Wednesday, February 9, 2011

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Finding PV's Next Big Cost Reductions

By Adam Browning, Executive Director, Vote Solar
March 4, 2011 | 3 Comments

Cost is one of the biggest barriers to bringing solar to scale. Tremendous strides have been made to date -- module prices have come down 50-70% in the past two years alone. Where are the next cost reductions going to come from?

A breakthrough new technology that delivers mindblowing lower costs could, in theory, be introduced any day. But waiting on breakthroughs is a dicey proposition — change is hard, and commercializing change is even harder. The good news is that even without a radical breakthrough, there are plenty of cost reduction opportunities in today's technology. Both balance of systems (BOS) and silicon raw material supply offer promising paths to lower costs.

Last fall, Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) convened an industry design workshop to pool collective insight on BOS cost reduction opportunities. Typically accounting for half of the cost of installing solar, BOS essentially represents everything except the module itself: “mounting and racking components, inverters, wiring, installation labor, financing and contractual costs, permitting, and interconnection.”

RMI found opportunities for near-term reductions of more than 50% by simply scaling and implementing current best-practices. That alone would reduce total BOS costs to around $0.60 to $0.90/W for large rooftop or ground-mounted installations.

The whole study deserves a read, but here are two slides that capture the issue particularly well:

According to the RMI analysis, even if module prices remain constant, there is a clear path to $0.13/kWh solar. By improving electrical system efficiency, improving inverter design, standardizing componentry, advancing cost transparency and eliminating inefficiencies in business practices (e.g. unnecessarily cumbersome permitting, creating markets that offer regular and predictable access to business opportunities, etc), solar’s end costs can come down dramatically.

Many of these BOS soft-costs can be addressed via smart policies that encourage robust, competitive local markets or by directly inserting standardization and process efficiencies into the system. States are making continued progress on the former through RPS and other market-building policies, and the DOE’s Sunshot Initiative will be focusing a lot of its activities on addressing the latter opportunity.

While the RMI study looked at everything but the module, there are some promising areas for near-term module cost reductions as well. Let’s take a look at silicon. It's the raw material in crystalline PV technology (the dominant technology which constitutes about 80% of the global solar market), and it makes up a non-trivial portion of a module's cost.

Silicon is still much more expensive than it needs to be. Here's a slightly outdated chart from UBS. We realize that the numbers are not legible on the chart so here is a description: the left column shows price per kg of silicon and starts at $50 at the bottom, increasing to $450 at the top. Across the bottom are the dates in one-year increments. The first date is March 1998 and the last is March 2010. The cash cost is the thick blue line that runs straight across the the bottom and the spot price is represented by the thin blue line that spikes starting in March 2005. The third blue line that runs across the bottom in line with the spot price until March 2005 represents the contract price for silicon.

Today’s numbers may be a bit different, but not, unfortunately, by very much.

As you can see, since the end of 2004, when the German feed-in tariff (and thusly the global solar industry) got serious, the price of silicon has born little relationship to the cost of manufacturing. And as of last spring, average silicon costs were still trading at substantial premiums to the cost of production — with margins over 50%, inordinately high for a commodity product. There is clear room for reduction, which would give consumers a cheaper product and expand price-sensitive markets. But when and how will that occur?

According to Digitimes, spot prices for silicon in 2010 soared from $50-55/kg at the beginning of the year to $70 as demand continued to outpace supply. Looking forward there are several factors that could mean lower silicon prices. First, multiple markets all over the world have taken a recent beating. France has announced a three-month market moratorium as it considers tariff reductions and a 500 MW annual cap.

The Czech Republic is levying a 26% retroactive tax on current projects while it weighs future reductions. Spain has capped its program to an ostensible 500 MW, and is still making adjustments that participants have termed ‘painful’. Italy looks to be imminently reaching its total goal for 2020, with an open question as to what happens going forward.

The UK has an uncapped program but a capped budget, leading it to announce the beginning of a ‘revisitation’ of its programs. The New Jersey governor is telegraphing a policy reprioritization of natural gas over solar. And German policymakers and industry stakeholders are both actively managing the program with the stated goal of dramatically decreasing growth. If these market reductions cumulatively add up to something less than market growth elsewhere, a silicon oversupply condition could result in near-term price reductions.

Looking at a more sustainable and perhaps less painful progression toward silicon cost reduction, much of the anticipated 2011-2012 U.S. market growth will be in the utility-scale solar sector. Significantly, almost all of these projects will be secured via competitive processes—and material suppliers will be subject to intense competitive pressures. This should send a market signal to ensure that all steps in the value chain work together to deliver the lowest costs—or miss out.

There are several lessons for effective policymaking. First, according to RMI, by simply cutting the inefficiencies out of the existing system and improving racking and component design, it is possible for PV to deliver a 20-year LCOE of around $.13/kWh, unsubsidized. That would put solar costs at or below current retail electricity pricing in many states today — and even more cost-effective as those retail rates continue to trend upward.

Secondly, this desirable result is not inevitable. Policymakers are responsible for establishing programs that build large, friction-free markets that in turn bring down the costs necessary for scale—a virtuous cycle of cost reduction and market expansion. Whether this future will come to pass is entirely within their hands.

Reader Comments

Anumakonda March 7, 2011

Yes. Solar PV is still a far cry for developing countries. There has to be sustained research for cost effective and efficient solar PV systems so that Solar PV can make quick strides.

Here is an excellent analysis on the subject:

IHS Report: Future Viability of Solar Photovoltaic Technology Dependent on Production Cost Improvements, January 24, 2011

Menlo Park, Calif. (January 24, 2011) — During 2010, new solar photovoltaic (PV) demand worldwide approached 10,000 MW, and is expected to grow by double digit percentages annually for the foreseeable future, if production costs can be driven to market-competitive levels. In response to interest in photovoltaics for industrial and utility scale power, SRI Consulting, now part of IHS Inc. (NYSE: IHS), examines the economics for producing solar cells from three dominant commercial process technologies – monocrystalline wafers (Sunpower), CdTe thin-film (First Solar) and concentrating PV (Concentrix) – in its new techno-economic analysis report entitled Solar Photovoltaic Technology.

In the U.S. and other regions, utility commission renewable power portfolio requirements dictate that specific amounts of grid power be sourced using technologies that do not produce greenhouse gases. As a result, several utilities are now considering supplementing conventional power (nuclear, coal and natural gas) with a combination of wind power, biomass power, solar thermal and solar photovoltaic power.

Demand growth for PV power in the early 2000s averaged 40 percent per year, driven by a combination of technology advancements and generous government subsidies – especially in Spain and Germany – in the form of feed-in-tariffs. The global economic recession of 2008 - 2009 all but eliminated growth, but early 2010 saw demand begin to turn around.

Photovoltaic power is well suited to distributed demand applications where its devices can be mounted on residential homeowner rooftops (<> 5 MW) at economics approaching conventional peaking power cost (grid parity).

“Advances in technology have significantly improved cost competitiveness, but the commercial world still relies heavily on government subsidies,” said Solar Photovoltaic Technology author and IHS Principal Consultant Anthony Pavone. “Like other renewable energy technologies, societal concerns over greenhouse gas-caused climate change provide the justification for these subsidies.”

Although the integrated product chain can be considered as starting with mined silicon metal, and terminating with a combination of PV modules sold to end-use customers, and turnkey power plants sold to utility customers, the heart of the business is in producing PV cells, mounting them in modules (sometimes called panels) rated at 70 – 400 watts, and installing arrays of modules to satisfy customer requirements. A globally competitive producer requires a capacity base of 500 MW/year, and that a utility scale PV plant will have a capacity of 10 – 50 MW”.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP),India

Turning Bacteria into Butanol Biofuel Factories

By Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley
March 7, 2011 | 1 Comment

California -- University of California, Berkeley, chemists have engineered bacteria to churn out a gasoline-like biofuel at about 10 times the rate of competing microbes, a breakthrough that could soon provide an affordable and "green" transportation fuel.

The advance is reported in this week’s issue of the journal Nature Chemical Biology by Michelle C. Y. Chang, assistant professor of chemistry at UC Berkeley, graduate student Brooks B. Bond-Watts and recent UC Berkeley graduate Robert J. Bellerose.

Various species of the Clostridium bacteria naturally produce a chemical called n-butanol (normal butanol) that has been proposed as a substitute for diesel oil and gasoline. While most researchers, including a few biofuel companies, have genetically altered Clostridium to boost its ability to produce n-butanol, others have plucked enzymes from the bacteria and inserted them into other microbes, such as yeast, to turn them into n-butanol factories. Yeast and E. coli, one of the main bacteria in the human gut, are considered to be easier to grow on an industrial scale.

[Below: The enzyme pathway by which glucose is turned into n-butanol is set against the silhouette of an E. coli bacterium. The pathway, taken from Clostridium bacteria and inserted into E. coli, consists of five enzymes that convert acetyl-CoA, a product of glucose metabolism, into n-butanol (C4H9OH).]

While these techniques have produced promising genetically altered E. coli bacteria and yeast, n-butanol production has been limited to little more than half a gram per liter, far below the amounts needed for affordable production.

Chang and her colleagues stuck the same enzyme pathway into E. coli, but replaced two of the five enzymes with look-alikes from other organisms that avoided one of the problems other researchers have had: n-butanol being converted back into its chemical precursors by the same enzymes that produce it.

The new genetically altered E. coli produced nearly five grams of n-buranol per liter, about the same as the native Clostridium and one-third the production of the best genetically altered Clostridium, but about 10 times better than current industrial microbe systems.

“We are in a host that is easier to work with, and we have a chance to make it even better,” Chang said. “We are reaching yields where, if we could make two to three times more, we could probably start to think about designing an industrial process around it.”

“We were excited to break through the multi-gram barrier, which was challenging,” she added.

[Below: Graduate student Brooks Bond-Watts and post-doctoral fellow Jeff Hanson examine cultured E. coli used to produce the biofuel n-butanol.]

Among the reasons for engineering microbes to make fuels is to avoid the toxic byproducts of conventional fossil fuel refining, and, ultimately, to replace fossil fuels with more environmentally friendly biofuels produced from plants. If microbes can be engineered to turn nearly every carbon atom they eat into recoverable fuel, they could help the world achieve a more carbon-neutral transportation fuel that would reduce the pollution now contributing to global climate change. Chang is a member of UC Berkeley’s year-old Center for Green Chemistry.

The basic steps evolved by Clostridium to make butanol involve five enzymes that convert a common molecule, acetyl-CoA, into n-butanol. Other researchers who have engineered yeast or E. coli to produce n-butanol have taken the entire enzyme pathway and transplanted it into these microbes. However, n-butanol is not produced rapidly in these systems because the native enzymes can work in reverse to convert butanol back into its starting precursors.

Chang avoided this problem by searching for organisms that have similar enzymes, but that work so slowly in reverse that little n-butanol is lost through a backward reaction.

“Depending on the specific way an enzyme catalyzes a reaction, you can force it in the forward direction by reducing the speed at which the back reaction occurs,” she said. “If the back reaction is slow enough, then the transformation becomes effectively irreversible, allowing us to accumulate more of the final product.”

Chang found two new enzyme versions in published sequences of microbial genomes, and based on her understanding of the enzyme pathway, substituted the new versions at critical points that would not interfere with the hundreds of other chemical reactions going on in a living E. coli cell. In all, she installed genes from three separate organisms – Clostridium acetobutylicum, Treponema denticola and Ralstonia eutrophus — into the E. coli.

Chang is optimistic that by improving enzyme activity at a few other bottlenecks in the n-butanol synthesis pathway, and by optimizing the host microbe for production of n-butanol, she can boost production two to three times, enough to justify considering scaling up to an industrial process. She also is at work adapting the new synthetic pathway to work in yeast, a workhorse for industrial production of many chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

1 Reader Comments

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March 7, 2011

Most valuable research on Butanol Biofuel production from Bacteria by University of California, Berkeley, chemists.

It has great potential as supplementary fuel.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

Busting 4 Myths About Solar PV vs. Concentrating Solar Power

By John Farrell
March 3, 2011 | 4 Comments

Although both produce electricity from the sun, there are significant differences between solar photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar thermal electricity generation. This guide answers the most pressing questions about the two solar technologies.

1. Isn’t concentrating solar power cheaper?

No. Five years ago, the two technologies were relatively comparable, but in 2011 there’s no doubt that distributed solar PV is cheaper than concentrating solar power.

A concentrating solar power plant has a capital cost of $5.50 per watt without storage, and $7.75 per watt with six hours of thermal storage. The levelized cost of electricity from a Mohave Desert concentrating solar power plant (without storage) serving Southern California load is $250 per megawatt-hour (MWh), or 25 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). With the federal investment tax credit, the price is 17.5 cents.*

In contrast, a distributed solar PV plant has a capital cost of $3.80 per watt without storage and can add battery storage for $0.50 per watt. Thus, a PV plant with six hours of storage would cost $6.80 per watt. Because a distributed solar PV plant also has no need for long-distance transmission, the levelized cost of solar PV (without storage) in Southern California is $136 per MWh, or 13.6 cents per kWh (9.5 cents with the federal tax credit).

The levelized cost for concentrating solar and solar PV with storage (and the federal tax credit) are 23 and 16.8 cents per kWh, respectively.

We’ve also previously noted that a residential rooftop solar power system in Los Angeles has a lower levelized cost than any operational concentrating solar power plant in the world.

*Federal accelerated depreciation can also reduce the cost of solar projects and is typically included in power purchase prices signed by utilities, but is not included in this analysis.


  1. Powers, Bill. "Federal Government Betting on Wrong Solar Horse." (Natural Gas & Electricity Journal, Dec. 2010).
  2. Distributed Concentrating Solar Thermal Power? Yes
  3. Home Solar Cheaper Than Every Concentrating Solar Power Plant
  4. Distributed, Small-Scale Solar Competes with Large-Scale PV

2. Doesn’t storage make concentrating solar better for the grid?

No. There are two reasons that storage does not give concentrating solar an edge over solar PV.

First, solar PV with battery storage has a lower levelized cost than concentrating solar with storage, given similar storage capacity.

Second, longer-term storage does not necessarily make concentrating solar more beneficial or economic. To quote Bill Powers from "Federal Government Betting on Wrong Solar Horse":

Much of the electricity generated from the stored thermal energy would be produced at night during periods of low demand, when the solar thermal plant will be competing for market share with existing and much lower-cost nuclear, hydroelectric, natural gas combined-cycle, and some coal for decades to come.

In contrast, a strong economic case can be made for either solar thermal or PV plants to be equipped with limited storage to allow full capacity output during summertime peak demand periods when time-of-use power prices are high, assure reliability under all climatic conditions, and serve as non-spinning reserves. There is probably no economic case for building solar thermal plants or solar PV with more than two to three hours of storage until at least 2030. There is no economic justification now to equip a solar thermal plant so that it can convert high-value daytime peaking power into lowest-value off-peak power released between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

3. Can’t we get more solar power faster with concentrating solar?

No. Concentrating solar power capacity has scarcely reached 1 gigawatt, total, ever. Germany installed nearly 3 gigawatts of distributed solar PV in 2009 alone, over 80 percent of it on rooftops.

4. Is there any reason to do concentrating solar power?

Yes, if distributed. Concentrating solar thermal power can be used to co-generate electricity and heat for industrial use or air conditioning. However, for this to be practical, concentrating solar power plants need to be on-site or very close to their thermal energy users.

Additionally, it remains to be seen whether the experience curve for concentrating solar thermal power follows the same curve as solar PV. Generally, PV prices have fallen by half for every 10-fold increase in the installed base. If CSP can beat that rate of advance, it may again be competitive with distributed solar PV.

This is part of a series on distributed renewable energy posted to Renewable Energy World. It originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's New Rules Project.

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March 4, 2011

Good Analysis. Here are more details on the subject:

Solar-Life Cycle

As with all generating resources, renewable or not, a number of tradeoffs must
be evaluated in order to identify the most suitable generating resources with
the lowest life-cycle costs. Today, CSP technologies are perceived as having
lower life-cycle costs than PV, and policymakers in the Southwest are incorporating
greater quantities of CSP into their RPS portfolios. However, CSP technologies also pose a number of risks that affect life-cycle costs in ways that haven't always been fully accounted. These risks include:
_ Potentially significant cost increases due to protracted and risky site-specific development cycles. This can affect regulatory approval if proposed facilities are to be rate-based;
_ Reliance on technologies that are not commercially proven;
_ Reliance on technologies in limited production that may not be sufficiently available when demand suddenly increases, as has happened with wind resources. This might drive prices higher and cause schedule delays. As a related matter, maintenance costs might be higher than projected,
as is typical of commercially immature technologies and one-off designs.
- O&M complexities, with each facility requiring miles of pipe and thousands of joints and seals to circulate heated fluid. In the early years of operation of the parabolic-trough CSP plants in the U.S., built between 1985 and 1991, the loss of heat transfer oil through leaks was a significant problem.14 Although much has been learned through the operation and maintenance of existing parabolic trough plants, it is unlikely that technological improvements will eliminate the risks of leaks or the associated impact on performance and cost(Source: PV vs. Solar Thermal Distributed solar modules are gaining ground on concentrated solar thermal plants.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

European & US Renewable Energy Targets

1 Comment By David Appleyard, Chief Editor, Renewable Energy World International | February 25, 2011 |

The EU will hits its mark and the U.S. sets even higher goals.

London, UK -- Latest figures on the progress of renewable energy in the European Union have been revealed by the European Commission (EC). They show that the 2020 renewable energy policy goals are likely to be met and exceeded if EU member states fully implement their national renewable energy action plans and if financing instruments are improved.

However, the EC has also stressed the need for further co-operation between member states, reinforcing the convergence of support schemes and better integration of renewable energy into the single European market to ensure that renewable technologies become economically competitive as soon as possible.

