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A Robot that Cleans Solar Panels

Posted by 8 April, 2014 (0) Comment

By Tom Lombardo, Engineering.com

Deserts are ideal locations for solar farms – they get a lot of sunshine and the land is relatively inexpensive. On the other hand, their arid nature means that a lot of sand flies around, and sand on a photovoltaic panel blocks valuable sunlight, decreasing its output. Depending on location and weather conditions, dusty panels could decrease solar farm production by 3% to 15% in a given month. Periodic cleaning ensures that the panels get as much light as possible, but it’s a labor intensive process that may not pay for itself.

Ecoppia, an upstart company out of Israel, has an innovative, water-free solution: the E4 robotic PV cleaning system that dusts the panels using a self-cleaning microfiber cloth.

Please see link above for complete article. Video below courtesy of Ecoppia.

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GeniusHour Leads to Solar Idea

Posted by 26 January, 2014 (0) Comment

Kiran-Ty

Ty Van De Motter and Kiran Krishnamurthi are two seventh graders at Ballard Brady Middle School in Pepper Pike, OH. During GeniusHour in Mrs. Lee Pop’s 7th grade Language Arts class they came up with an idea to build a solar lawn mower. GeniusHour is about an hour a week where the students can build whatever they want. It’s an idea that actually got its start at Google where they gave their employees 20% of their time to work on whatever they like.

Kiran and Ty believe that solar energy will play a big role in our future. They explain in their own words -

“Every year our world becomes more eco friendly. People come up with eco friendly cars and eco friendly heating systems, but what about an outdoors activity that works with the environment? Mowing your lawn! People complain about how it is too hot outside to mow the lawn, but they don’t focus on the benefits. All that radiant heat from the sun can be converted into a great source of energy, solar energy. When people mow their lawn they are outside in the sun. The sun’s energy can charge a solar panel. Our plan is to build a lawn mower that is powered by a solar panel. We will be connecting the panel to a battery so it does not blow up in our face. The panel will charge on its own but it can also be charging while people mow their lawn. We believe that this type of technology will “finish off” the gas-powered lawn mower.”

Kiran and Ty are currently writing to local business for sponsorships. They expect to finish their product before the end of the school year in June. If you would like to contact them please email them at kirankrishnamurthi11@gmail.com.

Best of luck boys!

The initial drawing-

solar-mower

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KYOCERA Solar Captures Sun and Creates Shade at Tucson Airport

Posted by 19 December, 2013 (0) Comment

tn

Scottsdale, AZ – December 19, 2013 – As the holiday travel season begins, Kyocera Solar Inc. today announced that its industry-leading solar modules were selected to power the first phase of a 2.5MW parking lot canopy installation at Tucson International Airport. The 1MW first phase of the photovoltaic (PV) array, which offsets about a fifth of the terminal complex’s total power needs, is now operational and a dedication ceremony will be held at 11 am Mountain Time, December 20.

The project converts the abundant sunshine in “The Old Pueblo” into renewable energy powering the airport’s main terminal. It’s part of the airport’s ongoing environmental efforts, utilizing $5.7 million in funding awarded by the Federal Aviation Administration and $280,000 contributed by the Arizona Department of Transportation to offset a federal grant matching requirement.

Collaboration with Natural Power & Energy helped ensure that the system was properly sized for the airport’s power output and glare avoidance requirements. By working closely with Tucson-based contractor Barker-Morrissey Contracting, the Design-Build team was able to meet the tight installation deadlines of the 5-acre first phase with time to spare.

“Airports are an ideal location for solar canopies because of the large amounts of space they can cover, additionally serving as desired shade to cars parked for hours or even days,” said Steve Hill, president, Kyocera Solar Inc. “We are glad to have completed this first phase before the busy travel season; it’s a nice holiday bonus to know that part of the electricity usage in the main terminal is being offset by the parking lot’s large solar array. Kyocera Solar is proud to power this important project in our home state.”

