Archive for Solar Performanc

Japan Next-Generation Farmers Cultivate Crops and Solar Energy

Farmers in Japan can now generate solar electricity while growing crops on the same farmland. This co-existence or double-generation is known as “Solar Sharing” in Japan. The concept was originally developed by Akira Nagashima in 2004, who was a retired agricultural machinery engineer who later studied biology and learned the “light saturation point.” The rate of photosynthesis increases as the irradiance level is increased; however at one point, any further increase in the amount of light that strikes the plant does not cause any increase to the rate of photosynthesis.

By knowing that too much sun won’t help further growth of plants, Nagashima came up with the idea to combine PV systems and farming. He devised and originally patented special structure, which is much like a pergola in a garden. He created a couple of testing fields with different shading rates and different crops. The structures he created are made of pipes and rows of PV panels, which are arranged with certain intervals to allow enough sunlight to hit the ground for photosynthesis.

Based on the tests conducted at his solar testing sites in Chiba Prefecture, he recommends about 32% shading rate for a farmland space to reach adequate growth of crops. In other words, there is twice as much empty space for each PV module installed. Takazawa installed 348 PV panels on a small 750 square-meter of farmland. PV panels are installed on pipes, which are 3-meter high from the ground. Rows of PV panels are installed every 5 meters. Under the PV system, Takasawa’s father has been cultivating peanuts, yams, eggplants, cucumbers, tomatoes, and taros and will cultivate cabbages during the winter. These vegetables are sold at a nearby street and consumed by his neighbors.

Many have questioned stability and durability of the PV structure for solar shared family. Nagashima stated that his systems, which are made of thin pipes without concrete footings, even withstood strong winds and earthquakes during the Fukushima Tsunami disasters in 2011. These systems are extremely lightweight and installation of PV panels are spaced out, allowing air to flow through between the panels. This will eliminate concern that the panels will receive wind load and be blown away, therefore, reducing the need for complicated and expensive mounting hardware.

The Volkswagen XL1 made its U.S. debut at the Chattanooga Convention Center today.

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The Volkswagen XL1, the most fuel-efficient and aerodynamic production car in the world, made its U.S. debut at the 23rd Annual Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) Conference at the Chattanooga Convention Center today. The XL1 offers an estimated European combined fuel consumption rating of 261 mpg (more than 200 mpg estimated in the U.S. cycle) and can cover up to 32 miles as a zero-emissions vehicle in all-electric mode.
“The XL1 offers a glimpse into Volkswagen’s present and future eco-mobility capabilities, and highlights the ultimate successes of ‘Thinking Blue,’” said Oliver Schmidt, General Manager of the Engineering and Environmental Office (EEO), Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. “Volkswagen is proud to debut this ultra-fuel-efficient vehicle before the Society of Environmental Journalists, a group that shares in our commitment to environmental stewardship.”
In addition to the XL1 display, Volkswagen’s participation in the SEJ Conference included a tour of its LEED® Platinum-certified Chattanooga manufacturing plant and solar park; test-drives in its line of eco-friendly cars, such as the e-Golf, Passat TDI Clean Diesel and Jetta Hybrid; and a bird-watching expedition on Volkswagen Chattanooga’s sanctuary grounds.

Photovoltaic System Pricing Updated 2013

The following is an extract from a recent study by Lawrence Berkeley National Labs and National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The report is a high-level overview of historical, recent, and projected near-term PV system pricing trends in the United States, drawing on several ongoing research activities at LBNL and NREL. Prices are subject to the location, suppliers, pricing, as well as local economic factors. According to the report near future analysts expect system prices to continue to fall, but for module prices to stabilize (Module ASP projected to be between $0.50/W – $0.75/W by 2014 ).

Modeled overnight capital cost for systems quoted in Q4 2012 (expected to be installed in 2013):

Residential (5.1 kW) was $3.69/W, a reduction of 13% from Q4 2011

Commercial (222.5 kW) was $2.61/W, a reduction of 19% from Q4 2011

Utility-scale (192.8 MW) was $1.92/W, a reduction of 23% from Q4 2011.