According to the Commission statement, three mechanisms favour such cooperation:

  • 'Statistical transfers' where one member state with a surplus of renewable energy can transfer it statistically to another state, whose renewable energy sources may be more expensive;
  • 'Joint projects' in which a new renewable energy project in one member state can be co-financed by another and energy production shared statistically between the two;
  • 'Joint support schemes' in which two or more member states agree to harmonise all or part of their support schemes.

And, according to their National Renewable Energy Action Plans plans, Italy and Luxembourg already both expect to use these mechanisms to help develop renewable energy in another member state and count it towards their own domestic targets.

Nine countries (Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, Lithuania, Hungary, Austria, Poland, Slovenia, and Sweden) currently expect to exceed their 2020 targets and could therefore have a surplus available.

In 2014 the Commission says it plans to assess the effective functioning of the co-operation mechanisms. Nonetheless, preliminary estimates indicate that across the economic bloc such measures could lead to €10 billion of annual savings. Looking to the medium or long term, a convergence of financing, such as feed-in tariffs, will be necessary, when a truly European market is created, the Commission believes. This can include greater co-operation in setting tariffs, technology bands, tariff lifetimes and so on. It could also include completely joining the support schemes, as currently planned by Norway and Sweden, for example.

Commenting on the figures, European Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said: 'We have to invest much more in renewable energy and we need smart, cost-effective financing. If member states work together and produce renewable energy where it costs less, companies and consumers and the tax payer will benefit from this.'

The EU says it is committed to reaching its objective of a 20% share of renewable energy by 2020 and in order to achieve these targets, the Commission calls on member states to implement their national action plans.

Latest data show, however, that in 2010, the indicative targets the member states set themselves for the electricity and transport sector were missed by most member states and the EU overall.

The Commission also calls on EU members to ensure a doubling of annual capital investments in renewable energy from €35 billion/year to €70 billion/year. This investment should mainly come from the private sector, the Commission says, suggesting this could come from big energy companies investing in wind or solar farms or households investing in solar systems or other forms of renewable energy. Within the new EU legislative framework, member states will have to commit the necessary efforts to further invest and cooperate on developing renewable energy, says the EC.

Further investment in renewables will require a substantial use of national support schemes. These support schemes, and other instruments used to finance renewable energy at EU or national level, ought to be as cost-effective as possible,' the Commission says in a statement.

The Communication shows that, while many different financial instruments are used in all member states to develop renewable energy - grants, loans, feed in tariffs, certificate regimes and so on - their management needs to be improved. Investors need greater coherence, clarity and certainty, the Commission believes.

Responding, the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) said it too believes that new, innovative financing measures are crucial for Europe's future prosperity.

'The Communication provides a clear picture of both the promising progress of renewables and the economic challenges, but is disappointing when it comes to new, innovative ideas regarding financing of renewables,' said EREC president Arthouros Zervos.

Figures from the industry show that during 2010 more renewable energy power capacity was installed than ever before - a total of 22.6 GW, an increase of 31% compared with 2009 installations. 'It is the fifth consecutive year that renewables have accounted for more than 40% of new electricity generating installations,' said Zervos.

'Given at the same time the continuous slow growth of renewable heat at EU and national level, more support is needed in the heat sector, for example to district heating or cogeneration,' he added.

Agreeing with the Commissions` conclusion that sudden and retroactive changes to national support schemes seriously undermine investor confidence, Zervos continued: 'For investment in renewable energy to double investors need stable European and national frameworks.'

However, refering to the Commission's repeated call for greater convergence of national support schemes and to move to a pan-European trade in renewable energy, Zervos observed: 'Instead of continuous debates about national support mechanisms, which risks freezing vital investments to achieve binding renewables targets, the focus should be on renewing and enhancing Europe's outdated and poorly interconnected infrastructure and making new, innovative proposals on how to leverage more private investment for renewables in times of limited public resources.'

The Renewable Energy Directive adopted in 2009 sets binding targets for a 20% share of renewable energy in the EU overall energy mix by 2020 and the EU as a whole reached just over 18% for the share of renewable energy in the electricity in 2010 rather than the indicative target of 21%. For transport, the EU reached 5.1% instead of a provisional target of 5.75%.

Nonetheless, while member states failed to reach their indicative 2010 targets for the share of renewable energy in the electricity and transport sectors, the new renewable energy Directive is designed to ensure that remedial action is taken: member states' national action plans are required to contain all the measures to achieve the trajectory contained in the Directive.

In a related development, US President Barack Obama has highlighted the growing role of renewables in his latest State of Union Address saying: 'With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.'

Concluding his comments on energy development, Obama set a new target for electricity from low-carbon sources including renewables, saying: 'Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they're selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: By 2035, 80% of America's electricity will come from clean energy sources'.

1 Reader Comments

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February 26, 2011

Targets can be reached provided there is political will and technological advancement in Clean Energy.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

Solar Heating and Cooling Needs New Materials

By Andrew Lee, Contributor | February 25, 2011 | 2 Comments

Aventa has earmarked 2011 as the year in which polymeric solar thermal breaks into the mainstream market.

London, UK -- If renewable energy was a family, solar thermal technology might unkindly be seen as a dependable but rather unfashionable cousin whose life hasn't seen much excitement for some years.

Solar thermal systems have undeniably benefitted from continual incremental improvements, but not much about the most commonly used flat-plate collector seems to fundamentally alter. A module containing a black, glass-covered metal absorber plate harvests solar radiation. This is backed by tubing (generally made of copper or aluminium), through which water or other heat exchange fluid is pumped into a building's space heating or hot water system.

According to those developing a new breed of collectors, however, the use of materials such as copper bring significant downsides that could be eliminated by replacing them with a new generation of advanced, high-performance polymers.

An International Energy Agency (IEA) Solar Heating & Cooling (SHC) Programme task force group has spent the last four years plotting a plastic revolution in solar thermal.

The international research group involved in SHC Task 39 highlighted a wide range of potential benefits if the copper and other metals used in components such as the absorber plate and tubing could be removed. These benefits include the need for fewer separate materials and therefore manufacturing processes, lower weight and freedom from the sharp price fluctuations associated with copper in particular.

Polymer components could be manufactured more cheaply and flexibly thanks to the well-established process of extrusion, which could easily produce the exact dimensions needed to integrate collectors with buildings of all shapes and sizes.

Components would be lighter to transport and easier to install, and could possibly even come in a variety of attractive hues to do away with the 'any colour as long as it is black' approach of conventional collectors.

For all the virtues of their proposed plastic systems, however, the Task 39 group was faced with the fact that metals are used in solar thermal collectors for a very good reason. The extremes and fluctuations of UV radiation and temperature that a solar thermal system must withstand would prove too much for most polymers, especially over a required service life that spans at least 20 or more years.

An Aventa solar thermal development in Oslo (Source: Dahle & Breitenstein)

The key temperature for a polymer operating in solar thermal is around the 160°C mark. This is the maximum that a system would have to cope with under stagnation conditions (the point at which the thermal process produces the highest operating temperatures), even though the base temperature requirements for domestic space heating and hot water are significantly lower.

Alongside detailed technical investigation, the IEA group's work was broadly split into two main areas designed to overcome these limitations.

One looked at using cheaper, readily available commodity plastics and adding some sort of overheating protection 'failsafe' mechanism to prevent them being exposed to temperatures they cannot deal with.

A second strand of investigation concentrated on the development of more sophisticated high-performance polymers with the properties needed to withstand the demands of solar thermal systems. Norwegian company Aventa, a participant in Task 39, is a notable pioneer in this area and says it is close to bringing a commercial polymer-based system to market.

Founded as a corporate entity in 2005 – but building on work underway since the early 1990s at the University of Oslo's physics department – Aventa has earmarked 2011 as the year in which polymeric solar thermal breaks into the mainstream market.

Aventa has collaborated with US group Chevron Phillips Chemical to develop a high-performance polyphenylene sulphide (PPS) polymer able to cope with the 160oC stagnation level temeperature and remain stable and reliable for the lifetime of a commercial system.

The Norwegian company's all-polymer collector, based on Chevron Phillips' Xtel PPS alloy, is currently in the final stages of testing and performance certification. Accordingly, Aventa says it plans to begin volume production this year.

John Rekstad, the company's chairman and a professor of physics at Oslo, says the crucial virtue of the material is its ability to operate effectively in a thermal environment, unaided by overheating protection, while also offering all the manufacturing flexibility that comes with the extrusion process.

'Of course Teflon, for example, can sustain temperatures of 340°C. The problem with Teflon is you can't extrude it or make products out of it in the way we need to,' says Rekstad.

According to Rekstad, the need to establish the Aventa polymer's ability to operate effectively over the lengthy service periods needed for solar thermal systems is one reason that the path to commercialisation has been a relatively slow one. The company has worked its way through the process of acquiring the necessary certification needed to enter the market and carried out the tests required to 'satisfy ourselves that we can stick to our promises,' says Rekstad. 'That takes time, but it is absolutely necessary to gain acceptance in the market.'

With those hurdles almost overcome, Aventa hopes to expand production capacity to 40,000 m² of collector surface this year and has developed a new extrusion die in conjunction with its manufacturing partners, which will make the polymer components on its behalf.

The end result is a system that can more than hold its own in terms of performance and cost, claims Rekstad. 'The base cost for production per unit can be reduced to a level of almost half per unit of conventional collectors,' he says.

In terms of overall system efficiency – the measure that Aventa prefers to use – Rekstad says the company's device is equivalent to conventional collectors. The absorber plate, for example, is made of extruded twin wall sheets. Even though its thermal conductivity is inferior to copper's, Aventa says the improved efficiency of its heat transfer process results in a performance that is equally robust.

In the Aventa system even the glass collector cover is replaced by a 10 mm sheet of UV-protected polycarbonate, removing the problems associated with glazing large surface areas.

Of course, the ultimate test of polymers in solar thermal applications will be acceptance by their end-consumers. These are ultimately homeowners and commercial building operators but, more urgently, the construction and building design industries. 'This is very important to create the shortest possible path from production to installation,' says Rekstad.

A sign of the construction industry's interest came in late 2010 when OBOS, Norway's largest building co-operative, took a 23% stake in Aventa, becoming its largest shareholder. 'They want to use our system in a number of projects, because they see it as a way of combining solar with the processes they are used to in building and construction,' says Rekstad. 'They can integrate these elements into buildings more easily than is the case with conventional collectors,'.

OBOS will run its own trials by building two identical houses, one with an Aventa solar thermal system and the second with an air-water heat pump. The two buildings will then be monitored to discover which delivers the best energy efficiency and cost performance.

At the time of its share acquisition, OBOS said it saw no reason why Aventa should not go on to become a leading player in the European solar thermal industry. For that to happen it will have to help kick-start a market that, by the admission of many in the industry, is struggling to make sufficient progress at the moment and like a number of other renewable energy sectors actually contracted in Europe last year.

Rekstad claims that for too long solar thermal technology has remained in the shadow of the PV sector, which has enjoyed the lion's share of government promotion, taxpayer subsidies and publicity. 'Market figures tell a story of impressive worldwide expansion, but this just has not got the same attention as PV, for example,' says Rekstad. He continues: 'Yet total energy production for solar thermal is eight or nine times bigger than the total output of energy from all electricity-producing solar technologies installed worldwide.'

Rekstad believes part of the reason is the lack of interest in solar thermal among major power utilities, a situation that he claims is easily explained: 'The energy companies' reason for existing is to sell energy. Solar thermal is all about needing to use less energy.'

Rekstad has been evangelical about the benefits of solar thermal heating for far longer than polymers have been part of the picture. He built Norway's first solar thermal house in 1977 in what he admits some saw as 'a crazy experiment' and has monitored the results ever since.

'I've lived in the house for 34 years and in that time we've had to pay €120 to replace the pump. That has been the only cost and in that time we have saved an average of 7.5 MWh annually. I'm not considered that crazy anymore.'

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February 26, 2011

Though Solar Water heating is the simplest Solar application(Solar Thermal),the present designs are not popular because they necessitate pressurised water(Through overhead tank). In Apartments it is difficult to get space.

I designed a vertical and cylindrical solar water heater with stainless steel drums of capacity 100 litres. There is an Omni- directional Stainless steel polished reflector to increase the temperature in the lower drum. The upper drum(Auxialary) is meant to supply cold water to the bottom drum when hot water is drawn from bottom drum. There is a tap to take out hot water from the top of the bottom drum(as hot water rises due to natural convection). The drums are painted mat black to get absorption and covered with thick transparent Polyethylene sheet to create greenhouse effect. 100 litres system costs about US$150 and hot water + 20 degrees Celsius ambient temperature can be obtained. A temperature drum of half a degree Celsius per hour has been observed during overnight storage. Stainless steel material is chosen because this solar water heater can be used as a preheated water device for cooking. One can use preheated water to cook food by any cooking device, electric, gas, even firewood.

Another factor is social and cultural factors apart from technical that forbid wider usage of Solar Thermal systems in the Sunbelt countries. In Japan there are estimated 6 million Solar Water heaters. Japanese have the habit of taking bath in the evening and as such any little increase in temperature is enough where as in many developing countries people take bath in the morning as such there has to be effective storage of hot water overnight for taking bath in the morning. TECHNOLOGY IS CULTURE SPECIFIC.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

GE and Alstom Prepare for Larger Wind Turbines

By John Blau, Contributor | February 25, 2011 | 1 Comment

Big is better in wind technology, judging by two recent developments in the industry.

New York -- America's GE has acquired intellectual property to build lower-cost, 100-meter-tall-plus towers capable of supporting high-capacity turbines. And France's Alstom Group and LM Wind Power Group of Denmark have teamed to develop what they claim will be the longest wind turbine ever produced.

Tall towers and big turbines are part of the move toward ever-bigger wind power systems to drive production up and costs down. According to the American Wind Energy Association, the average wind turbine installed in 2007 had a capacity of 1.6 MW, which is twice as powerful as the average turbine installed in 2000 at 0.76 MW.

However, while taller wind towers provide more power, they are harder to build, install and transport. And the taller cranes required to lift the heavier turbines are also expensive to ship and assemble.

GE hopes to overcome these challenges with the help of tall tower technology developed by Wind Tower Systems. GE acquired the tower maker from Wasatch Wind on Feb. 11.

The modular “space frame tower” developed by Wind Tower Systems is engineered to handle unique static and dynamic loads at hub heights of 100 meters and more. Moreover, it can be transported in smaller pieces than traditional tubular systems, using only one sixth of the trucks normally required.

The tower construction comes with a so-called Hi-Jack crane system, which crawls up the tower to install the turbine. The manufacturer claims that the system can reduce crane installation costs by 80 percent.

“The taller space frame towers and integrated lifting system concepts, developed with the support of the U.S. DOE and California Energy Commission, have been designed to drive lower wind energy costs,” said Thomas Conroy, CEO of Wind Tower Systems. ”We are delighted that the development of the company’s products will be completed and commercialized by GE.”

GE said it plans to install a prototype of the space frame tower to validate and test the system’s design later this year, with commercial availability targeted for 2012.

Also thinking big, Alstom and LM Wind Power have formed a strategic partnership to develop what they hope will be the world’s longest wind turbine blade, designed to fit Alstom’s new 6 MW wind turbine targeted for Europe’s growing offshore wind market.

The blade uses advanced materials enabling LM Wind Power to design and manufacture relatively lighter glass fiber and polyester blades for the length. The geometry of the new blade has already been validated in LM Wind Power’s own wind tunnel.

“This new blade builds on the innovative features developed for our recent blade launch, the GloBlade, which has proved to be tremendously successful, offering an additional annual energy production of 4-5 percent compared to standard blades,” said Roland Sunden, chief executive officer of LM Wind Power.

The manufacturer, a pioneer in offshore wind turbine technology, installed its first blades in the early 1990s in one of the world’s first offshore wind farms in Vindeby, Denmark. For the past several years, it has been a key supplier of 61.5-meter long blades for offshore wind farms across Europe.

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February 26, 2011

Yes. The accent now is bigger and bigger Wind Turbines both in diameter of the blades and Tower height.. Since Offshore Wind farms are picking up in many countries, the large size wind turbines are expected to be cost competitive in Wind Power generation.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India

Home Solar PV Cheaper Than Concentrating Solar Power

By John Farrell | February 24, 2011 | 12 Comments

A residential rooftop solar PV system in Los Angeles, CA, has a cheaper cost per kilowatt-hour of electricity delivered than the most cost effective, utility-scale concentrating solar power plant.

In 2010, a buying group called Open Neighborhoods openly advertised an opportunity to get a solar PV system installed for $4.78 per Watt (not including any tax credits, rebates, or grants), a system that would produce approximately 1,492 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year (AC) for each kilowatt of capacity (DC).

Based on the best available public information about the costs and performance of operational concentrating solar thermal power plants, the PS10 solar power tower – an 11 MW installation in Spain – has the lowest levelized cost of operation of any concentrating solar power plant that produces electricity. PS10 had an installed cost of $4.15 per Watt and produces 2,127 kWh per kW of capacity.

However, due to higher operations costs and a higher cost of capital (8% rather than 5%) for a concentrating solar power plant, the levelized cost of the residential rooftop system (17.3 cents per kWh) is less than that of the power tower (19.9 cents per kWh).

This analysis also does not include any transmission infrastructure or efficiency losses, either of which would increase the levelized cost of the concentrating solar power plant. It also did not include the lower price point from Open Neighborhoods, which advertised a possibility of driving the price down to $4.22 per Watt (driving the levelized cost down to 15.3 cents per kWh).

The Southern California Edison project, also featured in the chart, is another example of low-cost distributed solar PV, with the 250 MW project spread across commercial rooftops in 1-2 MW increments but still achieving large scale.