The solar canopy structure is a 20-foot tall curved, open-lattice design comprised exclusively of efficient, durable Kyocera modules that create shade for parking spaces. Vegetated “green walls” are also planned, which will use live plants to create a cooling microclimate effect in the parking area. There is no additional charge for the parking spaces under the solar canopy.

This project’s federal grant is part of a program that provides funding for airport projects that promote energy efficiency under the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.

“Kyocera’s responsibilities with every project are to assist throughout the lifecycle of that installation,” Hill stated. “Our technical expertise in addition to our 38 years of high quality module production experience adds value and can help reduce project costs. Kyocera’s success depends on our customer’s success.”

Construction on the main public parking lot began in May 2013, kicking off a three-phase installation expected to be completed in 2-3 years. Work has already begun on phase 2 in the remaining 7 acres of the parking area.

Tucson joins Chicago’s Midway as another major airport going green with Kyocera. Midway’s Quick Turn Around rental car washing and refueling facility was outfitted with Kyocera photovoltaic solar modules in October 2013.

To learn more about Kyocera Solar Solutions for both residential and commercial projects, please contact infosolar@kyocera.com or 800-223-9580.

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Clean Energy Collective Powers Up Three More Utility-Scale Community-Owned Solar Facilities

Posted by 16 October, 2013 (0) Comment

CEC_Breckenridge_Arial

BOULDER, COLO. – (October 15, 2013) Three new community-owned solar PV facilities by community solar pioneer Clean Energy Collective (CEC) began delivering power to ratepayers in Colorado this week, bringing to 10 the number of shared utility-scale arrays operating in the state. An additional 10 facilities, about 5 MW, are in the development pipeline for Colorado.

The resort town of Breckenridge, Colo. is now host to two 500 kW community-owned solar facilities that will serve Xcel Energy customers in Summit County. Both systems were sold out before construction was complete. A 400 kW community-owned system perched on a former Air Force hangar is also now delivering clean power to Denver County ratepayers. Combined with the 106 kW original array on the historic Hangar 2 building, this creates the nation’s largest building integrated PV (BIPV) installation at over 500 kW.

Introduced in 2010, CEC’s community-owned solar model (COS) was designed to provide every ratepayer in a utility territory the opportunity to purchase individual solar panels in a shared, locally-sited, utility-scale array. This innovation opens up solar PV ownership to renters, people in multi-dwelling buildings, properties with poor solar exposure, and individuals of all income levels. Because they are sited and maintained for maximum production, utility-scale facilities provide more energy for longer than smaller, individual systems, allowing for a faster and greater financial return.

“Our model is not supplanting people who want to and can put solar on their house, but rather opening the market to the other 75% of electric users who have until now faced insurmountable barriers,” said CEC founder Paul Spencer.

While community solar makes PV energy available to everyone on the grid, real traction for rapid deployment has come from its broad appeal for utilities. Large IOU’s, municipal utilities, and rural cooperatives can add solar to their mix with a turn-key solution. It provides in-network, reliable, utility-scale clean energy generation at reasonable power rates that applies nicely to RPS requirements without capital outlay or responsibility for monitoring, customer administration, operations and maintenance.

CEC has partnered with six utilities so far in Colorado, including 11 facilities rewarded through Xcel Energy’s Solar*Rewards Communities program. Once complete, access to solar ownership will be available to more than 95% of Colorado ratepayers. CEC has also installed the state’s first community-owned solar gardens for New Mexico, Minnesota, and Vermont, and has topped $40 million in facility developments.

“CEC has cracked the code, opening a consumer solar market that is four-times larger than the onsite solar marketplace as we have traditionally known it,” said Nikhil Garg, Vice President of Black Coral Capital, a Boston-based investment firm focused on cleantech and alternative energy.

About Clean Energy Collective (CEC)
Colorado-based Clean Energy Collective is a developer of community-based renewable energy facilities and a national leader in community power generation. CEC pioneered the model of delivering clean power-generation through utility-scale facilities that are collectively owned by participating utility customers, establishing the first community-owned solar garden in the country near El Jebel, Colorado. Today, CEC has 23 community-owned facilities online or in development, representing more than 10 MW of community-sited clean energy.

