Archive for April 30, 2012

A New High Energy Storage Concept for Solar PV

If you cannot beat them, then join them

 Hydrogenics Corp. announced that it has entered into an agreement with Enbridge Inc. to jointly develop utility scale energy storage in North America. The collaboration will bring together Hydrogenics’ expertise in water electrolysis with Enbridge’s expertise in the ownership and operation of natural gas pipeline networks and renewable energy generation. . With ’Power-to-Gas’, the hydrogen produced during periods of excess renewable generation will be injected into the existing natural gas pipeline network, proportionally increasing the renewable energy content in natural gas pipelines for essentially the operating cost of the electrolyzer. Small quantities of hydrogen can be manageable in existing natural gas pipeline networks. With the significant scale of the natural gas pipeline network, these same quantities of hydrogen have a very meaningful impact on electricity energy storage potential. The natural gas pipeline network represents a vast energy storage system which already exists. The utility scale energy storage leverages existing natural gas pipeline and storage assets to enable improved operability for the electrical system. Furthermore, the economics are further improved by leveraging existing gas generators to bring this renewable energy back to the electrical grid where, and when, it is needed most.

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Senate ag committee votes to restore energy funding in Farm Bill

The Senate Agriculture Committee marked up the 2012 Farm Bill on April 26 and approved a new version by a vote of 16 to 5 that includes an amendment introduced by Sens. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and Dick Lugar, R-Ind., to restore funding for the Farm Bill’s energy title programs. Nine other committee members signed on to co-sponsor the Conrad-Lugar proposal, which provides $800 million to fund core energy programs through fiscal year 2017.


EPA, NREL Offering New Tools For Solar Projects On Contaminated Land












The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have launched new tools designed to test underutilized sites and contaminated land for solar and wind energy potential.

The “decision trees” give local communities and landowners ways to evaluate sites for renewable energy potential without the need for technical expertise, the agencies explain. The EPA estimates that nationwide there are approximately 490,000 sites and almost 15 million acres of potentially contaminated properties.

The tools can be used to evaluate individual or multiple sites, such as brownfields, Superfund and other hazardous waste sites, abandoned parcels, landfills, parking lots, and commercial or industrial roofs, depending on the technology.


Tennessee Could Power the World’s 1.5 Billion Without Electricity

An estimated 1.5 Billion people, or a quarter of the world’s population, are without electric power.  Reliable electric power is key to economic development around the world.  Electricity is needed to power cell phones, medical equipment, schools, lighting, radio, and many other uses to increase human health and the quality of life.  The answer to reliable electric power for all people is a solar powered, inexpensive, air-droppable power source.

According to the Humanitarian Technology Challenge sponsored by the United Nations Foundation and the IEEE, what is needed is a low cost, high reliability, low maintenance, high scalability and flexibility, environmentally friendly solution to energy accessibility.  A household in a rural area without power only needs a modest 0.1 to 1 kW of power, and a rural hospital only needs 3 to 5 kW of power.  A solar powered air-droppable power source fits all of these requirements.

Our vision is a 5 kW solar array combined with a power box that will house all the power electronics and enough energy storage to continue supplying power at night or through the rainy season.    The power source is neatly packaged and air-dropped into location, where it can be set up in a few hours by the local population.  All they have to do is inflate the solar panel array, plug it into the power box, and then simply plug in their lights, cell phones, or anything they require day or night.

As the village requires more electricity, the modular design of the system allows for the flexibility of adding more panels or more energy storage in the future.  A system can accommodate energy storage levels from 1 kWh to 50 kWh.  The system could also be used as an energy source for a micro grid connecting to all of the houses and small businesses in the village.

This is an achievable goal with new technology in the next 5 years at a low price that would enable a village to buy their own systems.  Instead of relying on foreign aid money, the people of the village can pay as little as $2.00 a month to buy their own power source through micro loans.

We could build a factory for these systems here in Tennessee, and sell these systems to the people of less developed countries all over the world.  This would be a giant leap to helping our fellow humans.  We can bring jobs and money into our community, while making the world a better place for everyone.  We are our brother’s keeper.

