CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES
October 26, 2011
The SunShot Initiative is boosting concentrating solar power, including tower technology like this type which will be used in the Ivanpah solar project in California.
DOE announced on October 25 its $60 million investment over three years for applied scientific research to advance cutting-edge concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies. The effort is part of DOE’s SunShot Initiative, a collaborative national effort to reduce the cost of solar energy by 75% by the end of the decade. CSP technologies use mirrors to reflect and concentrate the sun’s heat, which can then be used to produce electricity.
The SunShot Initiative investments in solar energy research will encourage rapid, widespread adoption of solar energy systems across the country, help the U.S. solar power industry overcome technical barriers and reduce costs, boost U.S. competitiveness in the worldwide market for solar technologies, and provide support for clean energy jobs for years to come. Through this solicitation, DOE seeks to support research into technologies that have the potential to dramatically increase efficiency, lower costs, and deliver more reliable performance than existing commercial and near-commercial CSP systems. DOE expects to fund approximately 20 to 22 projects, and encourages industry, universities, and its national laboratories to apply. Pre-applications are due by November 22, and full applications are due by February 7, 2012.
This SunShot CSP opportunity seeks to develop innovative concepts that could lead to performance breakthroughs like improving efficiency and temperature ranges, while demonstrating new approaches in the design of collectors, receivers, and power-cycle equipment used in CSP systems. Each of these subsystems is critical to CSP operation: the collectors collect and concentrate the sun’s energy onto the receiver; the receiver accepts and transfers the heat energy to the power cycle; and the power cycle converts the heat energy into electricity. Developing low-cost collectors, high-temperature receivers, and high-efficiency power cycles should lead to subsequent system integration, engineering scale-up, and eventual commercial production for clean electricity generation applications. See the DOE press release, the Funding Opportunity announcement, and the SunShot Initiative website.
DOE released on October 20 a report detailing best practices for financing and installing photovoltaic systems on school buildings. The report is titled “Solar Schools Assessment and Implementation Project: Financing Options for Solar Installations on K-12 Schools.” Produced under the SunShot initiative, the report supports the ongoing development of Solar Master Plans for three California public school districts—Oakland, Berkeley, and West Contra Costa Unified School Districts.
The SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort to reduce the cost of solar energy by 75%, making it cost competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade. The new study supports DOE’s SunShot Initiative goal of addressing critical barriers, such as the availability of financing, to accelerate the integration of solar energy technologies across the United States. Installing solar energy systems on public schools can help school districts save money on their utility bills, reduce carbon emissions, support job creation, and provide students with opportunities to learn about clean energy.
The newly released report examines the two primary types of ownership models used to obtain solar installations: the direct-ownership option, where the school district finances the project through debt financing, and the third-party finance model, which typically involves a third party that owns, operates, and maintains the system and is paid by the school system for the solar power generated. The third-party finance model also includes Energy Saving Performance Contracts, in which the savings from energy efficiency improvements in the schools can help to pay for the solar installation. This analysis can help school administrators across the country select the best option for deploying solar technologies in their school districts. See the DOE Progress Alert, the complete report, and the SunShot Initiative website.
Japan’s Team Tokai won the 2011 Veolia World Solar Challenge, a 1,877-mile solar-powered car race across the Australian Outback, on October 20. Their car, Tokai Challenger2, covered the course from Darwin to Adelaide with an average speed of about 57 miles per hour. Repeating the results of the 2009 event, the Nuon team from the Netherlands took second, and the University of Michigan came in third. The largest field in the history of the event, 42 teams from 21 countries, started the biennial competition on October 16.
The University of Michigan’s entry into the World Solar Challenge finished third in the race across the Australian Outback.
The race was first run in 1987, and it was repeated every three years until 1999, when organizers switched it to every other year. It is based on energy management and the concept that a 1,000-watt car can complete the race in 50 hours. The solar vehicles are allowed five kilowatt-hours of stored energy. All other energy must come from the sun or be recovered from a car’s kinetic energy. See the Solar Challenge press release and the World Solar Challenge website.
Global wind farms and solar installations led utility-scale renewable energy projects to a strong investment total of $41.8 billion in the third quarter of 2011, according to research company Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The United States saw big investments for photovoltaic, solar thermal, and biofuel projects.
Overall, new investment in clean energy grew 9% over the previous quarter, including asset finance, equity raisings on public markets, and investments from venture capital and private equity funds. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the record quarter for financial new investment remains the fourth quarter of 2010, which tallied $51.5 billion.
Analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, based on contract data, shows that the average price of photovoltaic modules has fallen by a third since autumn 2010 and by 70% since the middle of 2008, while wind turbine prices have fallen by 20% since 2009. These moves have made renewable energy technologies more cost-competitive with fossil-fuel power sources. See the Bloomberg New Energy Finance press release.
For many, a barrel of oil is almost synonymous with its most prominent product, gasoline. While almost 40% of a barrel of oil is used to produce gasoline, the rest is used to produce a host of products, including jet fuel and plastics and many industrial chemicals. As the United States works to reduce its dependence on foreign oil, we must recognize the complexity of that dependence and work to replace the whole barrel. Over the summer, DOE’s Biomass Program hosted its fourth annual conference, Biomass 2011, on exactly this theme: Replace the Whole Barrel, Supply the Whole Market—the New Horizons of Bioenergy.
More than 600 speakers, exhibitors, industry leaders, researchers, decision makers, and attendees came to hear about the most current technology innovations and business developments in the field of bioenergy. This theme highlighted the primary strategy of the Biomass Program, which concentrates on research, development, demonstration, and deployment of a range of technologies to replace the entire barrel of petroleum crude and supply all segments of the national market for fuels, products, and power generation.
During his opening keynote presentation at Biomass 2011, Secretary Steven Chu remarked, “When oil prices rise, markets tend to panic; when oil prices stabilize, markets tend to hit the ‘snooze button.’ Oil prices will continue to increase and biofuels can help alleviate this disruptive effect.” See the Energy Blog post.
In 2008, Innovalight, a solar start-up from Sunnyvale, California, and DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) scientists teamed up to answer a game-changing question for potential investors: does Innovalight’s Silicon Ink actually work?
The findings: Silicon Ink delivered a low-cost, 7% increase in power output for a typical 15%-efficient solar cell.
Some background: Most of the billions of solar cells made each year rely on distributing exact concentrations of dopants (impurities) throughout the cells to create electric fields. As a liquid, Silicon Ink has the unique ability to suspend silicon nanoparticles evenly in a solution, but Innovalight needed to prove that Silicon Ink could deliver dopant concentrations to the right locations without spreading everywhere or overflowing.
“They needed to prove this to their investors to show that their company was the best at doing this,” NREL scientist Kirstin Alberi explained. “They didn’t know how to go about proving this, and that’s where we were able to help.” See the Energy Blog post.
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CROATIAN CENTER of RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCES (CCRES)