Solar Power In The U.S. Becoming A More Popular, Cost-Saving Option For Homeowners

Ben Kunz wanted to do “the green thing” and save on his electric bill without paying a lot of money up front. So instead of buying a solar system for his house in Cheshire, Connecticut, he leased one.

“I thought it was a pretty good deal,” he said. “I lean a little environmentalist so I’m concerned about global warming.”

Increasing numbers of U.S. homeowners are relying on the sun to meet much of their hot water and electricity needs. In fact, residential electricity produced by solar in the first quarter of 2013 was almost 10 times higher than that generated in 2008, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

But the potential for more is huge.

Consider this: “The amount of solar energy falling on the United States in one hour of noontime summer sun is about equal to the annual U.S. electricity demand,” the Energy Department says in its SunShot Vision Study.

Written by Carole Feldman. To read the full article, click here.

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A Material That Could Make Solar Power “Dirt Cheap”

A new type of solar cell, made from a material that is dramatically cheaper to obtain and use than silicon, could generate as much power as today’s commodity solar cells.

Although the potential of the material is just starting to be understood, it has caught the attention of the world’s leading solar researchers, and several companies are already working to commercialize it.

Researchers developing the technology say that it could lead to solar panels that cost just 10 to 20 cents per watt. Solar panels now typically cost about 75 cents a watt, and the U.S. Department of Energy says 50 cents per watt will allow solar power to compete with fossil fuel.

In the past, solar researchers have been divided into two camps in their pursuit of cheaper solar power. Some have sought solar cells that can be made very cheaply but that have the downside of being relatively inefficient. Lately, more researchers have focused on developing very high efficiency cells, even if they require more expensive manufacturing techniques.

Written by Kevin Bullis. To read the full article, click here.

Fracking Could Help Geothermal Become a Power Player

Here’s another use for fracking: expanding access to hot rocks deep beneath Earth’s surface for energy production. In April Ormat Technologies hooked up the first such project—known in the lingo as an enhanced geothermal system, or EGS—to the nation’s electric grid near Reno, Nev.

“The big prize is EGS,” enthuses Douglas Hollett, director of the Geothermal Technologies Office at the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE). “The key is learning how to do it in a reliable way, in a responsible way.”

By some estimates, the U.S. could tap as much as 2,000 times the nation’s current annual energy use of roughly 100 exajoules (an exajoule equals a quintillion, or 1018 joules) via enhanced geothermal technologies. With respect to electricity, the DoE concludes at least 500 gigawatts of electric capacity could be harvested from such EGS systems. Even better, hot rocks underlie every part of the country and the rest of the world. Australia’s first enhanced geothermal system, spicily named Habanero, began producing power in May, and Europe has brought three such power plants online.

Written by David Biello. To read the full article, click here.

Department Of Energy Names SunWize As Qualified Company

SunWize Technologies has earned certification from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as a “Qualified Energy Service Company.” This designation is an indication of SunWize’s industry experience and track record of successfully developing and managing solar projects for the U.S. Government.

“We welcome the vote of confidence the DOE has placed in SunWize’s ability to provide the right solution to our customers’ energy needs,” explained SunWize President and Chief Operating Officer David Kaltsas. “It is another example of why leading public and private organizations routinely turn to us to solve their most complex sustainable energy challenges.”

This certification grants SunWize pre-approval status as a Qualified Energy Service Company and entitles the company to submit unsolicited proposals for Energy Savings Performance Contracting. As a prerequisite to achieving this certification, SunWize was required to demonstrate success in serving as the prime contractor with direct financial responsibility for project design and installation of PV systems where energy savings or utility demand reduction could be verified. A Qualification Review Board (QRB) comprised of DOE staff awarded SunWize the certification.

Written by Kathleen Zipp. To read the full article, click here.

Sun Plus Nanotechnology: Can Solar Energy Get Bigger by Thinking Small?

Nearly 60 years after researchers first demonstrated a way to convert sunlight into energy, science is still grappling with a critical limitation of the solar photovoltaic cell.

It just isn’t that efficient at turning the tremendous power of the sun into electricity.

And even though commercial solar cells today have double to four times the 6 percent efficiency of the one first unveiled in 1954 by Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, that hasn’t been sufficient to push fossil fuel from its preeminent place in the world energy mix.

But now, alternative energy researchers think that something really small—nanotechnology, the engineering of structures a fraction of the width of a human hair—could give a gigantic boost to solar energy. (See related quiz: “What You Don’t Know About Solar Power.”)

“Advances in nanotechnology will lead to higher efficiencies and lower costs, and these can and likely will be significant,” explains Matt Beard, a senior scientist for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). “In fact, nanotechnology is already having dramatic effects on the science of solar cells.”

Written by Patrick J. Kiger. To read the full article, click here