It's possible that concentrating solar power will see cost reductions as more projects are developed. After all, so far there have been just over 20 projects built for a combined capacity of 1,000 MW, whereas Germany alone installed 3,000 MW of PV on thousands of rooftops in 2009. But PV costs are also declining, making the competition for concentrating solar that much fiercer and the potential for distributed solar that much greater.

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February 26, 2011

Yes. Normal PV power cost less per kilowatt-hour of electricity delivered than the most cost effective, utility-scale concentrating solar power plant. Concentrating Solar Power plants are meant for large projects of commercial nature.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India

TDeveloping Nations Eye Renewable Energy

By Lauren Poole, Contributor | March 30, 2010 | 1 Comment

Post-copenhagen targets for renewable energy show developing countries looking to strengthen their renewable energy portfolios.

Colorado, United States [] Developing countries are ramping up renewables after Copenhagen. About 151 developing countries took part in the Climate Change conference in Copenhagen in December 2009. Of those, 25 submitted Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) in February, many of which call for new renewable energy policies, laws and projects.

NAMAs are a new concept of national voluntary greenhouse gas emission reduction measures reported directly to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. They are expected to be the main vehicle for mitigation actions taken by developing countries. Few developing countries have adopted the public policies needed for the widespread development of renewable energy technologies and markets, with the exception of Brazil, which built the world’s leading biofuels industry, and China and India, which have built hydro, wind, biogas and solar power plants and manufacturing facilities.

Renewable Action Plans

Africa is organizing for renewable energy project development. In late 2009, representatives from various African nations established the African Renewable Energy Alliance with help from the World Future Council to speed up the electrification of African countries and fight climate change. Among its members are the Union of African Utilities, which represents 54 private and public electricity producers and distributors in 43 countries as well as industry members and policy-makers. The Alliance founding declaration states, “Now is the time to set the course towards a massive uptake of renewable energy for all people in urban and rural Africa.”

Ethiopia’s NAMA plan includes wind, geothermal, and biomass projects. Ethiopia’s wind power projects include the more than 760 MW of planned wind power capacity from seven different projects to be completed by 2013. In addition, the country plans to develop more than 450 MW of geothermal capacity by 2018. The country also plans to produce 63.36 million liters of ethanol from 2010 to 2015 and 621.6 million liters of biodiesel between 2010 and 2015.

Other African nation’s that released NAMAs include Ghana, which is increasing electricity generation from renewable energy sources to 10–20 percent by 2020. Ghana is upgrading its electricity distribution system to make way for renewable projects. Morocco is developing five solar energy sites that total 2,000 MW to come online between 2015 and 2020. Morocco’s NAMA calls for the installation of 440,000 square meters of rooftop solar water heater collectors by 2012 and 1.7 million square meters by 2020. Morocco’s NAMA also specified an Energipro Programme that is developing a 1000 MW wind park by 2012 with plans to increase the park to 5000 MW by 2030.

Sierra Leone created an Integrated Natural Resources and Environmental Management Program that includes expanding clean energy projects, especially solar, micro-hydro and biomass. It plans to produce biofuels from corn, rice husks and sugarcane.

In Latin America, Mexico committed to a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, provided it gets adequate financial support from richer nations. Mexico plans to install 7,000 MW of renewable energy capacity to generate an estimated 16,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) per year (in addition to the El Cajon and La Parota hydroelectric plants). It also plans to introduce biofuels and biodiesel as a fuel source.

Brazil is increasing the use of biofuels as well and plans to reduce 48 to 60 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) by 2020. It will also use renewable electricity to reduce emissions from electricity by 26 to 33 million tons of CO2 in 2020. Costa Rica stated it needs financing before it can submit specific commitments to any plan.

In Asia, Indonesia has committed to a 26% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Its NAMA calls for the development of alternative and renewable energy sources, but it won’t release more specific plans until it gets a financing commitment from developed nations or the international investment community.

In the Middle East, Jordan passed a new Renewable Energy Law in January 2010. The new law allows private companies with renewable energy projects to bypass the competitive government bidding process and negotiate directly with the Energy Ministry. The new law will require project developers to clearly state fixed electricity tariffs in their proposals before being approved. The law aims to help the government reach the goals of the National Energy Strategy, which calls for 7 percent of the country’s energy mix to come from renewable energy sources by 2015, and 10 percent by 2020.

The Renewable Energy law also requires the country’s National Electric Power Company to purchase all electricity produced by renewable energy power plants and to cover the cost of grid connection. Further, it allows the owners of solar and wind power systems to sell electricity back to their electricity provider through net metering.

Jordan also established a Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Fund to support energy-saving and renewable energy initiatives. Private sector companies or investors within or outside the country can apply for the fund, which will be financed by the state budget and international donor agencies. The fund has already received financing from the French Development Agency, the World Bank and the Global Environment Fund. Other international aid agencies such as the German Development Bank and the Japan International Cooperation Agency have expressed interest in providing assistance as well.

Several developing countries in Eastern Europe released NAMAs that include renewable energy, including Armenia, which created Renewable Energy Armenia a web portal designed to encourage the development and financing of renewable energy in the country. The portal includes solar and wind energy potential charts.

Georgia is developing a low-carbon growth plan and low carbon strategy through the use of renewable energy investments from what it calls the global investment community.

Macedonia (formerly Yugoslavia) is investigating the use of solar and wind energy, but its NAMA plan limits these projects to specific locations. Their plan states wind projects are only favorable in the mountains near Povardarie and between the towns of Kocani and Stip. Solar thermal systems for water heating are more cost effective than PV for home and business owners.

Geothermal energy in Macedonia is mostly used in locations near Kocani and Strumka. However, the report claims that since the thermal parameters of the water are low, geothermal power is limited to use in spas and heating buildings, not for producing electricity.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development launched a Renewable Development Initiative to advance the development and financing of renewable energy projects in 29 countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

Sustainable Development

NAMAs in the Copenhagen Agreement allow developing nations to use their land and resources for renewable energy projects. In previous agreements, land and resource use was restricted under REDD, which limited national plans to prevention of deforestation.

Renewable energy can alleviate poverty in developing nations by providing the energy needed for creating businesses and employment. It can be used for cooking, space heating and lighting. It can power schools and reduce the time that children spend out of school collecting fuel from traditional sources. It can eliminate health problems caused by pollution from burning traditional fuels indoors. It can improve health by providing energy to refrigerate medicine, sterilize medical equipment and to supply fresh water and sewage services needed to reduce infectious disease.

However, some international organization such as the African Biodiversity Network caution that development of renewable energy projects in poorer countries cannot carry unacceptable costs in social and environmental impacts. These organizations want governments of developing nations and project developers to consider the impact of projects on farmers, forests, indigenous peoples and food security. Many of these groups are not opposed to renewable energy development as long as it doesn’t promote massive land grabs and deforestation. They also want governments to ensure that financing of these projects includes proper education and training for the people living in developing countries to ensure long-term economic stability.

Lauren Poole is a journalist and science writer based in Colorado. She worked for 11 years at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, where she wrote extensively about solar and wind energy technologies and policy issues.

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March 1, 2011

Interesting article.

Developing countries(mostly with abundant sunlight) are best suited to harness Renewable Energy.

Most developing countries have abundant renewable energy resources, including solar energy, wind power, geothermal energy, and biomass, as well as the ability to manufacture the relatively labor-intensive systems that harness these. By developing such energy sources developing countries can reduce their dependence on oil and natural gas, creating energy portfolios that are less vulnerable to price rises. In many circumstances, these investments can be less expensive than fossil fuel energy systems. Besides, they help to face the climate change urgency.

Rationale for renewables
Renewable energy can be particularly suitable for developing countries. In rural and remote areas, transmission and distribution of energy generated from fossil fuels can be difficult and expensive. Producing renewable energy locally can offer a viable alternative.
Interest in renewable energies has increased in recent years due to environmental concerns about global warming and air pollution, reduced costs of renewable energy technologies, and improved efficiency and reliability.

Use of renewables

Many recent trends reflect the importance of developing countries in advancing renewable energy. Collectively, developing countries have more than half of global renewable power capacity. China and India are rapidly expanding markets for renewables. Brazil produces most of the world's sugar-derived ethanol and has been adding new biomass and wind power plants. Many renewables markets are growing at rapid rates in countries such as Argentina, Costa Rica, Egypt, Indonesia, Kenya, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, and Uruguay.

As of 2010, an estimated 3 million households get power from small solar PV systems. Micro-hydro systems configured into village-scale or county-scale mini-grids serve many areas. (Source: Wikipedia).
Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India.

Taiwan Initiates Energy Transition

By Andrew Lee, Contributor | February 23, 2011 | 2 Comments

The country's latest policy initiatives have put a new focus on domestic renewables.

London, UK -- Taiwan is set to blaze a trail in renewables development with its major policy initiatives that are designed to at last exploit the country's extensive renewable resources.

The island state of Taiwan sees renewables as an important route to greater security of supply than is possible through its current heavy reliance on imported fossil fuels.

Security and independence are live issues for many reasons in Taiwan, which is still the subject of a long-standing sovereignty claim from its giant neighbour China, even though relations between the two have improved and trade links are healthy – not least in the area of solar equipment.

After a delay of some eight years, in June 2009 Taiwan finally passed its Renewable Energy Development Act (REDA), the key legislative framework that it hopes will kick-start a boom in renewable development in the nation of 23 million people. The act consists of a familiar mixture of obligations and incentives that are designed to achieve a 16% share of installed capacity for renewables by 2025 against an estimated 8% (dominated by hydropower) in 2010, according to figures from Taiwan's Bureau of Energy (BoE), part of its Ministry of Economic Affairs.

When it was launched, REDA set a range of feed-in tariffs for renewable power, including a generous tariff of around TWD11 - 13/kWh (US$0.37 - 0.45/kWh) for PV systems and TWD4.2/kWh ($0.14/kWh) for offshore wind.

This reflected the fact that the most startling expected growth figure cited in the BoE's long-term renewables targets is in PV capacity, which it expects to increase from just 19 MW in 2010 to 2 GW 15 years later. Taiwan is in the curious position of being one of the global powerhouses of PV technology manufacturing, while generating relatively little solar photovoltaic electricity in its own backyard. The REDA incentives are intended to enable a PV build-out that would create a domestic infrastructure more worthy of its status as a producer of cells and modules (see box panel).

However, the solar feed-in tariff has already been the subject of controversy. The 2010 tariff was originally promoted on the basis that a project would qualify for the 20-year guaranteed rate provided an agreement with Taipower, the dominant state-owned utility operator, was signed last year. The BoE caused consternation among developers in late 2010 by announcing that the feed-in tariff payable would now be determined by when the project actually begins operations, leaving many facing the prospect of a significantly less generous 2011 rate that could be up to 30% lower, depending on the project's size.

Taiwan's Kaohsiung solar stadium marks a domestic move towards new solar development (Source: World Games)

The government said the reduced tariff reflected a downturn in solar equipment costs and claimed that the previous rate would amount to an unjustifiable level of subsidy. Solar investors – some protesting outside parliament – argued that the about-face would leave them saddled with start-up costs that were calculated on the basis of a guaranteed return that no longer exists, unfairly delaying a return on investment. They also claimed that delays in completing projects were due to factors beyond their control, not least the amount of bureaucracy.

Whatever the merits of both sides of the argument, the controversy reflects the slower than expected progress in solar since REDA was enacted.

As little as 10% of the MW capacity of project agreements signed is estimated to have actually been installed last year, says Thomas Maslin, a senior analyst specialising in solar power for IHS Emerging Energy Research.

Maslin says the slower than hoped-for progress of Taiwan's domestic solar build-out will disappoint its policymakers, but is perhaps not altogether surprising. 'Based on what has happened in similar situations elsewhere, my guess would be that even though the high feed-in tariffs should have been attractive, there just wasn't the capability on the downstream side to build-out as hoped, especially when starting from scratch,' he says.

Even the central role of Taipower could not make up for the fact that the pre-existing local project design-and-build capability struggled to match the stellar success of its export-led technology giants, adds Maslin.

'Manufacturing cells and wafers far upstream at a very industrial scale is a very different thing to building capability for large-scale deployment downstream. Part of the initial rationale may have been that they could offset some of the risks to technology suppliers in Taiwan of foreign markets, which are very volatile for PV,' he says.

The reduction of the feed-in tariff for solar makes any sharp upturn in domestic build-out less likely, argues Maslin. 'Cutting it was not an unusual thing to do right now, as prices have fallen across the entire supply chain. They seem to be mimicking what has happened in Europe and trying to keep the returns on projects to a reasonable level. The problem is that even the very generous feed-in tariffs they had in the past weren't stimulating the kind of activity expected, so if they cut it by another 30% you wonder if they're going to get the momentum they want behind build-out.'

All of this does not detract from Taiwan's ongoing success story as a technology producer for PV installations across the rest of the world, and Maslin believes that the island will continue to rely on demand in Europe and North America for the foreseeable future.

Even though he observes a slight price disadvantage to Chinese competitors, Maslin says Taiwan remains competitive in the global market and has a lot going for it. 'Its approach has been to build on its long history in the sector with names such as Motech, the fact that they have long-term agreements with module manufacturers and that the technology is generally seen as higher quality than a lot of what it coming out of China.'

This has allowed Taiwan to develop a useful 'in-between niche' in the market, says Maslin, and a resulting price premium that its producers are becoming more adept at protecting.

If Taiwan's PV success is likely to stay centred around exports, it has significant ambitions for its most obvious natural asset – the oceans that surround it and the winds that blow there.

Offshore wind power is central to Taiwan's renewable energy project, says a spokeswoman for the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), the Taiwanese government's technical arm. 'Renewable energy in Taiwan for the most part will be offshore wind power,' she adds.

The nation's industrial sector announced its offshore ambitions at the end of 2010 with the formation of the Taiwan Offshore Wind Power Alliance – made up of 18 companies from the region's energy, engineering and manufacturing sectors – and plans to set up Taiwan's first offshore wind farm in Changhua County, according to local reports. Commercial operations are due to begin in the second quarter of 2013 with its first two 5 MW turbines. If all goes to plan, these will be joined by a further 122 machines by the end of 2016.

Late 2010 also saw the Taiwanese government unveil its own plans for an 8 MW offshore wind demonstration project off the Penghu Islands, to be operational by the end of 2012. Penghu – a cluster of 90 small islands off the western coast of the Taiwanese mainland – is set to become something of a showcase for the country's renewable and low carbon credentials.

The government has pledged support to turn Penghu into Taiwan's first low-emission county by 2015. Plans include 96 MW of onshore wind capacity, solar energy initiatives and the creation of recharging infrastructure for electric mobility. According to Taiwan's Council for Economic Planning and Development, this should enable 56% of Penghu's energy needs to be met from renewable sources by the end of the five-year programme.

Penghu will also play a major role in Taiwan's efforts to harness ocean energy, a high priority technology for the government and ITRI. The national target is for a 200 MW installed capacity by 2025.

With around 1500 km of coastline and a sub-tropical environment, Taiwan has been investigating two main strands of ocean energy development since 2005, when its National Energy Conference formally decreed it a priority.

One is Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC), in which the country is at the forefront of global research thanks to ITRI's collaboration with Lockheed Martin of the US. The second focus of Taiwan's ocean push is to unlock the considerable potential of the waves and tidal currents around its shores. According to ITRI, studies have shown that the north-east offshore region of Taiwan has a wave energy potential of several hundred megawatts, while the east coast's Kuroshio path and the Pescadores Channel (off Penghu) have tidal current energy that could theoretically be tapped at gigawatt scale.

The BoE was impressed enough by this potential to fund ITRI to carry out a three-year study of the detailed requirements and impacts of installing wave energy conversion systems.

Preparatory activity has included site selection, environmental impact assessments and preliminary design evaluation. ITRI says it will be ready this year to deploy a wave device near Keelung Harbour, site of the National Taiwan Ocean University, another key partner in Taiwan's marine energy research effort.

ITRI's wave energy investigations have included close co-operation with the UK, a fellow island nation. The Taiwanese organisation has worked closely with Aquatera, an environmental and renewable energy consultancy based in Orkney, Scotland, site of the European Marine Energy Centre. Taiwan and the UK have also held several joint workshops dedicated to marine renewables. Indeed, ITRI has built a significant portfolio of external collaborations in the renewable energy sector, many building on Taiwan's expertise in the PV technology sector. International initiatives include work with DuPont on PV-conductive paste, with Nissan Chemical Industries on module materials and Reifenhauser of Germany on optical film.

Collaborations such as these serve to underline Taiwan's strong position as a technology and equipment supplier to the world's renewables industry. This may not yet be matched by its domestic infrastructure but the country does boast a number of flagship projects either completed or in progress.

One is the 59 MW concentrating photovoltaics (CPV) plant under development by Ya-Fei Green Energy and Guascor Solar of Spain. The new facility, due to begin operation later this year, is the most ambitious CPV plant in the world and would be the main contributor to a sharp growth in Taiwan's PV capacity in 2011 if it comes on-stream as planned, said analysts Frost & Sullivan.

Other Taiwanese landmarks include the Y.S. Sun Green Building Research Centre, the country's first zero-emissions building, which was officially opened in January at the National Cheng Kung University (NCKU), Tainan.

The building, also known as Magic School of Green Technology, boasts 13 distinct sustainable design approaches and technologies which contribute to an energy consumption reduction of up to 65% compared to standard alternatives, according to NCKU.

These include a distinctive roof that features a leaf-shaped solar array and is designed to act as a 'sunshade' for the main structure beneath. This blocks the majority of the direct solar radiation from entering, allowing the air conditioning system's power consumption to be significantly reduced, said the designers.

The Taiwanese project to achieve the highest international profile so far is the main stadium used for the 2009 World Games in the port city of Kaohsiung. More than 8800 solar panels are integrated into the stadium's roof, providing up to 75% of the venue's energy needs when an event is held and feeding electricity to the grid when it is not in use. Total output of the stadium is up to 1.14 GWh a year.