The report can be downloaded here

DOW Solar Powerhouse Shingle

On November 2nd, TSEA will hold the 4th annual Solar Tour. One of the stops on the tour will be with Twin Willows Development off of Hardin Valley Rd, near Buttermilk Dr. The first house, installed with DOW’s solar shingles, will be explained by subdivision developer Adam Hutsell, and his installer, Jim Laborde. This will be a first for TVA, in which a developer will be installing solar as part of the overall construction of the homes at no extra cost. In addition to the solar, the energy saving features of the construction and choice of appliances tend to save energy, reducing the cost of monthly expenses. The tour will begin with an introductory talk at 8:30, at the Public Meeting room at Knoxville Transit Center on Church St(across the street to the Civic Center). We have limited seating, so arrive as soon as possible to ensure a place on our bus!

FERC Chair Jon Wellinghoff: Solar ‘Is Going to Overtake Everything’

If anybody doubts that federal energy regulators are aware of the rapidly changing electricity landscape, they should talk to Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

“Solar is growing so fast it is going to overtake everything,” Wellinghoff told GTM last week in a sideline conversation at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas.

If a single drop of water on the pitcher’s mound at Dodger Stadium is doubled every minute, Wellinghoff said, a person chained to the highest seat would be in danger of drowning in an hour.

“That’s what is happening in solar. It could double every two years,” he said.

Geothermal, wind, and other resources will supplement solar, Wellinghoff said. “But at its present growth rate, solar will overtake wind in about ten years. It is going to be the dominant player. Everybody’s roof is out there.” Advanced storage technologies also promise lower costs, he said. “Once it is more cost-effective to build solar with storage than to build a combustion turbine or wind for power at night, that is ‘game over.’ At that point, it will be all about consumer-driven markets.”

If FERC does not ensure the grid is ready to integrate the growing marketplace demand for distributed solar and other distributed resources, Wellinghoff said, “We are going to have problems with grid reliability and overall grid costs.”

Transmission infrastructure will be able to keep up with solar growth. The big changes will be at the distribution level where FERC has less influence, he explained. But the commission has been examining the costs and benefits of distributed generation (DG) in wholesale markets.

“Rate structures need to be formulated in ways that fully recognize the costs and benefits of distributed resources,” Wellinghoff said. “In many utility retail rates, a disproportionate amount of the fixed costs are recovered through a variable rate. That is problematic when a lot of people go to distributed generation.”

The net metering controversy this has caused at utilities like Xcel and Arizona Public Service, he said, can only be resolved by “the fully allocated, fully analyzed cost and benefit study of distributed resources.”

Tea Party Joins with the Sierra Club to Promote Solar in Georgia

As Debbie Dooley co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party explains, “I’m a grandmother, and I want to be able to look my grandson in the eyes and tell him I’m looking out for his future. Conservation is conservative, and protecting our children and our natural resources is a conservative value.” Those who believe in the free market need to reexamine the way our country produces energy. Giant utility monopolies deserve at least some competition, and consumers should have a choice. It’s just that simple, and it’s consistent with the free-market principles that have been a core value of the Tea Party since we began in 2009.

“In Georgia, we have one company controlling all of the electricity production, which means consumers have no say in what kind of power they must buy. A solar company could not start up and offer clean power to customers because of restrictions in state law. Our Constitution does not say that government should pick winners and losers, but that is what government is doing when it protects the interests of older technologies over clean energy that’s now available at competitive prices. I say, let the market decide” says Debbie.

She goes on to explain, “Georgians are currently and unjustly denied this opportunity, and will continue to be unless a law is passed to change the system. That is why the Atlanta Tea Party supported Senate Bill 401 in the past legislative session. Georgia Power opposed it and it never made it out of committee. We will try again when the Georgia legislature reconvenes in January 2014. All states should allow their citizens the opportunity to generate and sell their own solar power.”

So I ask our elected state and federal officeholders, “Why hesitate in voting for extending the Master Limited Partnership to renewables?” Level the energy playing field. Here in Tennessee, our citizens have the same demands as our neighbors in Georgia. TVA board serves the people in the valley, why not listen to their demands for cleaner energy?

Postscript: Americans for Prosperity, which like the Tea Party have been nurtured and sponsored by the Koch brothers oil billionaires, is dismissing the Georgia faction as an aberration, or even more damming, as a “green Tea Party.” It has sought to turn the issue of rights on its head by arguing that rooftop solar will “infringe upon the territorial rights to the distribution grids” of the network operators.

