Archive for December 7, 2011

With changes, U.S. electric grid can meet expected challenges

Over the 20 years, the U.S. electric grid will face unprecedented technological
challenges stemming from the growth of distributed and intermittent new energy
sources such as solar and wind power, as well as an expected influx of electric
and hybrid vehicles that require frequent recharging. But a new MIT study
concludes that — as long as some specific policy changes are made — the grid is
most likely up to the challenge.

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S. David Freeman Speaks Out

Photo by: LCRA - David Freeman, when he was general manager of the LCRA during the 1980s

interviewer Question: “In your interview with the Texas Legacy project, you said that you’d come to the view that public power was a “gross failure.” What did you mean by that?”

Freeman: Because we missed the environmental boat. You see, public power served a terrific purpose in the 1940s and 1950s as a yardstick for low-cost electricity. It was competition by comparison. And then the environmental movement came along, and public power fought the environment even harder than private companies, because they had a Wal-Mart-type religious belief in low-cost electricity, and they could not change.
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New Report from IEA

This publication builds upon past analyses of solar energy deployment contained in the Word Energy Outlook, Energy Technology Perspectives and several IEA Technology Roadmaps. It aims at offering an updated picture of current technology trends and markets, as well as new analyses on how solar energy technologies for electricity, heat and fuels can be used in the various energy consuming sectors, now and in the future.

If effective support policies are put in place in a wide number of countries during this decade, solar energy in its various forms – solar heat, solar photovoltaics, solar thermal electricity, solar fuels – can make considerable contributions to solving some of the most urgent problems the world now faces: climate change, energy security, and universal access to modern energy service

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Solar Energy Perspectives

Phone Landline Service Will Die Soon; What Will Happen to our Powerlines Down the Road?

The loss of business for the landlines supplying our telephone service for all these years has lead to an impasse; the cost of maintaining these lines cannot be recouped from the reducing income from customers who were formerly landline customers.  Now with broad-band as our key communication pathway, who needs these lines?

Well, down the road as solar developers take customers away from our traditional electric distributors, will the power lines suffer?  Some of the solar companies are generating customer bases that sign contracts purchasing the power provided by the solar companies for a fixed and guaranteed price for so many years.  Now comes along energy storage for the residential and commercial customers so that they no longer need a grid connection. Will the distributors suffer the same fate as the telephone landline companies?  It could happen.  In general, electric power consumption by residential market amounts to approximately 35% of the total electric power generated.   These for-profit companies have tax advantages that are not shared with the non-profit distributors or coops. Only the investor-owned electric power utilities can take advantage of the tax benefits of solar installations leaving the non-profits to “go fish.”   Imagine the financial loss of this market to your local non-profit electric power distributors and to the electric power producers?  Right now it is not a problem as we are at the early stages of solar power adoption.   But it will not be long before the transition to the distributed energy scenario along with the ‘smart grid.’  We will need the distributed power lines maintained for the foreseeable future, but who will pay for their upkeep?  Will the cost fall on those of us connected to the grid?  What about the micro-grids that are independent and of the energy being supplied by the solar companies that decide that they do not need to connect to the grid?

Those of us in TSEA are looking towards the future and believe that we must find a financial incentive for our non-profit distributors so that they can have an income stream from solar installations.  We are working with other organizations to come up with a model that would guarantee the distributor a new income stream so that he can afford to install distributed resources demanded by the smart grid reducing the burden on the rest of us.  Stefan Partin believes he has a model worth exploring and we may take part in a grant request to the Department of Energy to explore the financial models that will give the over 2,000 non-profit and coop providers of electric power the extra income to weather the conversion from the century old power system to the system of the future.

REAP Grant Funded for 2012

The USDA’s Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP) targets small businesses and agricultural producers, said Chad Stovall, who helps administer the program in Alaska. Farm Bill is up for renewal in 2013. Next year’s funding (2012) is fairly solid, with about $70 million available for REAP grants across the nation to install renewable energy in rural and agricultural areas of the US.

The deadline for the first round of 2012 grants is the end of January, but the tax credits may expire at the end of this month, so the best bargains will come now, rather than later. The REAP grants are also best applied early in the fiscal year.

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MIT researchers find a way to generate power without the usual mirror arrays.

Now, researchers at MIT have found a way to use thermophotovoltaic devices without mirrors to concentrate the sunlight, potentially making the system much simpler and less expensive. The key is to prevent the heat from escaping the thermoelectric material, something the MIT team achieved by using a photonic crystal: essentially, an array of precisely spaced microscopic holes in a top layer of the material.

The approach mimics Earth’s greenhouse effect: Infrared radiation from the sun can enter the chip through the holes on the surface, but the reflected rays are blocked when they try to escape. This blockage is achieved by a precisely designed geometry that only allows rays that fall within a very tiny range of angles to escape, while the rest stay in the material and heat it up.

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Battery Companies in Need of a Boost

The U.S. battery industry is trying to recover after suffering some shocks.

Over the past few years, domestic companies have entered a global competition to supply the advanced batteries that power electric vehicles. The start-ups came into the game with big backers and high hopes behind them: Venture capitalists saw a booming market ahead, and Washington saw a chance to spur a domestic green-manufacturing industry. So far, the results are disappointing as strong competition from Asian rivals and low factory utilization fail to lower unit costs.

In the meantime, A123 and other battery makers are looking beyond the auto market. One candidate is providing backup power for the electric grid. Grid storage is seen as helpful to smooth the sudden ups and downs in electricity supplies from wind and solar generation.     Full Article

PV-Tech News Broadcast

‘Fool’s Gold’ Aids Discovery of New Options for Cheap, Benign Solar Energy

 

Pyrite, better known as “fool’s gold,” was familiar to the ancient Romans and has fooled prospectors for centuries — but has now helped researchers at Oregon State University discover related compounds that offer new, cheap and promising options for solar energy.

These new compounds, unlike some solar cell materials made from rare, expensive or toxic elements, would be benign and could be processed from some of the most abundant elements on Earth. Findings on them have been published in Advanced Energy Materials, a professional journal.

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