They are unlikely to be Taiwan's last showpiece projects, now that a country with such a formidable record as a manufacturer has turned its attention to its own renewable energy credentials.

Sidebar: PV Leaders

Taiwan is a major supplier of PV cells and modules, with 2010 cell production expected to reach 3 GW.

The growth is driven by companies such as Motech, the world's second biggest PV cell producer, with a claimed manufacturing capacity of more than 1 GW.

Taiwan's success in PV components developed from its long heritage in the semiconductor sector. These days, the nation's semiconductor foundry giants are after a piece of the solar action. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) is a 20% stakeholder in Motech and is steadily increasing its own cell production capacity.

The growth is music to the ears of Taiwan's government, which in 2009 launched its ambitious 'Green Energy Industry Sunrise Plan' to support the development of the country's PV technology sector.

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February 25, 2011

Yes. Taiwan has ambitious plans to harness Renewable Energy including Offshore Wind Farms.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

Wind Power: Crisis: What Crisis?

By Chris Webb, Contributor | February 18, 2011 | 2 Comments

Market prompts Europe rethink.

London, UK -- Until last year, wind power appeared immune to the worst ravages of an economic storm sweeping the globe. Then the world's biggest manufacturer of wind turbines took an axe to 3000 jobs in its native northern Europe. Did it signify not just a readjustment to a single producer's business model but a threat to the technology's continuing worldwide deployment? Or, as some believe, are fears of a decline in the sector's fortunes simply overblown?

"You could say we have been too optimistic for too long," Ditlev Engel, chief executive of Vestas said last October as the company cut its workforce by 15%. He later qualified these words, saying it was right to study the markets before taking "tough decisions" to close four production units in Denmark and another in Sweden, but it was inevitable this phrase would make headlines, sending shockwaves across the industry.

Vestas' move was in response to shifting fortunes, and shifting global markets. "If you can make a turbine in Asia and deliver it to Europe at a comparable price to making it in Europe, we have a problem," said Engel. "So we have to make sure we can always compete with what we call 'Asia plus freight'."

Logistics has not been the only problem facing wind power unit producers in a worsening context as the global economic crisis strengthened its hold. In addition to fiscal constraints in Europe, demand for wind turbines has been hit by lower fossil fuel prices and credit scarcity since the onset of the financial crisis. Reduced political momentum has become another negative factor.

Comments from Vestas' CEO Ditlev Engel on cutting 3000 workers in Europe prompted wider market concerns about the wind sector's prospects (Source: Vestas)

Industry observers had warned of overcapacity in Europe for some time. Engel said his company was responding out of financial necessity, diverting production capacity where manufacturing is less costly, while retaining development and research activities in Denmark. It was a strategy, he said, essential to preserve Vestas' profitability in the years to come.

But if it was a "readjustment" that many had seen coming, is also represented a rationalisation that sent industry forecasters hurriedly back to their desks. Immunity is no longer a word being bandied about in wind power circles when the biggest multinationals are apparently preoccupied weathering the current economic crisis.

A Goal to Sustain an Industry

At least the producers have access to markets that have goals to reach. Or, at least, that is the theory. At the centre of wind's meteoric rise in Europe has been the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels to boost economic growth, maintain technology leadership and keep climate change in check.

Wind power's fortunes remain firmly hitched to ever more demanding carbon reduction targets and the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) asserts that the current target has become easy to meet because of recession, leading to lower industrial activity. EWEA stresses a 30% cut by 2020 remains a crucial first step to the 80%—95% emissions cut by 2050 already agreed by the European Union heads of state. The cut is considered essential if Europe is to maintain its leadership in renewable energy technologies such as wind energy, and to create new jobs, become more competitive, and avoid losing ground to other regions. The loss of 3000 jobs in northern Europe is all the more painful as investing in renewable energy - and wind power specifically – is central to the EU's wishes to create a million new jobs through local manufacturing, growing GDP by an estimated 0.6%.

EWEA says the benefits of a move to 30% outweigh the costs. It cites the International Energy Agency (IEA): 'Every year of delayed investment in more low carbon sources adds €300—400 billion to the price tag'. If the reduction target was to remain at 20%, a much higher and more expensive reduction effort would be necessary post-2020. Moreover, the recession has reduced the cost of meeting the 20% target from €70 billion to €48 billion per year in 2020, or 0.32% of GDP, according to the European Commission.

Over the next five years, global wind power capacity is poised to grow almost threefold to nearly 450 GW from 160 GW, taking the sector's market value to $124 billion in 2014, from $75 billion in 2010, according to BTM, the Danish wind energy consultancy firm. BTM predicts that, if capacity continues to grow, reaching 1 TW by 2019, wind energy would then account for more than 8% of world electricity production, compared with around 1.6% in 2010.

Gamesa, GE and Siemens are all planning to invest in UK manufacturing (Source: Gamesa)

Almost a year ago, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) reported that the global markets would continue their rapid growth, with the world's wind power capacity increasing by 160% over the five years to 2014. Its next annual industry forecast is expected to be similarly bullish.

In 2010 GWEC expected that the global installed wind capacity will reach 409 GW by 2014, up from 158.5 GW at the end of 2009. This assumed an average growth rate of 21% per year, which is conservative compared to the 29% average growth that the wind industry experienced over the past decade. During 2014, it said, the annual market will be more than 60 GW, up from 38.3 GW in 2009. In the past, these projections have regularly been outstripped by the actual performance of the industry and have had to be adjusted upwards. Despite the ramifications of the financial crisis, 2009 was no exception, and 2010 is expected to follow the trend.

It is news that should hearten the likes of Engel who, after his company's painful crash diet, believes Vestas is more strongly positioned to take advantage of emerging markets than ever before, even as it reported a nine month loss in earnings to September 2010, blaming staff cuts on a gloomy industry outlook which will see it secure an estimated 7000-8000 MW of turbine orders in 2011, down from the 8000—9000 MW of last year.

So despite being downgraded by numerous investment institutions, including recently, Barclays, producers generally remain emboldened by mainly optimistic regular industry forecasts. Another industry report, from Nomura, predicts an almost 15% rise in global installations this year on the back of double-digit growth in the Americas and Asia where, coincidentally, more than half Vestas' orders originate. The UK and Germany are expected to pick up some of the slack in Europe, where the recession and reduced subsidies in countries such as Spain have taken a toll. Overall, international IPPs have continued to drive the market forward in spite of tight financial conditions.

A Global Issue?

It would appear there is some evidence to show that it is in Europe where the severity of economic woes are being felt most. But there are worries, also, in the US and even in China, which has so far avoided the downturn but which has seen growth rates tumble.

The US remains on top in terms of cumulative installation, but last year experienced its slowest quarter since 2007. As development continues, the Department of Energy estimates that 54 GW of offshore wind could be included in the 300 GW required to meet 20% of the US electricity needs by 2030, with the best offshore wind resources in the north east and the Atlantic Coast from Georgia to Maine.

However, last year saw the development of wind power continue to be hampered by an ongoing tightness in the financial markets and the overall economic downturn. Countering this, to some extent, were the provisions of the government's Recovery Act, in particular the grant programmes, and there remain legislative uncertainties at the federal level in Canada, resulting in forecasts for a North American market that will stay flat for at least another year, and then pick up again in 2012 to reach a cumulative total of 101.5 GW by 2014 (up from 38.5 GW in 2009). This would translate into an addition of 63 GW in the US and Canada over the next five years. "America has the best wind resources in the world," Engel told Forbes magazine a couple of years ago. 'Not harvesting America's wind would be like going to Saudi Arabia and not drilling for oil."

But a study of the US market for wind power by IHS Emerging Energy Research, "US Wind Power Markets and Strategies: 2010-2025," predicted that 2010 would be the first time since 2004 that the American wind industry would fall short of the previous year's growth, despite unprecedented federal wind incentives. The study blamed reverberations from the financial crisis which continue to create a difficult near-term market landscape, especially in light of stubborn energy policy uncertainty.

More than Half of Vestas' orders come from beyond Europe (Source: Vestas)

The US market is in the grip of a slowdown, brought about by a lack of federal direction, creating an unstable business environment across America. Virtually nowhere is exempted. "It's a national market issue right now," says Paul Lucy, director of the North Dakota Economic Development Division. "If you look at the stats put out by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), depending upon which quarter of the year you look at, they've seen a decline in the installation of wind power, wind generation farms anywhere from 50 to 70%," he says.

"Without an energy policy, we have some uncertainty in the industry, which creates an unstable business environment," added Lucy. "Utilities then become less eager to enter into those power purchase agreements." Without that demand, wind farm equipment manufacturing companies throughout the country, including North Dakota, have been laying off employees. Another obstacle for wind farms is a lack of transmission lines. Lucy says a federal energy policy would also help address that issue.

Last July, AWEA published figures showing a collapse in new capacity added in the sector. In the second quarter of the year, only 700 MW of wind turbines were installed in the US, down 71% from the same period in 2009. Elsewhere, officially, as is outlined in the IHS study, the US is still on track to add more than 165 GW of new capacity through 2025. The Midwest, Great Plains and Rocky Mountain states will act as major wind power export hubs to other areas, including California, the South and the Mid-Atlantic. Wind was set to represent US$330 billion in investments between 2010 and 2025, while offshore wind projects will only account for only 5% of total installations by 2025. Transmission issues, said the report, continued to be a barrier to wind projects.

China Is The Champion, But Europe Not Out Yet

China, like Europe, sees wind power as an important contributor to its stated goals of reducing carbon intensity. But China is even more ambitious, aiming for a 40% reduction by 2020. In 2009, the country accounted for one-third of total annual wind capacity additions, with 13.8 GW worth of new wind farms installed. This took China's total capacity up to 25.9 GW, thereby pushing China past Germany as the country with the most installed wind power capacity by a narrow margin. According to the Chinese Wind Energy Association, new capacity added has doubled every year since 2006.

With an unofficial target of 150 GW of wind capacity by 2020 – an ambitious target that looks set to be exceeded well ahead of time – the Chinese government will remain one of the main drivers in the coming years, with annual additions expected to be over 20 GW by 2014. Although the government has expressed concerns about the overheating of Chinese turbine manufacturing, any precautionary measures are likely to be targeted at production rather than the deployment of wind turbines. China's growth is underpinned by an aggressive policy supporting the diversification of the electricity supply and a burgeoning domestic industrial base.

Fiscal constraints mean that growth in new wind energy installations in Europe is forecast to shrink from 14% in 2010 to 1% this year, according to analysts at Citigroup. But, the European bubble isn't ready to burst yet. With an aggressive focus on offshore development, no country or region is moving at a faster pace than Europe. According to figures released by EWEA, installations increased 51% in 2010. And this is being translated into manufacturing investment which is seeing some pockets of investment. For instance, the wind giant Gamesa has advanced its strategy to make the UK the core of its worldwide offshore wind business by proposing to set up its marine wind technology centre in Glasgow, Scotland, a move that could see the creation of 130 jobs in the country's largest city.

Gamesa's announcement comes just a few months after it unveiled an industrial plan for offshore wind power in the UK, where it plans to invest over €150 million through 2014. In addition to its offshore technology centre in Glasgow and a potential industrial, logistics and O&M base in Dundee, Gamesa's offshore wind strategy for the UK includes construction of a blade production plant and engaging in offshore logistics from a number of UK ports, around which it will locate its wind turbine O&M operations.

Assuming financial conditions remain favourable, EU officials and EWEA say up to 40 GW could be installed in the North Sea region by 2020.

Aside from Gamesa, General Electric and Siemens, among the world's biggest wind power companies, are planning to invest more than £300 million ($475 million) in the UK in the next three to four years, creating an estimated 3600 jobs. Up to 70,000 jobs in offshore wind could be created in the UK by 2020, according to government estimates.

Europe also continues to lead the field in research and development and will continue to be host to the largest wind capacity until 2014 (136.5 GW), when it will be overtaken by Asia (148.8 GW), according to GWEC. By 2014, the annual European market will reach 14.5 GW. In its 2010 round-up, EWEA also predicted a good 2011 for offshore wind, with 1-1.5 GW of new capacity connected in Europe.

In Europe, EWEA also highlighted a number of other trends emerging during 2010. They included a steady flow of investment announcements from utilities, which have continued to increase their balance sheet commitments to the sector, while national and international finance institutions such as the European Investment Bank (EIB) and export credit agencies have been essential allies in the development of the sector during a particularly difficult economic period. These, says EWEA, are likely to remain active in the sector in the coming year, providing critical liquidity at a low cost, ensuring that a smooth transition can be engineered towards a more mature market when commercial banks are more able to undertake large transactions without them.

It is clear that even giants like Vestas are not immune from the volalities of the regional market, but it is also clear that the global wind sector is nothing if not robust.

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February 19, 2011

In any business ups and downs are common. More so during recession, it is natural. Wind Energy will be a major Renewable Energy especially with ever expanding Offshore Wind farms.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India
Wind Energy Expert
Nellore (AP),India

Solar Solar and Energy Storage: A Perfect Match

By By John Battaglini, International Battery, and Michael F. Reiley, HNU Energy | February 18, 2011 | 1 Comment

Besides grid stabilization and load leveling, storage systems can potentially provide backup power to thousands of residential and commercial customers, especially when solar or wind is not available.

Hawaii, USA -- Advancements in grid technologies as well as the quest for cleaner, longer-lasting alternatives to fossil fuels are driving the implementation of the smart grid. In fact, with renewables and the electrical grid, the ongoing challenge of balancing intermittent renewable energy, load leveling, back-up power as well as grid regulation and line efficiencies are the perfect storm for energy storage. Because of the intermittent nature of renewable power as more renewable sources such as solar are integrated into the smart grid, managing and storing energy are essential.

Proving Ground

As abundant as the sun is in the beautiful verdant islands, Hawaii depends on imported petroleum for most of its electrical energy needs. Unlike mainland states, Hawaii doesn't have the luxury of accessing other fuel sources, such as natural gas or large rivers, to produce hydropower. Petroleum is easy to transport and can be easily refined to create fuel for air, water and ground transportation, electricity and other uses. However, with the price of electricity the highest in the nation, combined with a desire and need to curtail the effects of global warming, Hawaii has a mandate to obtain 70 percent of its energy from renewables by 2030. This is a lofty goal to be sure. However, it should be attainable thanks to governmental efforts, financial incentives and advanced technology available to lessen the dependence on foreign oil and to better control energy consumption.

While wanting more energy produced by renewables, managing its generation is an issue. Maui Electric Co. (MECO), like other utilities across the islands, has expressed concern about renewable power sources posing a threat to grid operations. Intermittent power takes time to ramp up and can go offline on cloudy or windless days. This situation causes the utilities to boost production sporadically. Therefore, energy storage can directly impact grid stabilization, lessening peak demands and providing back-up power during power outages.

According to the Energy Storage Council, the Department of Energy (DOE) estimated in 1993 that energy storage could have a $57.2 billion positive impact from the widespread use of "high-density storage devices to... store power during off-peak periods and deliver it when loads exceed generating capacity." The Council has since updated this forecast to $175 billion over the next 15 years. Japan and Europe far outpace the U.S. in energy storage with 15 percent and 10 percent, respectively. The U.S. falls behind with 2.5 percent; the U.S. is playing catch-up, but not for long.

Energy Storage to the Test

Recently, utilities and system integrators in the U.S. have initiated several demonstration pilot programs to prove the viability of energy storage and its potential impact on the grid. Besides grid stabilization and load leveling, storage systems can potentially provide back-up power to thousands of residential and commercial customers, especially when solar or wind is not available.

Another key driver for energy storage is the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) adopted by states to significantly increase the amount of electricity generated by renewables. According to the DOE, as of May 2009, there were 24 states plus the District of Columbia that have RPS policies in place. Together, these states account for more than half of the electricity sales in the United States. The state of Maine has an aggressive goal of 40 percent by 2017. California wants to reach 33 percent by 2030 and many other states want to reach between 15 percent and 20 percent in the next five years and beyond. As mentioned earlier, Hawaii has an aggressive mandate of 70 percent from renewables by 2030.

As an example, the Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) recently wanted to assess the effectiveness of storing solar energy. International Battery teamed with solar integrator HNU Energy to develop a solar power generation and energy storage system for the MEDB (pictured). HNU Energy has become a leader in Maui's rapidly growing green economy and specializes in commercial and residential photovoltaic systems as well as high efficiency LED lighting.

(Left: Maui Economic Development Board solar array.)

Working as a team, a renewable energy system for the MEDB was developed and is comprised of 60 224W photovoltaic panels, a bi-directional three-phase inverter system and a state-of-the-art charge-controller network provided by HNU Energy. In addition, a 48V, 16.4 kWh lithium-ion-based energy storage system was integrated (complete with battery management and controls) to store energy generated from the solar array.

The energy storage system includes four battery modules, totaling 32 160Ah lithium iron phosphate (LFP) cells and a battery-management system (BMS) integrated into a standard Electronics Industry Alliance (EIA) 19-inch portable rack mount chassis and enclosure. The large-format lithium ion batteries were chosen because of their high-energy density, robust thermal and cycling performance as well as easy system expandability.

The success of the MEDB project has garnered attention from a wide group of Hawaii renewable energy stakeholders including national labs, utilities, the PUC and multi-megawatt-scale solar and wind providers. Ramp up/down and power smoothing are of special interest for bringing large renewables onto the grid without destabilization. These applications require high power and energy with the ability to discharge the batteries at rates that are multiples of the battery capacity (C-rate). Lab data, shown in the chart, demonstrates the ability to meet a 5 MW ramp up/down requirement of three and five minutes, respectively. A single battery charge handled multiple ramp up/down cycles.