Categories : News,Solar Energy Tags : ,

Alta Devices Enables Unmanned Aircraft to Fly as Long as the Sun is Shining

Posted by 27 July, 2013 (0) Comment

Alta Devices solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle

Very High Efficiency and Lightweight Solar Material Provides Unmatched Power to Weight Ratio

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – July 25, 2013 – During a keynote at the small unmanned systems business expo in San Francisco, CA today, Alta Devices’ CEO, Christopher Norris, explained that small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are no longer constrained to short-range or limited flight times and are now able to fly as long as the sun is shining. This is expected to have tremendous economic value for agricultural, public safety, wildfire mapping, search and rescue, law enforcement, industrial applications, and many others.

In the past, solar solutions for powering these vehicles were either too heavy or could not produce enough power for long-range flight, or both. However, a small UAV outfitted with Alta Devices’ mobile power technology can produce enough power, while adding practically no weight, to fly indefinitely under the sun.

Alta Devices manufactures the world’s thinnest, most flexible, and most efficient solar material. It can be used on anything that moves, can be carried, or worn, to generate substantial power from light. In the case of a typical small UAV with a 9-foot wingspan, Alta’s material can generate roughly 125W of power and weigh about 125g (about 4.5 ounces). In many cases, this is enough power to sustain flight and keep an on-board power source fully charged.

Chris Norris, Alta Devices president and CEO explained, “A broad range of civil unmanned systems will benefit from extended range and endurance. For example, when a UAV is used to map a wildfire, or on a human search and rescue mission, it is critical to have flight times that are as long as possible.” And for agricultural use, the ability to extend the range of a UAV and shorten the task of monitoring a large area by avoiding stops to recharge, has significant economic benefit to the farming community. According to a report published by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), precision agriculture and public safety represent over 90% of the potential for civil UAS use and will result in an economic benefit to the United States of 82 billion dollars between 2015 and 2025.

Gretchen West, executive vice president, Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) said, “Efficiency and endurance are the holy grail for unmanned systems. Enabling all-day flight times for small UAVs will change the game for civil use and represents a significant market opportunity.”

About Alta Devices
Alta Devices is (EM)POWERING THE UNPLUGGED WORLD™ by delivering the world’s most efficient, thin and flexible mobile power technology. Converting light into electricity, Alta’s technology extends the energy source of a system, and in many cases, completely cuts the traditional power cord. The solution can be completely integrated into the final system, and is ideal for use in unmanned systems, consumer electronics, automotive, remote exploration, or anywhere size, weight, and mobility matter. Alta Devices holds world records for energy conversion efficiency1, and has received funding from, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, August Capital, Crosslink Capital, AIMCo, GE, Dow, and others. The company is headquartered in Sunnyvale, CA.

For more information, visit http://www.altadevices.com.

Categories : Solar Energy Tags : ,

NRG Energy Readies Disaster Relief Vehicle for Nationwide Service

Posted by 25 June, 2013 (0) Comment

As hurricane season begins, the employees of NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG) are preparing to help affected coastal areas by championing a new concept called “Power2Serve” – anchored by a 42-foot disaster relief vehicle and 26-foot trailer combination designed to deliver immediate power, emergency shelter, access to news and information and Wi-Fi internet connectivity to those in need. The vehicle was unveiled today to crisis management officials in the home city of NRG retail subsidiary, Reliant.

NRG purchased the commercial grade vehicle from a stock car racer and, drawing on expertise from across the company, modified it to suit its new mission. At the same time, approximately 400 NRG employees from across the country signed up to staff the vehicle as Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and “ServeCrew” community volunteers. CERT members receive training in search and rescue operations, medical response, disaster psychology, shelter operations, and basic fire suppression. ServeCrew members are qualified to set up power charging stations, assist residents in filling out necessary forms and applications, and provide IT support.

“The Power2Serve vehicle is a way for NRG to be more involved in our communities as part of future disaster relief efforts – harnessing our collective skills and knowledge in a creative, hands?on way to respond quickly to help affected people,” said Fran Sullivan, senior vice president of plant operations. “It’s an opportunity for us to bring electricity to impacted residents in times of urgent need, to do whatever we can to make their lives a little better.”

