By Imran Rana
The demand for solar panels has increased considerably, thanks to extensive power and gas outages and high tariffs that have not only hurt industrial activities but have also disturbed the monthly household budgets.
Germany plans to reduce government subsidies supporting solar power by up to 30 percent within a year because higher-than-expected demand has made the scheme far more costly than authorities initially expected.
by Marc Carter
If you read Inhabitat, you probably know that we’re big fans of green transportation, but we do think it’s important to see the bigger picture when it comes to electric cars.
Samsung just threw their hat into the growing LED market by launching a new line of bulbs that can suit practically any lighting need. The line features 7 energy-sipping bulbs that should fit practically any socket in the house. The new bulbs join the ever-expanding options available to shoppers who are looking to save money and get just the right light. Read on for a closer look at these new bulbs, and to learn how they stack up against the competition.
China just took a massive step forward for renewable energy as it flipped the switch on the world’s largest battery, which will help integrate a solar project and a wind farm into a smart grid. Capable of storing 36 megawatt hours of power and taking up the area of a football field, the giant battery bank was built as a joint venture between solar and electric car company BYD and the State Grid Corporation of China to improve a large wind and solar electric installation’s efficiency by 5-10%. It looks like we have a race to see who will have the largest battery in world as utilities struggle to make solar and wind technologies usable for longer periods of time.
Switzerland-based industrial machine behemoth ABB just announced plans to throw its weight behind a massive network of electric vehicle charging stations across Europe, the US, and Asia. The company plans to integrate chargers into smart grid systems and allow drivers to juice up their electric vehicles while they are out and about. The announcement is a big nod that the nascent electric car market is set to boom – sources project that over 5 million EVs will be sold each year by 2017, and the charger market is valued at $1 billion.
A relatively new* type of reciprocating wave-powered electricity generator called Searaser has been developed and is moving forward. Searaser, acquired by Ecotricity, is not a typical wave power plant.
The first peculiarity is that it does not generate electricity out at sea. Due to the fact that waves move up and down in the ocean, they can continuously move a float attached to a reciprocating pump that can pump water through a water-powered onshore electricity generator for the sake of keeping the electrical parts of the system out of the water.
As Damian Carrington of The Guardian notes, its is a bit like an aquatic “bicycle pump.”
As solar panel manufacturers try to harvest more of the sun’s energy for less, they face increasingly diminishing returns. At roughly $1 per watt, the cost of solar modules now represents less than a third of the total cost of commercial solar installations. To cut the total cost of solar power—currently $3.00 to $3.50 per watt—bigger gains will have to come from improvements in the power electronics, wiring, and mounting systems required for solar installations.
According to a study conducted by ICF, a consulting firm for the US Department of Defense, surplus land at four military bases in the Mojave desert in California could be capable of producing up to 7 Gigawatts of solar power. These bases include, the Edwards Air Force base, Fort Erwin, China Lake and Twenty-nine Palms. Some 37,873 acres of land is available for setting these solar power plants, without impacting the space needs of the military for its ongoing operational needs or for potential future needs. The type of solar power plant to be installed, whether silicon flat panels or solar concentrators, has not yet been determined. If the go-ahead happens, power plant construction could commence by 2015.
The WaveRoller arrived on January 2nd at Portugal’s Peniche Shipyard for a much anticipated pilot test this summer off the coast of Portugal, one of the best testing sites in Europe for ocean energy. The scaled-up version for the pilot test is to be tested in the same waters near the sea shore of Peniche where its smaller prototype showed promise (Previous: WaveRoller Uses Swinging Door for Underwater Wave Energy.)
Wave energy involves very large machines that must survive harsh underwater conditions. Even this pre-commercial version weighs 280 tons, and the test has been financed by the European Commission.
Some more astonishing stats on the progress Germany is making on solar power thanks to good, steady and predictable renewable energy policy: Greentech Media shares the astonishing fact that in the month of December alone Germany installed 2 GW of solar PV. For the whole of 2011, Germany installed 7 GW.
The US managed to install 1.7 GW in the same time period—which isn’t to knock US installation rates so much as to further highlight the massive Germany push to install more PV before the feed-in tariff for it drop as planned.
Israel’s Eco Wave Power is just entering the second phase of proving its new wave energy harvest and conversion system that’s claimed to produce cheaper energy than existing coal-fired power plants. Energy is captured by the influence of rising and falling waves on two proprietary float designs called the Wave Clapper and Power Wing, which are installed on existing, stable structures. The floats are said to be capable of gathering energy from both high and low waves, which is fed through undersea cabling to a land-based power plant for conversion to usable electricity.
One of the biggest hurdles for integrating renewable energy from solar or wind sources comes from the question of storage – how can power be stored for times when the wind doesn’t blow or the skies are overcast?
Researchers at Stanford University are addressing this headlong and have reported the development of a new high-power electrode that is cheap, durable and efficient. If development continues as hoped, this discovery might potentially foster the manufacture of batteries large enough to provide for economical renewable energy storage on the grid.