Campbell County, TN, Public Schools to Generate nearly $1M With Solar

The majority of public schools in Campbell County, Tenn., are going solar in a bid to make $960,000 over 20 years, without raising any additional taxes. That’s under a new partnership with residential and commercial solar installer Efficient Energy of Tennessee (EETN), which is installing solar at 12 of the county’s 21 schools.

The 12 schools in the program are installing 50-kilowatt solar systems, which will sell the power generated to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) through its local power distributor. Already, nine of the installations are complete and the remaining three are currently under construction, according to EETN. Under TVA’s Green Power Providers program, the TVA purchases all the output of the arrays at a premium of 9 cents per kilowatt-hour on top of the retail electricity rate. For years 11 through 20, participants are paid at the applicable retail rate.

“Not only are the solar installations at Campbell County’s elementary, middle and high schools a great STEM teaching tool but, they are generating funds for education without raising taxes,” said EETN President Robbie Thomas. “This financial model, of raising funds for education with solar energy, can be duplicated at school systems across the state of Tennessee.”
The school district, EETN and the Campbell County Finance Department were able to make the installations possible by issuing 15-year bonds. The bonds were used to finance the arrays and their installation. For the first 15 years, the installations are anticipated to produce between $12,000 and $14,400 in annual earnings, after paying all bond interest and principals. After the bonds are repaid, “Each installation will generate approximately $13,000 to $15,000 per year for Campbell County for years 16 through 20 of the power purchase agreement,” EETN said.

In all, the arrays can generate more than $960,000 over the 20 year contracts. The systems are expected to last between 30 and 35 years and could provide additional revenue or cost savings for the schools.

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MAJOR FUNDING Through Micro-Investments

The new July/August issue of Solar Today contains an article by TSEAs Technical Director offering a new idea for a solar program within TVA. Micro-investments allow anyone to invest in a project because the cost of a single share is affordable. A recent micro-investment concept was developed by Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi banker who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work in creating economic and social development for the poor. A similar concept, savings bonds, was used in the United States and other countries to finance costs for World War I and World War II. During World War II, half the U.S. population purchased approximately $186 billion in savings bonds. This investment accounted for nearly three-quarters of total federal spending from 1941 to 1945 — all from families whose average wage was $50 per week.

The Tennessee Solar Energy Association (TSEA), an ASES chapter, has as its mission the promotion of the widespread use of solar energy in the state of Tennessee. Unlike most states, Tennessee is served entirely by electric distribution companies who purchase power from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The TSEA will use the concept of micro-investment to provide opportunities to all ratepayers to invest in solar projects in Tennessee. The success of our endeavors in Tennessee will mean that the concept can easily be duplicated in other states.

Financing solar projects through micro-investments offers many advantages. First, consumers and businesses would neither have to finance nor build their own solar projects on their properties. This eliminates three barriers they often face: (a) unsuitable properties for solar because of trees or rooftop alignments; (b) building permits and grid interconnections; and (c) large financial investments with long payback periods. Second, by opening investment opportunities for all ratepayers, a micro-investment plan should attract customers who otherwise would or could not have considered their own solar projects. Third, micro-financing can be used for large solar projects to benefit entire communities, taking advantage of the lower overall costs of large-scale projects. Finally, micro-investments would provide large sums to utilities and other solar companies who might otherwise not be able to finance a solar project.

Proving the Model at TVA
In the Tennessee Valley, TVA is a closed system in which all 155 distributors buy power from TVA, making it an ideal utility for studying this micro-investment model. Moreover, as a federal power authority, TVA plays an important role in the Tennessee Valley as the regional stewardship agency and supplier of public power. TSEA envisions that TVA would establish a micro-investment program, achieving even greater economies of scale than the individual distributors could achieve.

A 2012 Hart Research survey, funded by the Solar Energy Industries Association, found that 92 percent of voters “believe it is important for the United States to develop and use solar power.” TVA, serving 9 million people in the Tennessee Valley, can play a large role in finding the relationship between how much the public says it wants solar energy and how much the public is willing to invest.

