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Solar Keeps Getting Cheaper

Posted on: October 3rd, 2014 No Comments

In a recent post, we discussed the future possibility of everyone being able to print solar panels at home using 3D printers. Scientists in Australia were able to do this recently because of the fact that solar keeps getting cheaper.

In this post, lets dig in with some informative charts to see just how much cheaper solar is becoming.

Solar IRENA PV Costs

In the chart above, we can see that the price of a turnkey photovoltaic (PV) system is expected to drop by roughly another fifth from this year until 2020.

While all aspects of the system deployment costs are decreasing, the module itself is seeing the greatest reduction in price.

From 2010 to 2012, the cost of solar panels has reduced by a staggering 60%! The cost of installing an array overall fell by some 40% from 2010 to 2012. While the cost of solar panels are decreasing, the efficiency is moving in the other direction.

Scientists and professors who are focusing on the solar industry, are finding ways to improve the efficiency of affordable solar cells.

Ali Javey from UC Berkeley

Credit: Gizmag.com

Ali Javey, a professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at the University of California at Berkeley, has found a far cheaper way to manufacture high performing solar cells, potentially making them as cheap as conventional ones.

Javey says the new process could be a “game changer” for solar cells.

The most efficient solar cells available today are made from materials called III-V semiconductors, a group that includes gallium arsenide and indium phosphide. Making solar cells from these materials normally means starting with expensive crystals of the semiconductor material, then exposing the crystals to vapors that produce the thin films need for a solar cell.

Early tests suggest solar cells made from the materials Ali Javey is working on would have an efficiency of about 25 percent, far better than conventional silicon solar cells, which are less than 18 percent efficient.

The increasing synergy between the solar industry, university based research scientists and big utilities will result in increasing efficiency and affordability of solar cells in the immediate future.

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New Multi-Usage Solar Power Cubes

Posted on: September 11th, 2014 No Comments

When disaster strikes, relief teams tend to face the same problems: no power and a breakdown of the infrastructure. One newcomer on the scene, Ecosphere Technologies, wants to solve those problems with their new Ecos PowerCube. This solar power cube is designed to deliver solar power, purify water, and serve as a WiFi base station, all in one container.

Details On This Multi-Use Container

Solar Power Cube Example

Image: Extreme Tech <extremetech.com>

This power cube certainly isn’t small in size though. It’s designed to be transported in either a 10, 20, or 40-foot shipping container and the largest of these containers can provide up to 15Kw of power. The majority of the energy the cube generates will power either wireless communications or water treatment.

Solar Power Cubes During Disasters

The entire design of the cube system is to provide as much flexibility as possible. It can support the goals of a variety of missions from hospitals and aid stations, to providing safe drinking water or internet access for remote locations. This system is an amazing new technological development, and it certainly has potential.

Are There Any Potential Drawbacks?

While this system has the potential to offer huge advantages, there are still some areas to resolve. One of the downsides to the power cube is that batteries are not included. For disaster areas where time is essential, the window to treat and rescue people is typically less than three days.

Aid workers in these areas will need power generation around the clock but so far, this cube can only provide power when the sun in shining. It’s still a useful system, but may not be as beneficial as it seems at first.

Additionally, the power cube provides a fairly limited amount of energy for its large size. A diesel engine provides up to 1.7MW while the power cube outputs only 15kW. This steep difference means that you would need 20 or more power cubes to provide the same energy as one diesel generator.

The Primary Factors Will Be Needs & Capabilities

For a small area that needs WiFi, water treatment, and independent power generation, this solar power cube may be just the product that you’re looking for.

With disasters happening regularly around the world, having this tool readily available can save lives by providing essential equipment and power. This solar cube offers aid workers and disaster areas new hope and offers readily available resources.

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Massachusetts Introduces New Community-Shared Solar Facility

Posted on: September 10th, 2014 No Comments

Massachusetts recently introduced an exciting opportunity for people to be able to purchase solar power from a new community-shared solar facility.

The 1 megawatt facility located in Rehoboth, Mass. is now open to all ratepayers in the NGRID territory.

Massachusetts NGRID Territory

Source: CapeCodToday <http://www.capecodtoday.com>

This is one of the latest innovative solar projects, because it will allow even renters and residents who live in shaded areas to benefit from solar energy. This type of solar model gives residents and business owners the opportunity to benefit from solar through the community-shared array.

