade in the development of a new student center.

Solar Processing: The Beginning

While the recession has slowed down the rapid rise of alternative energy technologies like solar,wind, wave and bio-fuels, the future still holds promise. The good news for homeowners and businesses is that the benefits of home solar power are not restricted to warm climate states. Gains are actually being seen in some of the least likely of places.

In California, PG&E, one of the major utilities, reports that it connects to 40% of all solar panels in the U.S. It’s probably also not probable that South Florida sees a lot of solar activity, given its warm climate and a progressive bent. Likewise, parts of the Phoenix area are becoming heavily solarized, and to some extent solar panels are being deployed regularly up and down most of America’s coasts, where there is less of a concern with shading and a higher concentration of money.

The decision to go solar is a big one. It may seem complicated, as well as expensive. Getting started may be easier than you think, though, and what’s particularly cool are the rise of solar panel leasing plans and neighborhood groups that are pooling resources to get hefty group discounts.

Riches Of The Sun

Solar powered manufacturing will, without a doubt, be a hot topic in the near future. Generating solar power to run modules, which provide cleaner electricity and cut electricity costs, is not the only resource that may be provided to us by the sun. Large photovoltaic arrays have been used in large business buildings, warehouses and homes, for a long time now, and they are effective. But it would be foolish to cease looking for more gifts; this is being proven lately by a small Sacramento company called, Plastic Package, INC.

solyndra plastic packagePlastic Package uses solar power for a variety of purposes; perhaps the most innovative of which is forming virgin and plastic products into useable and re-useable products. These products include plastic containers for food, such as chocolate confections, agricultural and baked goods. And they also make products for medical, electronic and retail industries.

Plastic Package has a 208 kilowatt solar system, which generates the energy that it uses for its manufacturing its products, and serves to assist its local power provider, Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) in reducing its summer peak loads during the sunniest time of the day.

The company uses for its solar system, cylindrical thin film panels from Solyndra. The Solyndra cylinders use something called, CIGS (copper indium gallium selenide). The module captures light from different angles, as the Sun arcs across the sky. The module also collects rays which bounce off the company’s roof, to form a 360 degree “solar collection service.” The system was installed by Premier Power Renewable Energy, and is the biggest cylindrical thin film solar system to the west of the state of New Jersey.