The keys to overall system performance are knowing the health and charge state of the individual battery cells, as well as understanding the temperature, depth of discharge and charging status. HNU Energy engineered an interface between the grid and International Battery's BMS, providing maximal flexibility to transition seamlessly between being grid-tied and off-grid. A graphical user interface (GUI) developed by HNU Energy to remotely monitor and control the BMS and grid interface means that voltage and temperature for every battery can be remotely monitored and controlled. Load balancing and power smoothing are continually optimized to ensure grid stability and maximum battery service life.

Community Energy Storage

Another future outcome of the Smart Grid is community energy storage (CES). Coined by American Electric Power, CES is part of the utility's gridSMART demonstration project. This project, funded in part by $75 million DOE stimulus funding, will be deployed to 110,000 AEP customers in northeast central Ohio. The idea is to provide the utility and its customers many benefits, including load leveling, back-up power, support for plug-in electric car deployment and renewables as well as grid regulation and improved distribution line efficiencies.

As part of this first-of-its-kind project, AEP and system integrator, S&C will test large-format lithium ion batteries (Li-Ion). Different from their smaller counterparts used in flashlights and IPods, large-format lithium ion prismatic batteries provide the right sized building blocks to deliver higher amounts of energy and scale up as energy demands increase. Of course, controlling and understanding the state of the batteries is vital, and that's where highly intelligent battery management comes in to play.

Using state-of-the-art software and electronics, today's advanced battery monitoring systems can tell users the exact state of the battery, state of health, charging status and temperature. This project is currently underway and will integrate a broad range of advanced technologies in the distribution grid, utility back-office and consumer premises with innovative consumer programs. The outcome is to demonstrate the many benefits of a smart grid for consumers and the utility. In fact, CES holds the promise of becoming an integral component of the smart grid.

Ramp Up/Down Data for 3C Battery Discharge

As the smart grid transforms associated industries, the role and significance of energy storage will continue to increase. And, while there are different storage solutions such as flywheels, compressed air and hydro as well as various battery technologies, large-format lithium ion cells are leading the way in many high energy applications because of their near 100 percent efficiency, scalability and versatility. The energy storage market made huge strides during 2009. Of the $185 million granted from the DOE for 16 projects, $83.1 million was allocated to 11 battery-related projects.

Energy storage systems need to be robust and dependable. Today's advances in battery technology, combined with superior methods of monitoring and managing batteries, take energy storage to a much higher level of integration in smart energy applications. From an economic and environmentally sustainable perspective, the future looks bright for the combination of renewables with energy storage: a perfect match.

1 Reader Comments

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February 20, 2011

Good analysis. Renewable energy storage other than grid connected is a major problem. The method proposed will help to solve this to some extent.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

Record Growth for EU Offshore Wind in 2010

By David Appleyard, Chief Editor, Renewable Energy World International | February 15, 2011 | 1 Comment

London, UK -- With 308 new offshore wind turbines installed in 2010 – a 51% increase in installed capacity on the previous year - offshore wind power experienced record growth in Europe, according to the latest analysis to emerge from the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).

With 308 new offshore wind turbines installed in 2010 – a 51% increase in installed capacity on the previous year - offshore wind power experienced record growth in Europe, according to the latest analysis to emerge from the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).

Its 'European offshore wind industry – key trends and statistics 2010' document reveals that - across nine installations and five countries – some 883 MW of new offshore capacity was developed in 2010, bringing Europe's offshore installed capacity to a total of 2964 MW.

Worth some €2.6 billion in 2010, there are more than 1100 offshore wind turbines currently operational in Europe, which in a normal wind year would produce 11.5 TWh of electricity, EWEA says.

More detailed figures reveal the UK to be the clear global leader with a total of 1341 MW, followed by Denmark with 854 MW. The Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden have 249 MW, 195 MW and 164 MW, respectively. Germany boasts 92 MW, Ireland 25 MW, Finland 26 MW and finally Norway, with 2.3 MW, brings up the rear.

Total installed offshore capacity by owner (Source: EWEA)

Turning to technology developments, EWEA says that during 2010, 29 new offshore turbine models were announced by 21 manufacturers, bringing the number of new turbine models developed over the last two years to 44, from 33 manufacturers.

Commenting, EWEA's chief executive, Christian Kjaer, observed: 'With over 50% market growth, 2010 sets a new record for European offshore wind energy.'

However, Kjaer also warned: 'Finance remains a big challenge but we are seeing improvements with more banks and other financing institutions ready to invest in large offshore wind projects.' EWEA argues that 2010 saw an improving financing environment with private banks, financial institutions like the European Investment Bank (EIB), utilities and pension funds backing the sector. They cite two major deals completed in 2010 – Thornton Bank C-Power and Trianel Wind Farm Borkum West - which highlight the brighter financial outlook with both coming to financial close.

Furthermore, EWEA forecasts continued strong growth over the coming year, with 1— 1.5 GW of new grid-connected capacity anticipated.

A total of 19 GW of offshore wind capacity is fully consented and 10 plants are currently under construction, a total of 3 GW, EWEA research shows. These figures do not include the more than 32 GW of offshore capacity planned, but not yet fully consented, in the UK.

Put in context, the figures on offshore development compare with the total of 9259 MW of wind power capacity (worth some €12.7 billion) installed across the EU during 2010, a 10% drop compared to the previous year. Nonetheless, wind power accounted for 16.7% of total 2010 power capacity installations and more renewable power capacity was installed during 2010 than any other year, an increase of 31% compared to 2009. However, the figures also reveal that for the first time since 2007 wind power did not install more than any other generating technology.

Overall, renewables accounted for 41% of new installations during 2010, with 22,645 MW from a total of 55,326 MW. The EU's total installed power capacity increased by close to 53 GW to 874,023 MW, with wind power increasing its share of installed capacity to 84,074 MW or 9.6%.

Germany remains the EU country with the largest installed capacity, followed by Spain, Italy, France and the UK. Meanwhile, increasing installations in emerging EU markets such as the offshore sector in northern Europe, and onshore in southeast Europe-have offset the fall in installations in the mature onshore markets of Germany, UK, and Spain.

These figures set the scene for the forthcoming EWEA Annual Event - formerly known as EWEC – which is due to take place on 14-17 March 2011 in Brussels, Belgium. With a comprehensive conference programme and exhibition, the 2011 event is expected to attract over 10,000 people from more than 60 countries. Over 400 exhibitors will be on site in the almost 13,000 m2 exhibition space.

Reflecting its growing significance, offshore wind is afforded a full track on the opening day as part of the conference programme. Among others, the 'Offshore wind energy: Challenges and opportunities' session will hear from the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) in a paper titled: 2030 Roadmap for offshore wind deployment in the North Sea. Meanwhile, Philipp Lyding of Germany's Fraunhofer IWES will present a paper on the Offshore Scientific Measurement and Evaluation Program (Offshore WMEP) which aims to optimise availability and therefore the profitability of offshore wind farms.

1 Reader Comments

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February 15, 2011

Yes. EU leads in Offshore Wind farms. But developments in US, China, Taiwan, South Korea etc., will spread offshore wind farms outside EU.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India

Calculating the True Cost of Solar Electricity

By Ucilia Wang, Contributor | February 13, 2011 | 24 Comments

Researchers continue to seek ways to accurately predict the levelized cost of energy.

It goes without saying that solar investors want a good cost and performance analysis before deciding whether to pump money into a project. What many may not realize is the numbers they get often are superficial and too basic, said researchers from Argonne National Laboratory.

In a paper published in Energy & Environmental Science last month, the authors crunched numbers to create a cost analysis that showed in more detail a range of scenarios for power production and costs throughout the expected lifetime of a solar power plant. The analysis also tells the likelihood that each scenario will take place.

“People are taking these guesses and not capturing the uncertainties associated with them,” said Seth Darling, an Argonne researcher and lead author of the paper, which looks at levelized cost of energy calculations for utility-scale projects. “They take their best guesses based on existing data and make projections about what those numbers will be.”

Levelized cost of energy (LCOE), expressed in cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), takes into account not only the capital cost of building a project, but also all the operating and maintenance expenses over time (such as the length of a power purchase agreement). It doesn’t include the profit a plant owner wants to make.

Banks or other project financiers typically hire consulting firms to generate LCOE analyses to help them make investment decisions. Some large developers also have internal teams doing the same. The LCOE numbers aren’t just valuable for developers and bankers, they also are useful for policy makers, particularly given the solar energy industry’s reliance on government incentives.

Energy Secretary Steve Chu recently launched the SunShot initiative to put money into projects that will help drive down the LCOE to $0.06 per kilowatt hour by the end of the decade, a rate that will be cost competitive with power from fossil fuel sources without a need for government subsidies.

The paper, “Assumptions and Levelized Cost of Energy for Photovoltaics,” pointed to Spain as an example of how simplistic LCOE calculations can contribute the collapse of a booming market. The country became the largest photovoltaic installation market in 2008 when developers anticipated a sharp decline in government-set solar electric pricing and a national cap of 500 megawatts for 2009.

“For the PV industry, LCOE analysis failed most spectacularly in Spain in 2008, when too many projects were developed using best case assumptions regarding panel failure rates and other performance factors. A more thorough analysis of the uncertainties associated with these assumptions could have prevented substantial losses,” according to the paper, which was co-authored by a researcher from Northwestern University and an analyst from Gartner.

What Darling and his fellow researchers have found is that analysts typically plug in just one number for each data field, the result of which leads to a simplistic view of a power plant’s power output. A LCOE analysis takes into account factors such as the amount of sunlight, sunlight-to-electricity conversion rate of the solar panels, anticipated degradation rate of the photovoltaic materials, and the cost of borrowing money.

Every firm may have its own model and software for doing LCOE calculations. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory offers what it calls the Solar Advisor Model for doing such analysis. The model does allow a deeper analysis by letting you vary one number for each data field to get a range of results, Darling said. But there are better ways to project cost and performance, he added.

“You have to give a range when you give LCOE estimates. When you talk to people in the industry, they will say, ‘This is the number,’ especially finance guys. We want to say: don’t do that,” said Alfonso Velosa, a Gartner analyst and co-author of the paper.

In the paper, the researchers used a well-known method called Monte Carlo to show what a more detailed LCOE analysis will look at for each of the three hypothetical projects in different locations. Instead of, say, putting in the average value for the solar resource at one location into the model, the researchers first come up with a range of possible numbers for a given location by culling decades of data. Then, Monte Carlo calculations randomly select numbers from different sets of numbers. By doing these Monte Carlo calculations many times over, they came up with not just a range of LCOE numbers but also information showing the probability of achieving certain results. Each analysis also could shed light on which factors lead to more uncertainties in the outcome.

The work requires more assumptions and calculations, which paint a more complicated picture of a project’s potential cost and performance.

“It makes things less certain, but it was always less certain, you just didn't know how uncertain it was before,” Darling said. “I hope it gives people more input and helps them think about ways to reduce the uncertainties.”

Using a good mathematical model isn’t the only key to producing a more comprehensive analysis. Good data also are important. Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot of operational data from commercial solar power plants because the market has only begun to take off in the United States. Operational data tend to be proprietary anyway. Data on weather, solar irradiance, solar panel efficiencies are more readily available, but the quality of data can be inconsistent, depending on who is collecting and providing them.

Larger developers and owners such as SunPower, SunEdison, First Solar, Sempra and Florida Power & Light can carry out more sophisticated analyses by drawing data from the large-scale projects they have installed. Some universities and national labs, such as NREL and Sandia, are collecting data from their own field trials. Chevron announced a test bed of photovoltaic technologies in California last year. ProLogis, which leases industrial spaces worldwide, including rooftops for solar power projects, also launched a test site in Colorado last year.

Argonne also is planning a test site at the Illinois Tollway's headquarters outside of Chicago, Darling said. The idea is to collect data about how solar panels operate in the Midwest and make that data available. The site will test panels using crystalline (mono- and multicrystalline), amorphous-silicon, cadmium-telluride and copper-indium-gallium-selenide. Weather stations will be set up to collect data on temperatures, humidity, solar irradiance and others. The installation will use microinverters, said Darling. Selections for the solar panels and microinverters haven’t been finalized.

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February 15, 2011

Excellent analysis. Often solar energy generation is compared to coal based energy. In many cases coal is subsidised which does not represent the true cost of generation of power.

Another crucial factor is present efficiency of solar cells widely used which shoots up the generation cost.

Until efficient solar cells from tandem, organic polymer, gallium arsenide, gallium phosphate are available in the market at an affordable price(When mass produced) solar PV will not be popular especially in developing countries.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India

Wind Measurement Must Grow Along with Turbine Height

By Naomi Pierce | February 14, 2011 | 1 Comment

Wind turbine technology has advanced steadily over the last several years, but the basic wind measurement platform has lagged behind. Turbine manufacturers are producing new generations of turbines with ever greater hub heights and larger rotors to capture more energy. Taller turbines are one of the ingredients to a more productive wind farm, but the industry needs the right information guiding their deployment.

The modern wind anemometer has been around for more than a century-and-a-half now, making it a trusted instrument. Today, wind developers are primarily measuring wind speed with anemometers mounted on meteorological towers (“met towers”). These sensors are not measuring the same heights that affect turbine blades. A 60-meter met mast outfitted with sensors measures only about a quarter of the rotor sweep of a commercial turbine with an 80-meter hub height. Even an 80-meter mast – more common outside the United States, where FAA regulations on heights over 60 meters can be cumbersome – measures less than half of the commercial turbine’s rotor sweep.

And siting taller met masts is increasingly complex, risky, and expensive. The greater the difference in height between the wind being measured and the wind that will actually power a turbine, the greater the uncertainty of the wind resource assessment process. Uncertainty in the wind profile creates uncertainty in the predictions of a wind farm's annual energy production (AEP). This uncertainty can give birth to undesirable financing terms, uncertainty in turbine selection and wind farm design, underperformance of the wind farm, and unpredictable maintenance needs.

Remote sensing is a credible alternative to mast-based measurement. Remote sensors are ground-based, using sound or light to measure wind speed and direction at various heights. They can reveal the extent of wind shear events, turbulence, wake effects, and other conditions that affect the site's suitability. Developers prospecting new sites can use remote sensing systems to quickly identify the most promising turbine locations while eliminating marginal locations. With that intelligence, they can use fewer met masts and site them more effectively.

With portable form factors and much smaller footprints than met towers, remote sensors are more versatile and economical than towers, and measure data at heights up to 200 meters. That easily covers the rotor sweep of higher turbines coming onto the market.

Remote sensors used in today's commercial wind industry are based on either sodar (Sound Detection And Ranging) or lidar (Light Detection And Ranging) technology. Sodar is the technology we use in our Triton Sonic Wind Profiler, and we’re proud to know that independent tests by two national laboratories (Energy Research Centre / Netherlands and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Lab) have proven that our sodar can deliver accuracy comparable to tower-mounted instruments.

Our industry would benefit from a switch in the equation between fixed and remote sensing. Currently, three to five masts are erected for every remote sensor used on a prospective wind site. That ratio should be reversed. Remote sensing systems should be the primary data gatherers. They’re just as accurate as mast-mounted sensors and gather more data, and they’re more cost effective and versatile. Mast-mounted sensors’ proper role right now is providing reliable data baselines for correlating remote units.

Using remote and fixed sensing together creates more comprehensive wind data sets that reduce the uncertainty inherent in wind farm development. Both methods together provide wind farm developers persuasive facts to attract investors, and offer investors assurances of earning a return on their money.

1 Reader Comments

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February 15, 2011

Excellent story. I fully endorse it.

The main drawback with poor performance of Wind Turbines in some cases is improper micrositing, matching the turbine height to the wind regime. Often in their eagerness to avail incentives Wind turbines are erected without a proper study. No doubt velocity of wind increases with height. But this is not common in all cases. It depends on the terrain where the wind turbine has to be installed. The wind speed gets remarkably larger with height for low surface winds. Hence, for locations having low winds, large hub heights are recommended for wind machines.

There is a Power law index which is used to know the wind speed at a higher height than the height where measurements were available. Power Law Equation U2/U1 = (H2/H1) µ H1 = is the height at which the wind speed has been measured (usually, it is 10m agl as per IMD standards) H2 = is the height at which wind speed estimate is desired,

µ = is the power law index and is determined empirically (1/7).

Another reason for poor performance of some wind turbines is extrapolation of wind speed to higher heights. In California in the early times when wind turbines were erected, a anemometer at the hub height used to be put to measure the actual wind speed at that height.

Since power is cube of velocity, wind velocity is the key factor in determinining the output from the turbine. Another factor is spacing of the turbines. Generally five times the diameter of the blades of the turbine between the turbines and 7 times the diameter behind the turbines is followed.

With the emergence of large wind turbines for both onshore and offshore, size of the machine(Hub height) matching the annual wind regime at the place where the wind turbines are installed plays a crucial role.


Wind Energy Expert

Nellore (AP), India

UK FIT Fires Up Solar, But Also Creates Uncertainty

By Raphael Raggatt, Research Analyst, Greenbang | February 11, 2011 | 1 Comment

The introduction of the Feed-in Tariff in the UK in April 2010 has sparked an explosive reaction in the UK renewable energy market, with the solar PV market seeing the largest growth

According to a recent report from the analysis firm Greenbang (of which I happen to be the lead author), in just a half-year since the tariff was introduced, more than 10,000 solar photovoltaic (PV) installations were recorded, with the majority consisting of domestic installations. This has led to an increase of twice the 2009 installed capacity in the first six months.

The overall installed capacity is also set to rapidly increase as larger-scale (5 MW) solar farms come into play in the next 12-18 months. These outcomes demonstrate the positive effect the feed-in tariff has had on the UK solar market, despite the poor economic conditions.

The only way for the UK renewable energy market to grow to a respectable size comparable with Germany is for it to have the full support of the incumbent government. The fact that large-scale solar PV farms are beginning to appear in the English countryside should be celebrated as a success of the government’s FIT policy.