They won’t have to install stand-alone systems at their homes or business locations. The solar facility is placed at an optimal location where it can absorb the most amount of energy, and be able to send it over to owners who are miles away.

It will be maintained to operate at peak efficiency, providing clean and dependable power for decades to come.

These community-shared solar customers also get to benefit from the same rebates and incentives as residential system owners. Credit for the power produced from the solar panels also appears directly on the owners’ monthly utility bills.

Many key players in Massachusetts renewable energy arena joined Clean Energy Collective (CEC) founder Paul Spencer to celebrate the grand opening of the solar facility on August 25th.

Clean Energy Collective

This solar project is a big step forward, and a great example of future creative ways communities can produce and consume clean energy.

Using the nearly unlimited power of the sun, we can harness clean energy to use for most of our current and future needs, and store extra power for nights, cloudy days and potential disasters.

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Solar Companies Plan To Manufacture In U.S.

Posted on: September 9th, 2014 No Comments

Several major solar brands have decided to move their photovoltaic manufacturing facilities to the United States. The companies will increase their manufacturing of cells, panels, and silicon wafers in the U.S. and reduce production in China.

Silicon wafer manufacturer 1336 Technologies raised a total of $62 million in funding to build a 250 megawatt facility in the U.S. One of the reason 1336 Technologies decided to start manufacturing in the states is that workers in China are still doing certain tasks by hand.

A lot of factory workers in China use suction cups to pick up silicon wafers, which can add to production mistakes.

In the U.S., a machine is relied on to do the work, while experienced workers are there to run the sophisticated machinery and monitor the progress.

Suniva, one of our solar panel manufacturers, is adding a second facility in the U.S. this year to keep production in the country while they continue to expand their company. Suniva will open its new facility in Saginaw Township, Michigan, where it will be easier for it to work with its key supply chain partners Hemlock & Dow Corning. Michigan also yields a highly skilled workforce to draw from.

Suniva opening new solar facility in Michigan

Labor costs in China have been increasing, making it even easier for large solar companies to consider moving production locally. Uncertainty in policy environments also makes it difficult for U.S. solar companies to monitor facilities in China.

There is also value in manufacturing within the U.S.

The U.S. solar market is already the 3rd largest in the world, with solar installations exceeding 7 gigawatts in 2014. Unlike other big markets like Japan, the U.S. is seeing steady growth year after year in demand for installations.

Solar growth in U.S. is rapidly increasing

Source: Cleantechnica <http://cleantechnica.com>

The “Made in USA” phenomenon is still strong, and many homeowners and businesses like to purchase locally.

China still has, and will continue to hold a strong share of the global photovoltaic manufacturing capacity.

At 70% share, China will not be heavily affected over the years by American companies moving their manufacturing locally. However, trade disputes and tariffs are among several reasons why more U.S. solar companies will begin to create their manufacturing facilities in the States, to provide cost effective products to their customers.

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7-Acre Solar Farm Coming To Chattooga County, Ga.

Posted on: August 5th, 2014 No Comments

Georgia is home to one of the nation’s fastest-growing solar electricity program, and the state is pushing things further with the upcoming addition of a new solar farm.

The solar farm will be located in the small town of Lyerly, GA which is home to about 500 residents. The massive solar farm will contain some 4,400 photovoltaic panels, and produce up to 1.2 megawatts of solar renewable energy.

Solar Farm

Above is an example of a solar farm.

These panels will be placed on a newly cleared 7-acre plot in Lyerly. Hannah Solar, the company behind this project, will install the 4,400 panels and sell the project to an undisclosed buyer after its completion. Georgia Power has already signed a 20-year contract to buy electricity from the facility after completion.

Why is this solar farm important?

This massive solar farm will be another push forward in solar, not only showcasing how large solar projects can get, but also highlighting the ever growing demand for clean renewable energy from utilities and residents alike.  The advent of solar farms will also reduce the need to build future power plants and the money saved can be re-invested into current infrastructure.

Although solar panels cannot run when the sun isn’t present, it will help during peak energy usage hours, when the sun will be up and solar panels will be most active. During these peak hours, the sun is providing the highest amount of energy, and it’s also the peak time when high energy consuming air conditioners are running.

Another solar farm example

Example showing how vast solar farms can be.