For more information on the Humanitarian Technology Challenge, visit their website at:

Energy Department Announces Funding to Develop “Plug-and-Play” Solar Energy Systems for Homeowners

As part of the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced up to $5 million available this year to develop “plug-and-play” photovoltaic (PV) systems that can be purchased, installed, and operational in one day. This effort is part of the Department’s broader strategy to spur solar power deployment by reducing non-hardware, or “soft” costs, such as installation, permitting, and interconnection, which currently amount to more than half of the total cost of residential systems. The funding will help drive innovations to fundamentally change the design and installation of residential PV systems, reducing costs for homeowners and simplifying installations and grid connectivity.


LightWave Solar Completes Tennessee Project

LightWave Solar has completed the installation of a 1 MW PV project at Agricenter International in Memphis, Tenn. Silicon Ranch, which provided the funding for the project, owns and maintains the system.
Covering five acres, the array incorporates 4,160 Sharp 240 W solar panels that were locally manufactured in Memphis. The panels are mounted on Array Technologies’ DuraTrack single-axis tracking platform. Other components include a PV Powered MV1040 kW inverter and a SPX Arguson Solar Power Monitoring system.
According to LightWave Solar, the system will produce more than 1.6 GWh annually.


Will Solar Projects Need Tax Equity in the Future?

If you have a business and are contemplating installing solar panels on your business, then do it soon. Major tax abatement laws will be changing that will dampen your desires to invest in solar for future years. You may want to communicate your opinions to your Congressperson or Senator (Stephen Levy)

You may know that the investment tax credit (ITC) declines from 30 percent to 10 percent of eligible capital costs in 2017. In addition, at the end of 2012, the current 50 percent “bonus” depreciation expires, further alleviating the need for tax equity. While those circumstances lessen the need for tax equity, they likely don’t eliminate it.

So, how much tax equity will be needed after the tax benefits shift? The analysis in Table 1 attempts to answer that question by calculating the value of tax benefits under the current and future incentive structures for a $100 solar project. The value of the tax benefits is about $52 under the current incentive levels, or 52 percent of the initial project costs. In 2017, after the ITC and depreciation benefits revert to their former levels, the value of the tax benefits drop to $35, or 35 percent of the initial project costs.


Senate Farm Bill Zeros Mandatory Funding for REAP

As the Senate version of the 2012 Farm Bill gets further digested by groups – it is a 900-page document – reaction continues. And not all of it is positive.

The Environmental Law and Policy Center has issued a call for farmers and interested folks to contact their lawmakers to to take action. They point out that the Senate version of the bill contains zero mandatory funding for the Farm Bill Energy Title, which includes such programs as the Rural Energy for American Program and other programs aimed at promoting domestic energy.


EPRI Knoxville Testing Communication Protocols for the Smart Grid

The following article was originally published Solar Novus Today website: and is important to the advancement of the integration of new energy sources to the future electrical power system under development (Stephen Levy)

: Four Advanced Energy 260kW’s inverters were installed at this 1 MW ground mount PV Project in Knoxville, Tennessee. Photo courtesy Advanced Energy Industries

The term “smart grid” means many things to many people, but for solar and utility engineers, the effort around perfecting solar smart grid tools has focused on refining the grid-capable properties of inverters and storage components. Communications protocols are being drafted and harmonized, and component manufacturers and utilities are entering a new phase of testing these protocols with the grid’s next-generation hardware.
“We’ve gone as far as we can on paper, as far as we can in a committee room,” says Brian Seal, technical executive at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). “Now we need field results, tangible results from field demonstrations that would shed light on how well these paper efforts actually work.”


Buy an Electric Car, Get Rooftop Solar for Under $10,000

Ford has partnered with SunPower, one of the nation’s largest solar companies, to offer Focus Electric buyers discounts on home solar installation. Which makes for a intuitive pitch: Buy an EV, get a discount on a solar array that will power the car for under $10,000.

The discount SunPower offers varies from state to state, depending largely on where there are tax incentives for clean energy. But the company guarantees that the bill will come to less than $10K, before taxes, for the array and installation. Then your car will be running on 100% clean power no matter where you live.

The cost might seem a little steep, but look at it this way: The average American driver guzzles 558 gallons per year, costing him/her $2,100 when gas is $3.80 per gallon. Using a home solar array to power your EV, you’ll break even in 5 years—and the solar system is guaranteed for 25. Plus, when you’re not driving as much, you’ll be saving on general electricity costs.

For more info on this great deal, please click here