Instead, the scheme is being portrayed as an enemy to micro-generation, with little regard for the fact that large-scale solar PV helps companies to achieve lower costs that can then be passed on to domestic installations.

This week, Chris Huhne, Britain’s Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, announced the government would start its first review of the FIT scheme for small-scale, low-carbon electricity generation. This news comes earlier than expected and will lead to uncertainty within the UK renewable market, in particular for solar PV.

Before we get into the changes, let’s have a brief explanation of the UK feed-in tariff.

The measure can be separated into two sections: one provides a fixed payment for electricity generated, called the “generation tariff,” and the other, which enables any unused electricity to be exported to the grid, is known as the “export tariff.”

Each type of technology (solar PV, wind, hydro, anaerobic digestion (AD) and micro-combined heat and power, or micro-CHP) is implemented differently, with contrasting prices for kWh of electricity produced by each system. This is to ensure a level playing field by encouraging the installation of the more expensive technologies, such as solar PV, which receives the highest rates.

For the FIT to be sustainable, the tariff rates are reduced annually after the first two years of implementation, in line with predicted price reductions for each of the technologies due to advancement of production techniques and related cost reductions.

Although they have been initially slow to react due to greater regulations and planning, wind and hydro are catching up in terms of installed capacity. The AD market has failed to really kick off due to the tariff rate of 9p/kWh (US $ 0.14 per kWh) being seen as too low in the industry.

As AD installations are generally much larger in installed capacity, they can be covered by ROCs (Renewable Obligation Certificates), which are another form of incentive for larger-scale renewable energies. The micro-CHP technology still needs developing to have an impact; however, there is a sizeable potential.

The benefits of the feed-in tariff have been found to spread across the whole renewable energy industry, with companies ploughing the extra profits generated back into R&D to make sure costs can be reduced when the tariff rate is reduced annually after 2013. Manufacturers can reduce costs through increased economies of scale, and thousands of jobs are created for installers who would otherwise be struggling within the construction industry.

A number of companies have been exploiting the generous tariff rate for solar PV (41.3 p/kWh for ≤4kW retrofit; US $0.66), providing “free solar panels for roofs” whereby the company benefits from the cash generated from electricity produced by the systems and the homeowner benefits from reduced electricity costs of up to £140 per year. This helps in cases where homeowners cannot afford the high initial costs of a PV system (typically £10,000-12,000 for a domestic 2.5kW system), thus meaning the FIT is accessible for everyone, as long as they have a good location.

Recently, the government decided to bring forward the review, originally set for 2012, as it has become increasingly concerned with the development of large-scale solar PV farms 5MW in size, which are taking advantage of a generous tariff rate that currently stands at 29.3p/kWh (US $0.47/kWh.) The review aims to:

  • Assess all aspects of the scheme, including tariff levels, administration and eligibility of technologies
  • Be completed by the end of the year, with tariffs remaining unchanged until April 2012 (unless the review reveals a need for greater urgency)
  • Fast-track consideration of large-scale solar projects (over 50kW) with a view to making any resulting changes to tariffs as soon as practical, subject to consultation and Parliamentary scrutiny as required by the Energy Act 2008.

We believe the problem with these aims, the last one in particular, is that investors in the UK renewable energy market will see an unsteady field on which to play and will look elsewhere to put their money. The budget review in November caused the first jitters in the market, and this will further enhance the view that the government is not strong enough to follow through, thick and thin, with the FIT policy.

The government has gone so far as to describe the larger-scale solar farms as “a threat” that was “not fully anticipated.” This seems rather strange considering that, when the rate was set, the government allowed solar PV installations of up to 5 MW to be included. Thus, it would be natural for companies to benefit from economies of scale and go for the largest installation.

In addition to examining large-scale solar, the review will also look at how to improve the uptake of anaerobic digestion (AD) for the agricultural industry, as only two such projects have been accredited so far.

As noted in the recent Greenbang report on the UK renewable energy market reaction to the FIT, the agricultural industry is able to benefit from the policy only if collaboration between farmers exists. Current technologies mean AD is not really viable on a small enough scale for one site. Combined heat and power (CHP) utilization of the AD biogas output also needs to be improved.

In light of this review, the UK renewable energy sector must take a lesson to heart: it needs to be able to stand on its own two feet and make sure it doesn’t rely too heavily on the FIT policy. Companies can do this by making sure the extra profits they’re generating through the FIT are put back into R&D to lower production, manufacturing and installation costs.

The market needs to be sustainable and prepared for the long term. It will benefit not from companies looking to make a quick buck, but from companies that wish to see the UK as a leader in renewable energies in 10 years’ time.

1 Reader Comments

Anumakonda February 13, 2011


1 of 1

Excellent article.

Feed-in Tariffs helped Germany, Spain and other countries to advance Renewable Energy.

In Europe the Feed-in Tariff has proved very successful, especially in Germany and Spain and is a reward to encourage consumers to install renewable energy. There is an urgent need for Feed-in Tariffs to support renewable energy in the home, community and businesses.

The Feed-in Tariff works by guaranteeing a long term premium payment electricity generated from renewable sources and fed into the grid. The Government would fix the level of the tariff to be paid and set the length of contract for each renewable technology.

Feed-in Tariffs have increased by up to 50% to 15p per Kwh, by June 2010 the tariffs are estimated to be 42.5p

The FIT system means that the pay-back time for PV is no longer several decades but several years instead. In countries such as Germany and Spain the demand for renewable energy systems has risen dramatically and the installation costs are coming down fast. This financing model has now been taken up widely around the

world,(Source: The World Future Council).

Countries, states and provinces that have adopted FITs

Year Cumulative number Countries/states/provinces added that year

1978 1 United States

1990 2 Germany

1991 3 Switzerland

1992 4 Italy

1993 6 Denmark, India

1994 8 Spain, Greece

1997 9 Sri Lanka

1998 10 Sweden

1999 13 Portugal, Norway, Slovenia

2000 14 Thailand

2001 16 France, Latvia

2002 20 Austria, Brazil, Czech Republic, Indonesia,


2003 27 Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Korea, Slovak Republic,

Maharashtra (India)

2004 33 Italy, Israel, Nicaragua, Prince Edward Island (Canada)

Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh (India)

2005 40 Turkey, Washington (US), Ireland, China, India

(Karnataka, Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh)

20064 1 Ontario (Canada)

(Source: REN21, 2006).

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India

Oversupply Causes Drop in Wind Turbine PricesBy John Blau, Contributor | February 10, 2011 | 10 Comments

Germany -- Wind energy, it appears, has never been so competitive. Prices for wind turbines last year dropped below €1 million ($1.36 million) per megawatt for the first time since 2005, due largely to over-capacity, greater manufacturing efficiency and increased scale, according to the market researcher Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The group’s most recent Wind Turbine Price Index, based on confidential data provided by 28 major purchasers of wind turbines, shows that prices remain under pressure in most parts of the world. The survey includes more than 150 undisclosed turbine contracts, totaling nearly 7 GW of capacity in 28 markets around the world, with a focus on Europe and the Americas.

While the news is good for wind farm project developers hoping to save money, it’s troubling for manufacturers and component suppliers trying to make money – they have seen their margins shrink over the past couple of years. Global turbine contracts signed in late 2010 for the first six months of this year averaged €980,000 per MW, down 7 percent from €1.06 million per MW in 2009 and a peak of €1.21 million in 2008 and 2007.

All manufacturers covered by the survey showed “aggressive pricing, according to New Energy Finance, which was acquired by Bloomberg in 2009. Low-priced power-purchase-agreements in markets exposed to competitive electricity prices – rather than fixed feed-in tariffs – appear to have put additional pressure on turbine contracts. Average prices in Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States were well below €1 million per MW for contracts signed in 2010 and slated for delivery in the first half of this year.

The cost of electricity generated by wind is now at record low levels, according to the survey. “For the past few years, wind turbine costs went up due to rising demand around the world and the increasing price of steel,” Michael Liebreich, chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said in a statement. “Behind the scenes, wind manufacturers were reducing their costs, and now we are seeing just how cheap wind energy can be when overcapacity in the supply chain works its way through to developers.”

Overall, the annual 2010 global wind market shrunk for the first time in two decades, down 7 percent from 38.6 GW in 2009 due mainly to a disappointing year in the U.S. and a slowdown in the Europe, according to figures released earlier this month by the Global Wind Energy Council. The U.S. which is traditionally one of the strongest wind markets, saw its annual installations drop by 50 percent from 10 GW in 2009 to just over 5 GW in 2010, GWEC said in a statement.

“Our industry continues to endure a boom-bust cycle because of the lack of long-term, predictable federal policies, in contrast to the permanent entitlements that fossil fuels have enjoyed for 90 years or more,” Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, said in the same statement.

GWEC secretary general Steve Sawyer believes 2011 will be better. “Orders picked up again in the second half of 2010 and investments in the sector continue to rise,” he said.

On that note, French manufacturer Alstom won a contract this month from Traianel to build Germany’s 80-turbine Borkum West II wind farm offshore farm. The project is scheduled for completion in March 2012.

10 of 10


February 12, 2011

Is it? It did not happen in India?

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

Obama, Better Buildings and the Innovators

By Elisa Wood | February 11, 2011 | 2 Comments

When Obama unveiled his Better Building Initiative last week, it wasn’t just the usual architects, builders, and energy efficiency service companies that perked up with interest. A whole new segment of energy efficiency companies saw opportunity: the innovators.

Emissaries from the high tech world, the innovators are a growing force in energy efficiency. They bring web and wireless to what was once a field more about windows and weatherization.

Obama’s plan would create new business for the innovators by providing incentives to reduce building energy use. Buildings represent a large market for the US energy efficiency industry because they eat up 20% of the nation’s energy. Obama has proposed tax deductions, financing, competitive grants and other incentives as part of his budget.

Where do the innovators fit into this? Daintree Networks offers one example. The Silicon Valley company provides open platform, wireless technology for lighting controls. Lighting is a big deal in buildings; it is responsible for about 40% of a building’s energy bill. Lighting controls increase efficiency by automatically shutting off or dimming unneeded lights. The controls are often used in conjunction with occupancy sensors. The sensor detects when people empty a room and signal to the control system to turn off the lights.

“Anyone who is considering lighting upgrades now is asking about controls. It is no longer just about replacing light bulbs and fixtures, but about the control implementation,” said Danny Yu, Daintree Networks CEO.

With controls in only about 7% of commercial buildings, the market potential is large for innovators like Daintree Networks. So Yu has his eye not only on federal energy policy, but also activity by the states.

“We are very keen on seeing what policies are coming down the line, exploiting them with innovation, and then educating the market. We have focused on California and the Northeast,” Yu said, adding that prime areas for lighting controls have the “magic combination” of high electric rates and strong efficiency incentives.

But he especially likes the Obama plan because of its national scope. Incentives that vary from state to state tend to discourage energy efficiency efforts that scale across geographic boundaries.

“The Obama Better Buildings Initiative is an important first step in establishing national policy to drive energy efficiency in the commercial building sector. Energy efficiency within existing buildings should be considered a massive and mostly untapped resource. Adding greater incentives, financing options and a more consolidated approach to strong building regulations helps to solve many of the challenges currently standing in the way of greener facilities,” Yu said.

Will the Obama’s initiative win Congressional support? Yu is optimistic. “Energy efficiency is often the low-hanging fruit. The government has realized this,” he said. “Among the innovation companies, there is a very clear sector rotation into energy efficiency. The government seems to be following the venture capital community. We are very worthy in this category. I’m very excited to see the validation of the business model.”

Reader Comments

1 of 1


February 13, 2011

President Obama's Better Building Initiative opens up Energy Efficient Building area in a big way. In fact Enormous energy can be saved in High Energy Efficient buildings. Many countries including India are adopting the Energy Efficient Buildings concept.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

Challenges for Biofuels: Not Just Technical Hurdles To Overcome

By Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | February 10, 2011 | 13 Comments

In addition to the technological challenges of sustainably and economically producing biofuels at scale, there are important social, economic and environmental challenges that must also be addressed.

Berkeley, California, USA -- A combination of rising costs, shrinking supplies, and concerns about global climate change are spurring the development of alternatives to the burning of fossil fuels to meet our transportation energy needs. Scientific studies have shown the most promising of possible alternatives to be liquid fuels derived from cellulosic biomass. These advanced new biofuels have the potential to be clean-burning, carbon-neutral and renewable. Some could also be delivered through existing pipelines and used in today's engines, replacing gasoline on a gallon-for-gallon basis with no loss of performance.

That is the promise of advanced biofuels and the focus to date has been on the technological challenges of producing high quality biofuels in a way that is both sustainable and economically competitive with gasoline. In addition to the technological challenges, however, there are also important social, economic and environmental challenges that must be addressed.

“These challenges include constraints imposed by economics and markets, resource limitations, health risks, climate forcing, nutrient cycle disruption, water demand, and land use,” says Thomas McKone, an expert on health risk assessments who holds a joint appointment with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) at Berkeley. “Responding to these challenges effectively requires a life-cycle perspective.”

McKone is the lead author of a report titled “Grand Challenges for Life-Cycle Assessment of Biofuels,” which was funded by a grant from the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI), a partnership between UC Berkeley, Berkeley Lab, the University of Illinois, and the BP energy corporation. This report summarizes seven grand challenges that “must be confronted” to enable life-cycle assessments that effectively evaluate the environmental footprint of biofuel alternatives.

Co-authoring this EBI report with McKone were William Nazaroff, Peter Berck, Maximilian Auffhammer, Tim Lipman, Margaret Torn, Eric Masanet, Agnes Lobscheid, Nicholas Santero, Umakant Mishra, Audrey Barrett, Matt Bomberg, Kevin Fingerman, Corinne Scown, Bret Strogen and Arpad Horvath. McKone and Horvath are the co-leaders of EBI’s Life-Cycle Assessment Program.

A life-cycle assessment (LCA) is typically used to evaluate the potential impact of a product or activity on human health and the environment over the entire cradle-to-grave life cycle of that product or activity. In applying the LCA approach to advanced biofuels, McKone, Horvath and their co-authors identified the following seven grand challenges.

  • Understanding farmers, feedstock options, and land use Biomass production for biofuels could displace existing products from land currently used for food, forage and fiber, which could increase the price of these goods in global markets. It could also induce deforestation that would exacerbate global climate change.
  • Predicting biofuel production technologies and practices – Many options exist for biofuel production processes and final products. Much of the variability among LCA results for biofuels arises from lack of knowledge about how these different possible production and operation processes will evolve.
  • Characterizing tailpipe emissions and their health consequences – Credible and reliable impact estimates for biofuel combustion are needed, but few studies of the health impacts from transportation fuel use have extended beyond air pollutants. Those that included an explicit metric for health damages emphasized mortality rather than morbidity and the overall disease burden.
  • Incorporating spatial heterogeneity in inventories and assessments – The health consequences of pollutant emissions vary depending upon where the pollutant is released, with factors such as proximity to large populations looming large. Geographical variability also influences other factors, including soil carbon impacts and water demand consequences.
  • Accounting for time in impact assessments – Air emission impacts from tailpipes and production facilities accrue within years and can be allocated to the year of emissions without discounting. GHG emission impacts are distributed over decades and even centuries using integrated assessment models, and are often discounted. Decisions about discounting can strongly influence the outcome of impact assessments, yet there is not a clear rational basis for making these decisions.
  • Assessing transitions as well as end states - In addressing transitions, emerging technologies could profoundly change the assumptions that underlie biofuel LCAs. For example, changes in protein production and consumption patterns or in urban land-use policies could open up substantial agricultural land for biofuel production, an action that would fundamentally change a biofuel LCA.
  • Confronting uncertainty and variability - Addressing uncertainty is among the greatest of LCA challenges, not only for biofuels, but for other LCA efforts as well. To confront uncertainty and variability, the “doable” and “knowable” must be separated from assumptions that are conditional components of the LCA.

In their report, the authors of the EBI study say that confronting these seven grand challenges for a biofuels LCA requires a good balance between the needs of technology momentum and adaptive decision making, something, they say, that has not always been well-articulated among practitioners of LCA.

“We must recognize that LCA is not a product but an ongoing process for organizing information and prioritizing information needs,” McKone says. “LCAs should be viewed as tools for building scenarios from which one can learn, rather than truth-generating-machines. We do not see the grand challenges outlined in this report as hurdles to be cleared, but rather as opportunities for the practitioner to focus attention on making LCA more useful to decision makers.”

The “Grand Challenges for Life-Cycle Assessment of Biofuels” can be viewed and downloaded from the publications section of the EBI Website.

Mr. Lynn Yarris is a senior science writer with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

13 Reader Comments

13 of 13


February 13, 2011

The main drawback for wider application of Biofuels is input. There was a big moment for biofuel from Jatropha in India but in reality not much has been achieved. Agave(Americana),Sisal Agave is a multiple use plant which has 10% fermentable sugars and rich in cellulose. The fibre is used in rope making and also for weaving clothes in Philippines under the trade name DIP-DRY. In Brazil a paper factory runs on sisal as input. A Steroid HECOGENIN is extracted from this plant leaves.
Here is an excellent analysis on Agave as a biofuel:

Agave shows potential as biofuel feedstock, Checkbiotech, By Anna Austin, February 11, 2010:

"Mounting interest in agave as a biofuel feedstock could jump-start the Mexican biofuels industry, according to agave expert Arturo Valez Jimenez.

Agave thrives in Mexico and is traditionally used to produce liquors such as tequila. It has a rosette of thick fleshy leaves, each of which usually end in a sharp point with a spiny margin. Commonly mistaken for cacti, the agave plant is actually closely related to the lily and amaryllis families. The plants use water and soil more efficiently than any other plant or tree in the world, Arturo said. "This is a scientific fact—they don't require watering or fertilizing and they can absorb carbon dioxide during the night," he said. The plants annually produce up to 500 metric tons of biomass per hectare, he added.