The Power2Serve vehicle and trailer, along with three smaller, complementary vehicles providing additional services as needed, will be dispatched in coordination with local, state, and federal disaster relief authorities. The large unit has sleeping accomodations for seven volunteers and is completely self-sufficient, powered by a 10 kilowatt solar array, a 20 kilowatt diesel generator and a 10 kilowatt auxillary diesel generator.

Additional features include:
- An enclosed 50 x 20 foot pavilion to provide cooled or heated temporary shelter for residents
- Numerous flat panel TVs to show news or weather broadcasts
- 100 charging stations for cell phones, cameras, small tools and power equipment
- Wi-Fi and satellite service, and tablet computers to access email and the internet

The Power2Serve initiative is just one example of NRG’s commitment to improving the quality of life in local communities through employee-led volunteerism, donations, and corporate grant matching. Earlier this year, employees across the company raised $428,000 for Superstorm Sandy relief efforts. And last year, NRG contributed $5.4 million and 17,000 volunteer hours to benefit over 700 charitable organizations.

About NRG

NRG is at the forefront of changing how people think about and use energy. We deliver cleaner and smarter energy choices for our customers, backed by the nation’s largest independent power generation portfolio of fossil fuel, nuclear, solar and wind facilities. A Fortune 500 company, NRG is challenging the U.S. energy industry by becoming one of the largest developers of solar power, building the first privately-funded electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and providing customers with the most advanced smart energy solutions to better manage their energy use. In addition to 47,000 megawatts of generation capacity, enough to supply nearly 40 million homes, our retail electricity providers – Reliant, Green Mountain Energy and Energy Plus – serve more than two million customers. More information is available at www.nrgenergy.com. Connect with NRG Energy on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @nrgenergy.

Categories : Companies,Solar Energy,video Tags :

What Makes Solar Energy a Good Investment?

Posted by 10 June, 2013 (0) Comment

This article is part of a Mosaic series on investments that create positive social, environmental, and financial returns. Read more about what makes a truly good investment.

Five years after the Great Recession, most Americans have yet to regain their faith in our country’s largest financial institutions. The Dow is up, but the latest Financial Trust Index shows that 58% of Americans expect the stock market to drop 30% or more this year. Meanwhile, a recent Harris Poll noted that only seven percent of the public trusts the leaders of Wall Street.

Strangely, the same poll which found that most Americans think stock prices will decline also found that 92% of Americans plan to hold or increase their investments in the stock market.

What’s going on here?

Why do we put our money in institutions that we don’t trust and investments that we think are going to decline in value?

The problem comes down to a lack of quality investment options. It’s hard to access a mix of investments that will provide reliable returns over the long run. Add in criteria about not investing in harmful or risky industries and the task of finding a good investment can start to look impossible.

Fortunately, solar energy is a good investment for Americans, particularly when paired with new kinds of investment marketplaces like Mosaic. Here is how we think about our investment product:

Financial Returns

Big banks are good at financing big projects. But for smaller projects, like commercial scale solar energy, big banks lend at exorbitant interest rates, if they lend at all. This fact makes it possible for Mosaic to make solar energy loans with interest rates that are lower than those charged by banks, but still high enough to provide competitive returns for investors.

To date, over 1,500 investors have used the Mosaic platform to provide more than $2.1 million in financing to projects in California, New Jersey, and Arizona. The expected annual returns on our most recent loans has been between 4.5% and 6.38%. With 10 year Treasuries at near historic lows (1.90%), CDs at 0.5% APY, bonds averaging 5.20% from 2003-2012 and stocks in the S&P 500 averaging 4.95% annualized returns from 2003-2012, Mosaic’s expected yields are competitive with the best investment products on the market.

Financial Risks

Like all investments, solar energy investments through Mosaic do not come without risks. Transparency is a core value, so we post the prospectus of each project on our website and encourage investors to read the prospectuses in order to understand the risks associated with our investments. Specifically, the broad categories of risk facing solar projects include credit risk (a borrower defaults), technology risk (solar panels fail), weather risk (a storm destroys solar panels), or operational risk (Mosaic goes out of business).