Georgia’s Public Service Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald Jr. has a lot to do with the state growing in renewable solar energy usage. McDonald is an advocate for solar technology, stating that the field has advanced tremendously in the last few years, while price has continued to drop.

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The Return Of Green Home Building

Posted on: August 4th, 2014 No Comments

In previous articles we discussed a few recent innovations in solar technology, examples like using solar panels on park benches to power cell phones, and the usage of solar panels on roadways.

There has been a fantastic spark in interest of using solar panels in unique ways, but the initial foundation of solar panels has always been to free everyday people from relying on the grid to power their homes. The nearly unlimited source of energy created from our sun could sustain every home in the world for countless years.

We’ve covered an article a few months ago on CETC about Germany ranking among top countries where residents use solar panels to power their homes.

The reason there has not been such a steadfast movement in our country has to do with a few factors.

Just like all innovative technology, in the infancy of its release to the public, the demand is lower as consumers are still learning about the product. Once the awareness increases, the demand follows, and the price of the technology drops over time. Do you remember how expensive laptops were in early 2000?

The cost of solar panels is dropping every year, and there is also help from the government to boost awareness and lower the cost of purchasing and installing solar panels for homes through a federal tax credit.

Additionally, because of our recent recession, home builders and homebuyers wanted to spend as little as possible. With the improvement of the economy, and the advancement of solar technology, solar panels and solar panel installation for homes have become more affordable for home builders who want to sell new homes that are equipped with solar panels, and residents who want to add it to their current home.

Green Solar Home

So why the return of interest in green home building? Why now?

Going green has always been something on the mind of both homeowners and home builders, and over the years materials have become more affordable. Increasing energy-costs and changes in building codes have galvanized owners to search for sustainable solutions to “green” their homes.

Image jaybean.com

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Solar Roadways Coming To A Street Near You

Posted on: July 23rd, 2014 1 Comment

We recently spoke about solar panels being used on park benches, innovations in solar panel usage have come a long way from just applying them to rooftops. You might have seen a new video online about solar roadways that was published back in May.

It shows how a husband wife team propose to  create solar powered roadways that would generate huge amounts of energy to use throughout the country, and with over 17.3 million YouTube views to date, it’s created quite a buzz.

What are the advantages of bringing solar panels on the roads?

The most dominant answer being that you would have a tremendous amount solar panel surface to absorb solar energy and be able to use it for many different things, such as powering the homes that are next to the road.

In the U.S. alone, over $160 billion is lost each year from decreased productivity from people sitting in traffic due to road maintenance. Sometimes road damages (like potholes for example) go unnoticed by the city until people begin to complain. In contrast, each of the solar panels installed in the ground contain their own microprocessor which can communicate with the surrounding panels. If one of the panels stops working, the surrounding panels can instantly transmit a message .

On a MOHS hardness scale (used to define hardness in materials), the tempered glass that would be used in solar panels also has almost 5 times the hardness level than the asphalt that is currently used on roads today. So not only can the solar roadway panels communicate instantly of an issue, but it can also withstand much higher levels of impact.

Will it be affordable?

This is the key concern, and probably the only reason that solar panels are not on roadways today.

The pioneer company leading this innovation, Solar Roadways, noted that if they could make their 12’ x 12’ solar panels for under $10,000 each, then it could break even with asphalt expenses.

What are some neat innovations it brings along?

With solar roadways, you can expect heated roads in the winter. The solar panels in the road can turn the energy it absorbs into heat, to melt snow and ice from the roads, making for a much safer drive. The solar roadways can also provide interactive signals in the roads that can change instantly. For example, a handicapped parking spot that has not been used in hours can instantly turn into a regular parking spot, and back with the push of a button.

Interactive Solar Roadways

The future of solar roads and highways, when can we expect the start? Are there any problems with solar roadways?

Solar Roadways has recently started a Indiegogo funding campaign to raise $1 million, and has already doubled that, raising a total of $2.2 million. There are a few test locations utilizing the technology, and Solar Roadways hopes to further its research to create commercially available solar roadways in the near future.

With regards to any problems, yes there are some issues that will need to be tackled when the roads start changing to solar. Unlike asphalt which is a basic element, the solar roadways will include technology that could be prone to hacking, so security will be one of the top priorities to perfect. Another issue is the shape of the roads themselves, currently Solar Roadways is testing the solar panels on flat surfaces, but future panels will need to be able to adapt to non-flat roads like hills and curves.