Agave fibers contain 65 percent to 78 percent cellulose, according to Jimenez. "With new technology, it is possible to breakdown over 90 percent of the cellulose and hemicellulose structures, which will increase ethanol and other liquid biofuels from lignocellulosic biomass drastically," he said. "Mascoma is assessing such technology."

In India the sisal agave is put for fencing to prevent cattle from grazing. This is a regenerative plant. It is hoped in India Biofuel from Sisal agave will be promoted.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

India's Renewable Future: Challenges and Prospects

By Dr. Farooq Abdullah, India's Minister of New and Renewable Energy | February 4, 2011 |


Dr. Farooq Abdullah, India's Minister of New and Renewable Energy, wants his country to transform the promise of boundless and clean energy into reality.

New Delhi, India -- India is perceived as a developing country, but it is developing at a pace that is not matched by many others. We have experienced significant economic growth. Yet the fact remains that our growth is constrained by energy supply and availability. Although we have seen an impressive increase in installed capacity addition, from barely about 1,350 MW at the time of independence (1947) to about 160,000 MW today, over 90,000 MW of new generation capacity is required in the next seven years. A corresponding investment is required in transmission and distribution.

The increasing appetite for energy that has developed in the recent past has been further complicated by rapidly diminishing conventional sources, like oil and coal. To further add to the problems of increased demand and constrained supply, there are serious questions about pursuing a fossil fuel-led growth strategy, especially in the context of environmental concerns. The challenge facing a developing nation such as ours is to meet our increasing energy needs while minimizing the damage to the environment.

This is why, while striving to bridge our energy deficit, we want to increase the share of clean, sustainable, new and renewable energy sources. Whether or not renewable energy completely replaces fossil fuel, we are determined to develop renewable energy to its fullest potential.

Driving inclusive growth

India today stands among the top five countries in the world in terms of renewable energy capacity. We have an installed base of over 15 GW, which is around 9% of India’s total power generation capacity and contributes over 3% in the electricity mix. While the significance of renewable energy from the twin perspectives of energy security and environmental sustainability is usually well appreciated, what is often overlooked, or less appreciated, is the capacity to usher in energy access for all, including the most disadvantaged and the remotest of our habitations.

In its decentralized or stand alone avatar, renewable energy is the most appropriate, scalable, and optimal solution for providing power to thousands of remote and hilly villages and hamlets. Even today, millions of decentralized energy systems, solar lighting systems, irrigation pumps, aero-generators, biogas plants, solar cookers, biomass gasifiers, and improved cook stoves, are being used in the remotest, inaccessible corners of the country. Providing energy access to be most disadvantaged and remote communities can become one the biggest drivers of inclusive growth.

The National Solar Mission

(left) Selco solar panel installation | Photo: Selco Solar Light Ltd.

The Sun is the ultimate source of energy. The National Action Plan on Climate Change in June 2008 identified the development of solar energy technologies in the country as a priority item to be pursued as a National Mission. In November 2009, the Government of India approved the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission. This is a unique and ambitious transformational objective that aims to establish India as a global leader in solar energy by creating the policy conditions for its diffusion across the country, as quickly as possible.

The Mission aims to enable 20,000 MW of solar energy to be deployed in India by 2022 by providing an enabling policy framework. By leveraging domestic and foreign investments, this framework will facilitate and provide the foundation for the private sector to participate whole-heartedly and to engage in research and development (R&D), manufacturing and deployment, making this sector globally competitive. This is the largest and the most ambitious programme of its kind anywhere in the world. The Mission is technology-neutral, allowing technological innovation and market conditions to determine technology winners. The Mission is not merely an effort at generating grid-connected electricity. Rather, two of its major objectives are to encourage R&D and encourage innovation, thereby facilitating grid-parity in the cost of solar power, and to establish India as the global hub for solar manufacturing. This is what makes it a uniquely ambitious and game-changing programme.

In the very first year of its existence, the Mission has succeeded in catalyzing investments in 200MW of grid-connected solar power plants, with another 500 MW expected to roll in shortly.

Wind, Biomass and Hydro Energy Generation

Though solar energy is the future, wind energy is where India competes globally in manufacturing and deployment in the present scenario. India has an installed capacity of over 11,000 MW of wind energy, and occupies the fifth position in the world, after USA, Germany, China and Spain. Our policy framework in wind energy generation is extremely investor-friendly, and an attractive tariff and regulatory regime provide a strong foundation for the growth of the sector. My ministry has recently taken the decision to introduce generation-based incentives, a scheme whereby investors, as well as getting the tariff as determined by the respective state regulatory commissions, will also receive a financial incentive per unit of electricity generated over ten years. The decision to incentivize the generation of power will create a level playing field between foreign and domestic investors, and I hope this will catalyze more investments in this field by large independent power producers and foreign investors.

(Right) Suzlon, one of the largest wind power companies in the world, is developing a 1,000 MW wind park site near Dhule, Maharashtra, India. | Photo: Suzlon

Biomass, which is an eco-friendly source for production of electricity, also holds considerable promise for India. Our estimates indicate that, with the present utilization pattern of crop residues, the amount of surplus biomass materials is about 150 million tones, which could generate about 16,000 MW of power.

Hydro projects up to 25 MW capacities are termed as small hydro, and this energy stream has a potential of over 15,000 MW. At present, a capacity addition of about 300 MW per year is being achieved from small hydro projects – about 70% is coming through the private sector. So far, hydropower projects with a capacity of over 2,700 MW have been set up in the country, and projects for about 900 MW are in various stages of implementation. The aim is to double the current growth rate, and take it to a capacity addition of 500 MW per year in next two-three years.

Reducing Costs

The challenge before us in the renewable energy sector generally, and in India particularly, is to reduce the per-unit cost of renewable energy. Hence, there is a continuous need to innovate to increase efficiencies and bring down costs. Innovations can be brought about in various ways – it is possible to harness lower wind speeds; the energy of tides and waves can be channeled to produce electricity; alternate transport fuels can make our journeys less carbon intensive; hydrogen can be an ideal energy storage and carrier; and it is possible to have a larger grid with lower losses of electricity.

Innovations need not always be technology-based. Insightful policy interventions can also significantly increase the use of renewable energy. For instance, in India we are working with the regulators to lay down the framework for tradable renewable energy certificates. While this will enable us to achieve a larger share of renewable energy in our electricity mix, the federal regulator’s recent announcement of normative guidelines for provincial regulators to fix tariffs for renewable energy will provide a mechanism for better returns for renewable energy developers. We are confident that all these policy interventions will further boost investments in the sector. We are also working towards closer engagement with the banks and lending agencies to help developers gain access to easy and cheaper sources of finance.

Immense Opportunities

For centuries, the Indian tradition has worshipped the sun, the wind, the earth, and water, as sources of life, energy and creation. Today’s technology provides us with a real opportunity to transform the promise of boundless and clean energy into reality. From rooftop solar power in urban agglomerations, to decentralized and off-grid solutions in remote rural communities – the opportunities in renewable power are immense. We believe that governments, in their facilitative role, have to create enabling ecosystems, which will, in turn, in facilitate the healthy unleashing of the entrepreneurial spirit of the private sector and lead to the rapid development and deployment of renewable energy.

My vision is to see that every citizen of the world has access to reliable and affordable clean energy. It is for us to rise up together to take advantage of these opportunities and translate the vision of a better world for all mankind into reality.

Dr. Farooq Abdullah is the Union Minister of New and Renewable Energy in the Government of India. He is best-known for his energetic leadership of the groundbreaking and transformational initiative in renewable energy — The Jawahar Lal Nehru National Solar Mission. He is also known for a number of other initiatives in the renewable energy space in India — notably the introduction of generation-based incentives, and the move towards the introduction of renewable energy certificates.

This article was originally published in Making It Magazine and was reprinted with permission.

The information and views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of or the companies that advertise on its Web site and other publications.

4 of 4


February 11, 2011

I welcome your initiative in Renewable Energy Programs Dr.Farooq Abdullaji. Here is an Agenda for unlimited usage of Renewables in India for your consideration:
India has a 12% shortage in power during peak hours between 5 pm and 11 pm.As such massive Renewable Energy Projects are needed to supplement Conventional Energy like Coal,Petropeum,Gas etc.,
Wind Energy:
India occupies 5th position in the world in Wind Energy.
Hitherto Depreciation benefits are given to large industries who set up Windfarms. In Denmark most of the Wind turbines are owned by Wind farm co-operatives. The same concept can be promoted in India. A Renewable Energy Fund (Bonds)can be created and those invest in them can be exempted by Income tax under Section 80C.
. In India an attempt can be made to install Offshore Wind since it has long coast.
Other areas where much efforts to harness Renewables include Efficient LED lighting,Hydrogen and Fuel cells,Energy Efficiency in Irrigation pumpsets,Electric Vehicles.

Utilising Renewable Energy Expertise in the country by MNRE.
There are many NGOs and Individuals who have done excellent work in Renewables. Our Centre,Nayudamma Centre for Development Alternatives,Nellore,Andhra Pradesh,India has designed Vertical and Cylindrical Solar Water Heater, Simple Drier, Hand operated Battery Charger, Pedal operated washing machine, Energy conservation in Electric Irrigation pumpsets,Air cum Water Cooler, Passive cooling of houses by Clay Covers,Microhydro Device for low heads, Multiple uses of Gas Stove ,Solar Disinfection to produce potable water etc., We have not taken any patents.

I am personally involved in Renewable Energy and Promotion for the last 3 decades. I am willing to share my experience, expertise and enthusiasm with MNRE in promoting Renewable Energy in India.

Renewable Energy Expert
Ph: 91 861 2317776
Mobile: ++91 9490125950

Using the SunShot Announcement as a Real-Time PR Opportunity

By Pamela Cargill | February 8, 2011 | 1 Comment

of the SunShot Initiative from the DOE is not just an exciting moment for the solar industry, it’s also an opportunity for solar installers in every corner of the nation to contact their local press with an exciting and positive story about solar energy that can be associated with their company.

So, if you are a solar installer reading this now: are you the local solar expert that your media call when they need to talk to someone about solar policy or answer questions about solar incentives or even basic solar technology? If not, this is a great opportunity to start those relationships.

While the Hearst Corporation or Tribune-sized media may have already covered the SunShot Initiative announcement in your area, it’s likely that your local or regional paper may not have picked up the news yet. In many cases, these are actually much better outlets to target in an effort to reach your potential customers. An announcement like this is a great opportunity to try out a public relations (PR) campaign that connects the expertise of your solar company leadership with an exciting news piece in the solar industry.

PR is a low-cost and effective method for promoting news about your company to an eager audience that includes many of your potential customers. And with news media budgets being slashed, providing reporters with material for great stories is often welcome- especially about a topic as hot as renewable energy and economic growth.

In his book “The New Rules of Marketing and PR,” new media marketer David Meerman Scott suggests and offers proven case studies showing that capitalizing on the excitement of a breaking news piece or announcement related to an industry is an effective method for capturing the attention of the press. Here is how you can try it out for this and future media contact:

Write your press release. Include the basic facts of the announcement and links to more information about the subject straight from the DOE website. Most importantly, frame it in context for your region and your company. How will it create jobs and grow your business? Possible headlines could read “Solar Company X predicts bright future in Region Y after DOE SunShot Initiative Announcement” or “Solar Company X expects more Region Y growth after DOE SunShot Announcement.” If you need help writing your release, check out examples online or contract a PR professional to help you get the most out of your release.

Research reporters. Which journalists are assigned to energy/environment stories? Using web search engines, you can often research their contact information so you can begin building a contact database. Resort to a news tip line if you cannot find any contact information. When all else fails, call the reception at the media outlet to find out where to send releases and in what format they accept them. Create a spreadsheet or similar database of this information so you can track your campaign.

Write your pitch. Customize a greeting for each reporter you are contacting. Your pitch should include a compelling title, highlight the main points of your release, and offer an interview with a senior person at your company to discuss the information in the release and the impact of the program on the future growth of your company and the industry as a whole.

Follow up. Make sure to follow up the next day. Keep track of the responses of the media you contact, including the results of each contact (no response, offered to highlight- no interview, feature interview scheduled, etc)

Prepare for Interviews. Interviewing can be exciting but be careful what you say. A quote taken out of context can turn the whole story against you. Rehearse common answers to questions you expect you might receive. And if you don’t know the answer, offer to the reporter that you will research it and get back to them- resist the urge to guess or make something up as these efforts can backfire when they cross-reference your provided information. If you are preparing for an on-camera interview, dress nicely and avoid wearing hats or white shirts. Opt for a company-logo’d shirt if possible. Speak clearly, relaxed, and confidently. It’s common to ask for a “do over” if you flub an answer.

Thank the reporter. After the interview and after the piece runs, remember to thank the reporter for their time and coverage and offer to serve as their solar expert any time they need you. Make sure you can follow through on that offer.

If your efforts in PR are less successful than you had hoped, consider writing an Op-Ed piece about the story in question for your local paper or business journal.

And, of course, having an online component to your campaign provides additional and longer lasting value. If you have a blog, (which your company should consider for many reasons!), post thoughts and analysis of how the announcement affects your company there. Check out how Jim Jenal of RunOnSun has done just that. Then, promote your blog post through social media channels to encourage additional engagement. Engagement - not just broadcasting and walking away. Be ready to respond to blog comments or responses on Twitter or Facebook.

Is this starting to look like a lot of work? I know; you’re busy enough just trying to install solar energy systems. Having a strong public-relations-focused engagement strategy will help place you ahead of the pack as a thought leader and exemplary solar citizen. Considering other investments you could make in marketing, you might be surprised how well this one will return. Just remember: with breaking news, time is of the essence. So what are you waiting for?

Pamela Cargill is the principal "chaolyst" at Chaolysti and provides marketing and operations support to small and growing renewable energy companies and green brands. She writes about issues facing the solar industry, marketing best-practices, and shines a light on renewable energy at work in her travels. Follow her on twitter: @chaolyst

1 Reader Comments

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February 10, 2011

SunShot will be a real boom and will act as catalyst for solar energy in US. Will other Countries emulate DOE Initiative?

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India

Solar PV Becoming Cheaper than Gas in California?

By Stephen Lacey, Editor | February 8, 2011 | 31 Comments

Stephen Lacey

About: I am an editor and producer for I also host the Inside Renewable Energy podcast, a weekly audio news program that covers the latest de...

The latest round of proposed contracts from a California utility for 250 MW of solar PV projects comes in below the projected price of natural gas.

California -- We hear it every day: "Solar is too expensive." Well, not according to the California utility Southern California Edison.

In a recent filing to the state's Public Utilities Commission, SCE asked for approval of 20 solar PV projects worth 250 MW – all of which are expected to generate a total of 567 GWh of electricity for less than the price of natural gas.

Although the exact details of the 20-year contracts for the projects are kept confidential for a few years, the utility reports that all winning solar developers issued bids for contracts below the Market Price Referent, which is the estimated cost of electricity from a 500-MW combined-cycle natural gas plant.

What does that mean? It means that a large number of solar PV project developers believe they can deliver solar electricity at a very competitive price. And these aren't mega-projects either. All of the installations will be between 4.7 MW and 20 MW – a sweet spot for PV projects.

Although the price of natural gas has plummeted in recent years because of excessive production and lower demand for power, the cost of solar projects and the price of solar electricity has dropped in tandem. With stong solar requirements in states like California, demand for PV has stayed strong.

"Solar energy is a natural hedge against rising energy costs – a hedge that regulators and utilities are turning to lower electricity costs for their customers," said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association.

California regulators seem to agree that mid-sized solar PV installations, which capture economies of scale but suffer fewer regulatory and transmission constraints, are an important part of the market.

These latest projects were solicited through SCE's Renewables Standard Contracts program, a reverse auction mechanism implemented by the utility in 2010. The program is a precursor to California's Reverse Auction Mechanism (RAM) that was approved last December. That 1-GW program requires California's three largest utilities to hold auctions twice a year to solicit bids from developers of mid-sized (i.e. 1-20 MW) solar PV projects.

The 250 MW of contracts sent to the CPUC for approval is in addition to a 500-MW solar program initiated by SCE in 2009.

According to SCE's filing, the utility seems to be genuinely positive about the prospects for solar PV:

“Solar PV is a mature and proven renewable energy technology that has been supplying a substantial amount of renewable energy to SCE and other California load-serving entities (“LSEs”) for several years.”

While large-scale concentrating solar power projects have been gaining ground in California and other southwestern states, PV is looking like the better option in many cases. Due to the steady declines in the cost of production and price of modules, as well as improvements in Balance of Systems technologies (i.e. power electronics, racking and wiring) that make installations more efficient, solar PV is leading the way.

“The solar industry has done a great job in bringing down costs – long a promise, now a reality,” said Adam Browning, executive director of the Vote Solar Initiative, in a response to the recent SCE announcement. “These are price-points that can really scale, and will encourage policymakers to think big.”

In a recent report from GTM Research comparing similar-sized CSP and PV projects, the authors forecast that electricity from utility-scale PV plants will be considerably lower than some CSP technologies. In the next decade, the research firm projects CSP plants will be generating electricity in the $0.10 to $0.12 per kWh range and PV will be producing electricity in the $0.07 to $0.08 kWh range. (On the flip side, CSP technologies can offer storage capabilities and hybrid natural gas components, providing value that PV can't necessarily deliver.)

With high peak demand, lots of expensive “spinning reserve” power plants and ample sunlight, California is the likely place for PV to compete. But with project costs continuing to drop and utilities promoting the technology, the steady march toward grid parity will spread to other markets as well, said Vote Solar's Browning.

“Though California does have world-class sunlight, solar is modular and adaptable, and similar results can be had throughout the country.”