In the case of credit risk, Mosaic offers debt, rather than equity, financing for solar projects. if a project encounters a problem, our investors recoup their money first. We also employ rigorous underwriting procedures, which involve not only Mosaic’s project finance team, but also third party lawyers, engineers, and insurance experts to review every project. Finally, looking to the future, we recently helped found a solar industry consortium called truSolar, which aims to standardize the risk evaluation process for solar projects. Founding members of the group include 16 leading businesses and research groups, from DuPont and Standard and Poors to the Rocky Mountain Institute. By working with other thought leaders to establish best practices for risk evaluation, we aim to drive down financing costs across the solar industry.

In the case of technology risk, solar equipment is itself very reliable, to the point that manufacturers typically offer 25-year warranties for solar panels and solar inverters. Insurance for events like fires or hurricanes adds another layer of protection against weather risks.

Finally, in the event that Mosaic goes out business, we have entered into a backup servicing and successor agreement with Portfolio Financial Servicing Co. (www.pfsc.com) that would ensure the servicing of all issued loans. PFSC is one of the largest third party lease, loan and structured settlement servicers in the U.S., with $11 billion under management.

Where Does Distributed Solar Fit in a Balanced Portfolio?

For most investors, financial risk and return information doesn’t mean much outside the context of a broader portfolio. Most individuals and institutions invest in a portfolio of assets. We might invest in the stock market and in municipal bonds. Maybe we invest in ourselves, via payments for education, or in our homes, via expenditures on energy efficiency. So where do Mosaic’s investment products fit into this mix?

Our investment products function much like a bond. Debt generally lacks the significant upside potential of a stock (investors won’t earn more than the projected annual interest rate), but has less downside risk as well. Investors are repaid their loans, with interest, on a monthly basis. Investors could look at a Mosaic product to fulfill the same role in a portfolio as Treasuries or other kinds of fixed income investments.

More broadly, we see our products offering a hedge against two types of market risk.

First, because our investments are in tangible, localized assets, they are “uncorrelated” and offer a hedge against dramatic shifts in global markets. If you’re heavily invested in major corporations or commodities, investing in community-based assets could make good sense.

Second, our investments hedge against the increasingly systemic risks facing fossil fuels. Energy is the world’s largest industry, and so it should come as no surprise that energy investments make up a large chunk of the portfolios of institutional and individual investors alike. Global energy markets have experienced major swings for fossil fuel prices in recent years — oil, for instance, running up two historic price peaks with a crash in between, or gas plummeting in cost, and now rapidly rising — and it’s only going to get worse. In particular, we think it’s important for investors to understand that fossil fuel companies are betting against action on climate change. HSBC recently warned that the top 200 fossil fuel companies could see a 40-60% decline in their equity value if governments take action to curb climate change. Mosaic investments represent a way to start moving away from fossil fuels before the bubble bursts.

Compounded Good

If you invest in an index or mutual fund, or keep your savings in an account with a national bank, there’s a strong chance you are financing the operations of some of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies. As a father, I see this as illogical. What’s the point of making an investment that will pay for my childrens’ future if it also harms the world they inherit?

Mosaic investments run in the opposite direction. Our investors have so far financed enough solar energy to power 95 typical American homes every year. They’re creating societal gain, without compromising their personal gain.

But let’s break that down a bit further. The magic of investment is that it compounds. So what kind of compounded good could we create?

Well, our first fifteen hundred investors have put in $2.3 million. Assuming they all reinvested their money in new solar projects, and assuming they earn a rate of 4.5%, in ten years they would have a little over $3.6 million invested in solar energy. In twenty years, they’d be approaching $5.6 million invested, enough to power perhaps 600 American homes every year.

At Mosaic we believe the fastest way to create a 100% clean energy economy is to let everyone benefit from it. That’s why we work every day to create a rock solid, accessible clean energy investment.

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