TVA’s aging coal-fired plants are more than 50 years old and are depleting TVA funds to meet increasingly strict air-quality standards. As a result, the TVA has little funding available for solar energy. Although TVA has a renewable energy program known as Green Power Providers, which provides long-term power purchase agreements, the program has not produced a bankable level of funding that has resulted in loss of jobs and statewide solar installers to look elsewhere for work. The small amount of funds allocated for the program were absorbed in the first trimester of this year.

As a federal authority, TVA is in an ideal position to undertake a micro-investment program. Under the TVA charter, the president can direct the U.S. Department of Energy to provide support and resources as requested by the TVA board, which is directed to make studies “in the application of electric power and a better balanced development of the resources of the region” (Tennessee Valley Authority Act of 1933, Section 10). Furthermore, TVA pays no property tax, has a plethora of sites where large solar installations can be located, knows where in its power system to best locate large solar farms to provide the greatest ROI, has the staff to manage the program, can handle the procurement actions and can set aside a percentage of the installations for local installers. Thus TVA can avoid all the soft costs that ordinarily burden solar purchasers. In addition, its purchasing power, backed by the aggregated micro-investments, will produce the lowest cost through competitive bidding.

I suggest to all our members and readers of this column to join ASES and help promote solar energy in their region.

Read the article and the entire Solar Today magazine

A Second California City Establishes a Solar Mandate

SLevy: The price of electric power in parts of California is as high as 35 cents per kilowatt-hour. A strong motivation for solar whereas Tennessee has a lower price of electricity at the present. The motivation here in Tennessee is improved air quality and a buffer against future costs with other forms of electric power generation.

The town of Sebastopol, in the apple- and grape-growing rolling hills of western Sonoma County, is following suit with a much more aggressive ordinance, suggesting that solar-by-fiat might be more viable as policy. In Sebastopol, a system would also qualify if its output meets three-quarters of the building’s electrical load on an annual basis. The ordinance also includes a provision that allows officials to exempt buildings from the requirement if a site isn’t conducive to solar, but a fee or other energy-saving measures could be required.

Mayor Michael Kyes told the Press-Democrat in nearby Santa Rosa that Sebastopol, with a population of around 7,500, already had some 1.2 megawatts of installed solar capacity. “This ordinance will add to it,” the mayor said. According to the Press-Democrat, there was a citizen objection to the solar requirement registered at the Sebastopol Council meeting; someone said “mandatory sort of implies coercion” (a sentiment it’s hard to argue with). But of course all manner of building requirements are essentially coercive, and Councilman Robert Jacob seemed to capture the sentiment of the town leaders when he said that “this ordinance is not only cost-saving…it’s the responsible thing to do.”

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Why is SunPower Doing So Well While Others Fail?

SLevy: Every solar investor wants to maximize its return on investment. In my judgement the reason for Sun Power’s success is they provide a product with the greatest return on investment over the long term. What I mean by long term is tens of years and beyond. Their panels produce the highest output power per area of any other manufacturer. We know that the life of the premiere monocrystalline panels is beyond 40 years. Using 40 years in computing the Levelized Cost of Energy results in more realistic results in cost per kilowatt-hour.

PV energy provider (PVEP) SunPower has revealed that demand exceeded its ability to supply product and services in the first quarter of this year.

The PVEP reported that it had exceeded revenue, gross margin and earnings forecast for the first quarter of 2013, while generating significant free cash flow of US$216 million, including lease financing, which was sold out in the quarter.

SunPower noted that due to several massive PV power plant projects in full swing in the US, strong demand for lease financing rooftop business in the US and ongoing PV module partnership success in Japan that was set to continue throughout the year, it was sold out for the year.
Management noted that its project development business was on course to provide US$3.5 billion in revenue and approximately US$1 billion in gross margin from 2013 through 2016.
Importantly, SunPower said that during the first quarter, the company was awarded 65MW of rooftop projects in France during a recent tender process, which had been supported by majority company owner, Total.

With demand increasing, SunPower said that it increased cell production in the quarter to 208MW, up 36% from the previous quarter. SunPower recognised 172MW of sales, while it shipped 186MW. Total module production capacity remained at 1.2GW. Full capacity was expected to be reached in the second half of the year.

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