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February 10, 2011

It is exciting to find that Solar competes with Gas in California. Hitherto the criticism on Solar PV is that the efficiency is low(Silicon) and the cost of generation of power is high compared to Wind,Biomass,Microhydel etc.

In India The Government of India has drawn an ambitious plan to tap solar energy(PV).

Here are details:

The National Solar Mission is a major initiative of the Government of India and State

Governments to promote ecologically sustainable growth while addressing India’s

energy security challenge. It will also constitute a major contribution by India to the

global effort to meet the challenges of climate change.

To achieve this, the Mission targets are:

· To create an enabling policy framework for the deployment of 20,000 MW

of solar power by 2022.

· To ramp up capacity of grid-connected solar power generation to 1000 MW

within three years – by 2013; an additional 3000 MW by 2017 through the

mandatory use of the renewable purchase obligation by utilities backed with a

preferential tariff. This capacity can be more than doubled – reaching

10,000MW installed power by 2017 or more, based on the enhanced and

enabled international finance and technology transfer. The ambitious target

for 2022 of 20,000 MW or more, will be dependent on the ‘learning’ of the first

two phases, which if successful, could lead to conditions of grid-competitive

solar power. The transition could be appropriately up scaled, based on

availability of international finance and technology.

· To create favourable conditions for solar manufacturing capability, particularly

solar thermal for indigenous production and market leadership.

· To promote programmes for off grid applications, reaching 1000 MW by 2017

and 2000 MW by 2022 .

· To achieve 15 million sq. meters solar thermal collector area by 2017 and 20

million by 2022.

· To deploy 20 million solar lighting systems for rural areas by 2022( Source: MNRE)

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

Spain and Portugal Lead the Way on Renewable Energy Transformation

By Tam Hunt, Contributor | February 7, 2011 | 18 Comments

Rapid energy transformation at the national level is possible. Transformation is also necessary if we are to mitigate the impacts of climate change and peak oil. The kind of transformation we need in the U.S. has been demonstrated vividly by an increasing number of nations shifting rapidly to a renewable energy economy. Spain and Portugal are currently the most powerful examples of this transformation.

Spain has grown from using just two percent wind and solar power to almost 20 percent in a decade. Figure 1 demonstrates this growth at the same time as Spain’s electricity consumption grew rapidly – by 50 percent – from 2000 to 2008, only to drop equally rapidly from recession and price-induced conservation since 2008.

Spain now enjoys about 35 percent total renewables, when we include large hydroelectric, with the rest of its power coming from natural gas, coal and nuclear. Moreover, Spain is a good comparison to California because its population and climate are very similar to ours.

Figure 1. Spain’s electricity sector transformation, 2000 to 2010 (Source: EIA Int’l energy statistics).

Spain’s solar sector plummeted after 2008, however, due to major changes in its feed-in tariff law prompted by broader economic problems. A number of solar companies recently sued the Spanish government for retroactively changing contract prices under the feed-in tariff, illustrating the need to craft policies wisely and take into account various scenarios.

Portugal has demonstrated an even more remarkable transformation in the last five or so years. In 2004, Portugal had just two percent wind and solar, but by the end of 2009 (the latest year for which data are available) this had risen to over fifteen percent! Its electricity consumption remained fairly level during the last decade.

Figure 2. Portugal’s electricity sector transformation, 2000 to 2009 (Source: EIA Int’l energy statistics).

Now, let’s compare these nations to California, generally perceived as the leading state on renewable energy in the U.S. Figure 3 shows that wind and solar penetration has generally been stagnant in California for the last decade. It’s only in 2009 and 2010 that an increase has occurred, but wind and solar have remained below three percent despite some recent growth. The rest of California’s renewables come from geothermal, biomass and small hydro (large hydro doesn’t count as renewable under California law).

Figure 3. California’s electricity sector, 2000 to 2010 (Source: California Energy Commission).

It’s important to note that this figure does not include net-metered solar because only wholesale data are included. However, if we included net-metered solar (under the California Solar Initiative), it would add only a small amount to the total amount of wind and solar. This is the case because even though California’s net-metered solar market is by far the largest in the country it is still a small fraction of the wholesale renewable energy market. Also note that these figures are for California as a whole, not just for the big three investor-owned utilities, which are tracked in CPUC reports and are a little different.

It’s also important to note that 2010 was a good year for California’s renewables market, adding twice the megawatts that were added in 2009. Early numbers (not yet finalized by the Energy Commission) suggest that the total renewables went up a couple of percentage points again in 2010 (perhaps as high as 18 percent for the large utilities and about 16 percent for the state as a whole), so the Renewable Portfolio Standard is starting to have a significant effect – eight years after it became law. We are, then, on track to achieve the 20 percent mandate by 2012 or so, in compliance with current law. It is far less clear if we are on track to achieve the more ambitious 33 percent mandate by 2020.

Last, let’s look at Texas, the leader in the U.S. in wind power. Texas grew from almost no wind power in 2000 to about 10,000 megawatts of wind – almost eight percent of Texas’ total electricity consumption – and has at times provided literally one quarter of all electricity in Texas. ERCOT stated in a recent press release: “ERCOT recorded a new wind output record of 7,227 megawatts (MW) at 7:16 am on Dec. 11, 2010, representing 25.8 percent of the load at the time. The new peak beat the 2009 record by almost 1,000 MW.”

Texas has almost no solar power generation.

Figure 4. Texas’ electricity sector, 2002 to 2010 (Source: Electric Reliability Council of Texas).

Let’s compare all four side by side:

Each jurisdiction is different, of course, with its own mix of land use and pricing policies for renewables. Interestingly, California’s boom period for renewables occurred in the 1980s and early 1990s, reaching the high teens before diminishing as a percentage from the early 1990s until 2007. This was a result of the first robust feed-in tariff in the world: the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA), which mandated that states offer contracts to renewable energy and cogeneration producers.

California implemented this law aggressively and saw about 10,000 megawatts of wind, solar and geothermal come online in just a few years – until the boom ended due to a reduction in fossil fuel costs, which acted as the proxy for contract pricing, as well as an end to tax credit programs.

Similarly, feed-in tariff laws prompted the booms in Spain and Portugal. Spain’s solar sector, as mentioned, is suffering from dramatic changes to the law, but the wind power sector – far larger than the solar sector – continues to grow dramatically. So the debate over feed-in tariffs will continue but it is simply not the case, as some critics insist, that countries like Spain show the folly (boom and bust) of feed-in tariffs for all renewables. The discussion in this article demonstrates this point.

I need to also mention Germany and China, which have seen similar robust growth in renewables. While their capacity additions are very impressive – Germany has by far the largest solar capacity and China now has the world’s largest wind power capacity – their percentage of renewables is not as impressive as Spain or Portugal. Germany’s wind and solar percentage rose from two percent in 2000 to about 7.5 percent at the end of 2009; China is still below one percent wind and solar even though its wind power sector doubled each year in five of the last six years (which will lead to very high penetration if this pace continues).

Another very encouraging trend is the decline in wind and solar power costs over the last few years, which I wrote about recently. Wind and solar are, when compared accurately to the appropriate baseload, load-following or peak power resources, cost-effective today. This is a very important point that should be spread far and wide.

So what is California to do in light of these analyses?

My client, the Clean Coalition (formerly the FIT Coalition) is leading the campaign in California to reach the Governor's target of 12,000 megawatts of distributed renewables. We are working to create CLEAN (Clean Local Energy Accessible Now) programs that use the best elements of successful feed-in-tariff programs around the world, save money for California ratepayers, and create good local jobs. A recent report from the Center for American Progress provides strong support for CLEAN programs as effective tools for promoting renewables.

Our goal with the CLEAN California bill is to achieve the same transformation Spain, Portugal and Texas have experienced in the last decade – and that California achieved in the 1980s.

Tam Hunt is president of Community Renewable Solutions, LLC, a renewable energy consulting and project development company. He is also a Lecturer in climate change law and policy at UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. His blog, Thought, Spirit, Politik, is at

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February 9, 2011

Yes.Growth of Renewables in Spain and to some extent in Portugal is spectacular.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

A Turbine Inspired by a Big-Mouth Shark

By Russell Ray | February 5, 2011 | 2 Comments

Anthony Reale got the idea one night while watching a nature show on the basking shark, a type of whale shark that uses its gaping mouth to feed on plankton.

The product-design student from Detroit’s College for Creative Studies began to draw.

What emerged was a promising technology that could be a major breakthrough in hydrokinetic energy production.

Reale found that the basking shark filters water through its gills, creating a slipstream that allows the shark to swim with less effort. He applied the same concept to a twin-bladed turbine in hopes of developing a better way to produce power from fast-flowing rivers.

Tests conducted at the University of Michigan’s Marine Hydrodynamics Lab showed that the twin-blade design was 40 percent more efficient than a single-blade turbine. Michigan researchers are now interested in taking Reale’s creation to the fast-flowing rivers of Alaska for further testing.

As Reale explains on his blog, the twin-bladed turbine works like this:

“The water enters through the primary converging nozzle. This causes the turbine blade to rotate. The balance of the water is then captured by the second blade counter rotating. The secondary converging nozzle captures additional current and increases its velocity, causing a negative pressure drop by the outlet current. I theorized this should increase the water flow through the center nozzle.”

A patent is pending on Reale’s Strait Power turbine.


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February 9, 2011

Excellent example of BIOMIMICKING!

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

So Long Fossil Fuels, Hello Wind Power, Solar and Water

By Chris Rose | February 2, 2011 | 13 Comments

For wind energy aficionados, one of the most interesting stories to make its way across the internet last week involved an academic study claiming that the installation of 3.8 million 5 MW wind turbines could generate half the world’s power needs by 2030.

Published in the respected journal Energy Policy, and entitled ‘Providing all global energy with wind, water, and solar power,’ the study noted climate change, pollution, and energy insecurity are among the greatest problems of our time.

“Addressing them requires major changes in our energy infrastructure,” said the two California academics, Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi. “Here, we analyse the feasibility of providing worldwide energy for all purposes (electric power, transportation, heating/cooling, etc.) from wind, water, and sunlight (WWS).”

Jacobson, who is in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University, and Delucchi, in the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California in Davis, estimate that by combining the 3.8 million wind turbines with enough concentrated solar, solar PV, geothermal and hydroelectric plants, as well as wave devices and tidal turbines, by 2030 the world could use electricity and electrolytic hydrogen for all purposes.

“Such a WWS infrastructure reduces world power demand by 30% and requires only 0.41% and 0.59% more of the world’s land for footprint and spacing, respectively,” they said.

“We suggest producing all new energy with WWS by 2030 and replacing the pre-existing energy by 2050. Barriers to the plan are primarily social and political, not technological or economic. The energy cost in a WWS world should be similar to that today.”

Their study showed that wind power could supply 50% of projected total global power demand in 2030, while the concentrated solar plants, the solar PV power plants and the rooftop PV systems could supply another 40%. The remainder would come from geothermal and hydro-electric power plants, wave devices and tidal turbines.

The study also showed that the total footprint on the ground for the 3.8 million wind turbines would only be 48 square kilometres, which is smaller than Manhattan. The existing transmission infrastructure would of course need to be greatly expanded.

On a European level, EWEA is endorsing a declaration calling for a 100% renewable energy vision by 2050. EWEA believes by 2050 wind energy can supply 50% of Europe’s power needs provided certain actions are taken, above all the power grid being extended and upgraded in good time.



February 8, 2011

I am amused to find forecasts like 50% of energy needs of Europe can be met by Renewables by 2020 and 100% of Global Energy needs by Renewables in 2050. Renewables being intermittent can best supplement Conventional Energy but can never replace them. Whatever achievements in Renewable Energy are there are because of incentives. For example in India the depreciation benefits and in Europe feed in tariffs. Developing countries lack funds to support Renewables in a big way. For example Sunbelt countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America are endowed with much solar insolation but how about resources? Argentina experiences high wind regimes and so are some parts of Somalia?

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India

Wind Energy Expert

Why Big Solar is not Better Solar

By Andrew Gilligan | February 4, 2011 | 5 Comments

As solar energy becomes a more attractive and profitable investment, both small and large-scale projects are being developed.

Big solar is often seen as more attractive because of cost advantages due to scale; however, some of big solar’s characteristics can cancel out those benefits, making large-scale solar projects less attractive than they initially may seem.

Let’s define “big solar” as a photovoltaic (PV) system or a concentrated solar power (CSP) system that feeds energy into grid. "Small solar” is a system that provides energy to meet the load of a given facility (most commercial facilities require less than 1 MW of power).

There are a number of reasons why larger systems can lose their attractiveness, depending on the circumstances.

First, big solar can be an inefficient use of land. Instead of using the millions of acres of rooftop space and small vacant lots across the country, big solar is often built in deserts or remote areas, potentially creating environmental issues or conflicting with agricultural land.

Second, big solar can require more transmission. Since large solar projects are far away from where electricity is used, long and costly transmission lines may need to be constructed to connect them with the grid. It costs approximately $1.5 million per mile for new transmission lines, a substantial price tag that removes a lot of the economic advantages associated with large scale projects. Big solar projects will still require the U.S. to engage in costly infrastructure upgrades over the next few decades; whereas small solar projects reduce the need for costly infrastructure upgrades.

Third, big solar does not always alleviate grid-congestion. Even if new transmission lines can be financed, the electricity will only add to an already congested transmission and distribution system. Whereas, if small scale solar power was added near the power demand (such as the rooftop of a house or building), then it would not add at all to the congestion of the electrical system (one of the main causes of the 2003 blackout in the Northeast).

Fourth, transmission of solar electricity from a centralized power plant wastes electricity. According to the EIA, line losses accounted for 6.5% of total electricity generation in 2007. Small solar, typically constructed on the roof or within a ¼ mile of the building it powers, has virtually no energy loss due to transmission.

Fifth, big solar maintains the security disadvantages of large centralized power plants. In other words, large scale solar is just as susceptible as other power plants to national security threats from hackers or terrorist groups. Now that solar technology is becoming more affordable on a small, residential and commercial scale, there is the potential to dramatically increase the prevalence of distributed generation power systems. Achieving this would insulate the U.S. against its current dependence on large-scale power plants and an outdated electrical grid.

When creating and adjusting renewable energy policies, legislators and policy makers should recognize the unique benefits of small solar and distributed generation. It is important to understand that even though big solar may have some scale-related cost advantages, it is not always the best solar.



February 8, 2011

Often big projects including Solar take more time to takeoff because of so many clearances both financial and site selection. On the other hand there can be more small projects by many Companies and Individuals.Infrastructure and efficient execution of the project is a prerequisite as any down time of the project will be fatal.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India

Seaweed As Biofuel?

By Phyllis Picklesimer, University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences | December 16, 2010 | 5 Comments

Metabolic engineering makes it a viable option.

Urbana, Illinois, USA -- Is red seaweed a viable future biofuel? Now that a University of Illinois metabolic engineer has developed a strain of yeast that can make short work of fermenting galactose, the answer is an unequivocal yes.

"This discovery greatly improves the economic viability of marine biofuels."

-- Yong-Su Jin, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois

"When Americans think about biofuel crops, they think of corn, miscanthus, and switchgrass. ln small island or peninsular nations, though, the natural, obvious choice is marine biomass," said Yong-Su Jin, a U of I assistant professor of microbial genomics and a faculty member in its Institute for Genomic Biology.

Producers of biofuels made from terrestrial biomass crops have had difficulty breaking down recalcitrant fibers and extracting fermentable sugars. The harsh pretreatment processes used to release the sugars also resulted in toxic byproducts, inhibiting subsequent microbial fermentation, he said.

But marine biomass can be easily degraded to fermentable sugars, and production rates and range of distribution are higher than terrestrial biomass, he said.

"However, making biofuels from red seaweed has been problematic because the process yields both glucose and galactose, and until now galactose fermentation has been very inefficient," he said.

But Jin and his colleagues have recently identified three genes in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the microbe most often used to ferment the sugars, whose overexpression increased galactose fermentation by 250 percent when compared to a control strain.

"This discovery greatly improves the economic viability of marine biofuels," he said.

Overexpression of one gene in particular, a truncated form of the TUP1 gene, sent galactose fermentation numbers soaring. The new strain consumed both sugars (glucose and galactose) almost three times faster than the control strain--8 versus 24 hours, he said.

"When we targeted this protein, the metabolic enzymes in galactose became very active. We can see that this gene is part of a regulating or controlling system," he said.

According to Jin, galactose is one of the most abundant sugars in marine biomass so its enhanced fermentation will be industrially useful for seaweed biofuel producers.

Marine biomass is an attractive renewable source for the production of biofuels for three reasons:

  • production yields of marine plant biomass per unit area are much higher than those of terrestrial biomass
  • marine biomass can be depolymerized relatively easily compared to other biomass crops because it does not contain recalcitrant lignin and cellulose crystalline structures
  • the rate of carbon dioxide fixation by marine biomass is much higher than by terrestrial biomass, making it an appealing option for sequestration and recycling of carbon dioxide, he said.



February 8, 2011 Good Article.

Metabolic engineering is the practice of optimizing genetic and regulatory processes within cells to increase the cells' production of a certain substance. Metabolic engineers commonly work to reduce cellular energy use (ie, the energetic cost of cell reproduction or proliferation) and to reduce waste production. Producing beer, wine, cheese, pharmaceuticals, and other biotechnology products often involves metabolic engineering.

Cells are complex systems; genetic and regulatory changes can have drastic effects on the cells' ability to survive. Therefore, trade-offs become apparent during metabolic engineering.

In addition to directly deleting and/or overexpressing the genes that encode for metabolic enzymes, the current focus is to target the regulatory networks in a cell to efficiently engineer the metabolism(Source: Wikipedia).

Thanks to Metabolic engineering,there is the possibility off making marine Biofuels from Sea weed. Today everybody is looking for alternatefuels and biofuels from Algae promise great future.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India


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