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New Solar-Powered Benches That Charge Smartphones

Posted on: July 22nd, 2014 3 Comments

Ingenuity from out-of-the-box thinkers has led to innovations in many aspects of our daily life. The solar industry has no shortage of ingenuity, with the recent invention of solar-powered benches created by a Boston company, Soofa.

Soofa co-founder Sandra Richter with President Obama

Image: Soofa

The company aims to create solar powered benches in parks (in Boston & Cambridge so far), where people can rest and also be able to charge up their mobile devices.

Soofa co-founder, Sandra Richter, also wanted to showcase how the solar panels work by attaching it to the benches.

Ricther notes that most solar panels these days are hidden away from the public eye, usually mounted on flat commercial roofs or on residential homes.

Richter wants to increase the awareness of the advantages of solar renewable power by bringing the panels within reach of the public. “There isn’t too much knowledge or perception around renewable energy these days because people are removed from it — it’s either on the roof or set aside somewhere that you don’t see it,” said Richter.

“We wanted to change the way people see its immediate benefits by putting something out into public spaces.”

While the cost of a single solar-powered bench, (which costs about $10,000), can outweigh a current cast-iron park bench , Richter hopes to begin to build awareness and also partner with brands like Cisco and Verizon to have more solar-powered benches available in parks at a lower cost.

New York and Amsterdam are other locations where solar-powered benches are available. The solar industry is indeed creating great innovations that will solve many small day-to-day problems such as charging your phone on the go.

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Luke AFB Leases Land for New Solar Power Plant

Posted on: July 15th, 2014 No Comments

The government, recognizing the near unlimited source of power they could harness from the sun, has been utilizingrenewable energy, such as solar power, from the start of the industry.

In 1956, the first solar cells were available commercially, but the cost was far too high for  everyday people.

At $300 for a 1 watt solar cell, the cost to generate solar energy was far beyond anyone’s means. In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s satellites in the USA’s space program were powered by solar cells and in the late 1960’s solar power was basically the standard for powering space bound satellites.

Recently, the Luke Air Force Base in Arizona partnered with Arizona Public Service (APS) on a new solar power plant to be built on 100 acres of land located on the Base. The facility will begin construction at the end of this year, and is expected to produce 10-megawatts of power.

Luke Air Force Base Adding Solar

This partnership will help the Air Force save money and also meet their goals to continue investing in solar renewable energy. APS will lease the land for 30 years from Luke AFB for $6 million.

The project at Luke AFB will join 8 other Arizona sun projects that are already online or in some stage of development, totaling 170 megawatts of solar energy for the state. That amount of megawatts is enough to power more than 42,000 APS customers.

The solar plant will be highly visible and set a great example for other states to incorporate solar energy as a means for power production.

The solar plant will generate enough energy to power 2,500 Arizona homes, and will prevent the emission of 12,000-15,000 tons of greenhouse gases a year, according to Robert Worley, 56th Civil Engineer Squadron installation management flight chief.

More than 200 local jobs will be created during the construction of the plant. The facility will be operational, serving APS customers by summer 2015.

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What We Learned From New Solar Power Report

Posted on: July 9th, 2014 No Comments

The first quarter of 2014 proved to be a great start for the solar industry. More homes, businesses, nonprofits, and academic institutions are turning to solar power to generate energy for their facilities.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) released their 2014 Q1 report (see here) which showed majoy trends in the U.S. solar industry.

New US Electric Generation Capacity Details

Key marketing figures showed increase usage of solar power:

The last figure means that in the first quarter of 2014, nearly ¾ of all new power installations were solar powered. Even more noteworthy, residential installations exceeded non-residential installations, meaning homeowners are understanding the benefits of zeroing out their energy bill by using the power of the sun.

There are some states that offer incentives for residential solar installations, but this first quarter of 2014 showed that homeowners are installing solar whether there are incentives available or not.

By the end of this first quarter alone, there have been almost half a million individual solar power systems installed.

They are now up and running, and generating clean energy for residential and commercial usage.

The future for solar in the U.S. is looking bright, and our team at Independent Green Technologies is committed to providing homes, businesses, and government buildings with clean renewable energy. We have partnered with banks to provide financing opportunities, and have a great team that will understand your current energy usage and provide the best options to zero out your utility bill.

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