The sunny side of solar power

If solar were fashion, we’d say it was having a moment. Over the past few years we’ve gone from near zero solar photovoltaic panels to 2.5GW of capacity. Of this 1.9GW is installed on rooftops and 0.6GW on giant solar farms, with planning secured for a further 0.9GW of utility scale projects.

Ordinarily, I’d greet these farms supplying renewable energy with a cheery, “Welcome to the grid!” Unfortunately, my real response on seeing one on a beloved rolling south Devon hillside was more profane. Developers tend to say they’re of “low visual impact”. Actually they’re positively industrial, guaranteed to bring out your inner Nimby.

Why now? Solar panels (produced in the Far East) cost a third of what they did three years ago. And there’s been a change with Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs), too. Generators used to get two ROCs for every MWh of solar-produced electricity. They can be bought and traded among energy suppliers. But in March 2013 these were scaled down to 1.6 ROCs per MWh. Cue a scramble to generate more capacity.

Written by  Lucy Siegle. To read the full article, click here.

Build your own solar panels? Proceed with caution

A number of people have asked me about building their own solar panels from individual solar cells and asking for my opinion on a number of web sites that make claims that you can build enough solar panels to power your home for around $200.

I have a huge amount of respect for people with the aptitude and the ability to build their own equipment. These people often derive a great deal of personal satisfaction from being able to say, “I built that myself”. Largely, these people are to be encouraged. If you want to build your own solar panels, however, I would advise caution.

There have been many claims made from certain web sites that say it is possible to build your own solar panels and run your entire house from solar panels for an outlay of $200 or less, sell excess power back to the utility grid and even generate an income from solar.

Written by Michael Boxwell. To read the full article, click here.

Bringing Color to Solar Panels

Covering a roof or a façade with standard solar cells to generate electricity will change a building’s original appearance — and not always for the better. At present only dark solar panels are widely available on the market. “Not enough work has been done so far on combining photovoltaics and design elements to really do the term ‘customized photovoltaics’ justice,” says Kevin Füchsel, project manager at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena.

But things are changing. The IOF physicist has been focusing for the last four years on nanostructured solar cells suitable for mass production as part of a junior research group funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF). Together with a Fraunhofer team and scientists from the Friedrich-Schiller University in Jena, the group of optics specialists is looking for cost-effective techniques and manufacturing processes to increase both the efficiency of solar panels and the design flexibility they give architects and designers.

Written by Science Daily. To read the full article, click here.

Solar power costs closing in on wind: Wynn

May 16 (Reuters) – Solar panels were cheaper than wind turbines for the first time last year in certain markets, per unit of capacity, and are rapidly closing a remaining gap in the full cost of power generation.

Until now, wind power has been the leading low-carbon alternative to oil, coal and gas, outside large niche markets such as Germany, which has seen a huge ramp-up in installed solar.

But that could change, with deep implications for the health of both industries if one substitutes the other.

As soon as this year, solar could for the first time surpass wind in annual global installed capacity, given an expected contraction in the wind market.

Written by Gerard Wynn. To read the full article, click here