Monday, February 28, 2011

FIT doubts; UK solar installations to fall below 250MW

The UK is unlikely to install even 250MW of solar projects this year, due to unclear planning for renewable energy feed-in tariffs (FIT), according to a source within the industry.

While Germany has installed 17GW of solar capacity to date, using the tariff scheme to develop renewable power resources, the UK has installed just 40MW since introducing the tariff last April.

The UK solar tariff system is under review following Climate Change Secretary Greg Barker’s proposals to slash the FIT by ten per cent next year.
‘The German Federal Network Agency has imaginatively used FITs to develop their renewable power resources,’ said mo3 Power CEO Ken Moss.

The UK’s potential proposals to reduce the tariff mark an unwise departure from Germany’s regime, which the country used as a blueprint for its photovoltaic (PV) industry, according to Moss.
Although Germany proposed cutting the rate of its FIT by as much as 15 per cent, the Federal Network Agency last week set a tariff rate that will be responsive to the growth of PV in the country.
Germany’s tariff rate will increase by 2.5 per cent if PV installations do not meet a 2.5GW target in the next year, but will keep the rate at its current level if installations reach 3.5GW, only increasing further if installations exceed 4.5GW.

Moss said, ‘The UK government clearly adopted the success of German FITs as a blueprint for the PV industry in the Britain but they are now making decisions solely based on cost cutting. Britain needs a politically secure, safe renewable power industry.’


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Is It An Animal, Is It A Solar Panel: No It's A Solar-Powered Sea Slug!!

It's the ultimate form of solar power: eat a plant, become photosynthetic. Now researchers have found how one animal does just that.

Elysia chlorotica is a lurid green sea slug, with a gelatinous leaf-shaped body, that lives along the Atlantic seaboard of the US. What sets it apart from most other sea slugs is its ability to run on solar power.

Mary Rumpho of the University of Maine, is an expert on E. chlorotica and has now discovered how the sea slug gets this ability: it photosynthesises with genes "stolen" from the algae it eats.
She has known for some time that E. chlorotica acquires chloroplasts - the green cellular objects that allow plant cells to convert sunlight into energy - from the algae it eats, and stores them in the cells that line its gut. Young E. chlorotica fed with algae for two weeks, could survive for the rest of their year-long lives without eating, Rumpho found in earlier work.

But a mystery remained. Chloroplasts only contain enough DNA to encode about 10% of the proteins needed to keep themselves running. The other necessary genes are found in the algae's nuclear DNA. "So the question has always been, how do they continue to function in an animal cell missing all of these proteins," says Rumpho.


Gene 'theft'

In their latest experiments, Rumpho and colleagues sequenced the chloroplast genes of Vaucheria litorea, the alga that is the sea slug's favourite snack. They confirmed that if the sea slug used the algal chloroplasts alone, it would not have all the genes needed to photosynthesise. They then turned their attention to the sea slug's own DNA and found one of the vital algal genes was present. Its sequence was identical to the algal version, indicating that the slug had probably stolen the gene from its food. "We do not know how this is possible and can only postulate on it," says Rumpho, who says that the phenomenon of stealing is known as kleptoplasty.

One possibility is that, as the algae are processed in the sea slug's gut, the gene is taken into its cells as along with the chloroplasts. The genes are then incorporated into the sea slug's own DNA, allowing the animal to produce the necessary proteins for the stolen chloroplasts to continue working.

Another explanation is that a virus found in the sea slug carries the DNA from the algal cells to the sea slug's cells. However, Rumpho says her team does not have any evidence for this yet.
In another surprising development, the researchers found the algal gene in E. chlorotica's sex cells, meaning the ability to maintain functional chloroplasts could be passed to the next generation.
The researchers believe many more photosynthesis genes are acquired by E. chlorotica from their food, but still need to understand how the plant genes are activated inside sea-slug cells.


Human photosynthesis?

Greg Hurst of Liverpool University in the UK says that DNA jumping from one species to another is not unheard of but that normally the DNA does not appear to function in the new species. "Here we have something going across and working in an entirely different context, which is altogether more interesting." "There was an example recently of a whole bacterial genome that ended up in a fruit fly species, but no-one knows if it functions," he says. "What is really unique here is the fact that the gene is transferred and appears to function."
Other animals are able to harness sunlight after eating plants, says Rumpho, but this is only because they acquire entire plant cells, which is very different to transforming an animal cell into a solar-powered plant-animal hybrid.

It is unlikely humans could become photosynthetic in this way. "Our digestive tract just chews all that stuff up - the chloroplasts and the DNA," she adds.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

UK School Creates Green Lab With Use of Solar Panels

A Science department at a school in Alveston is attempting to become more sustainable.

Marlwood School has recently had 11 Solar Photovoltaic Panels installed onto the roof of one of its science laboratories so it can be developed as a ‘green lab’.

(On the right: The proud team of Marlow school)

The energy produced by the panels will run appliances and lighting in the lab and any excess will be sold to the national grid.

Students being taught in the ‘green lab’ will be able to monitor the amount of energy being produced.

Mel Jeffries, Science College community development officer, said: "The ultimate aim is for this educational environment to become carbon neutral and subsequently impact upon the students thinking in terms of the sustainable future.

"The benefits to be gained from this environment will be monitored by the students during relevant aspects of their learning. This will extend across the curriculum and not just be restricted to science lessons."

The panels cost £15,000 to install and were paid for by grants from The Low Carbon Buildings Programme (LCBP), The Thornbury Grammar School Foundation and the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust.

Other projects being considered for the ‘green lab’ include rainwater harvesting, energy-conserving lighting and insulation improvements.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Reported Solar Growth up to 70% Worldwide 2010

The European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) has reported that solar photovoltaic (PV) power increased by 16 GW in 2010 around the world, approximately double the increase seen in 2009.

Despite the continued financial crisis, falling solar prices around the world, good government subsidies (particularly in Germany and Italy), and an interest in addressing accelerated climate change helped to make 2010 such a successful year for the solar photovoltaic industry.

Cumulative solar capacity is now at 40 GW, 70% higher than the 23 GW it was at at the end of 2009.

Europe, alone, added about 13 GW of new solar power installations in 2010. Clearly, leading the world. Feed-in tariff programs in Germany and Italy, where nearly 7 GW and approximately 3 GW were added, respectively, were a major driver of 2010′s growth.

“Solar PV is continuing to develop in countries that put a feed-in tariff in place,” said EPIA economist Gaetan Masson.

Other than Germany and Italy, other countries with significant solar power growth were:

•the Czech Republic (1.3 GW)
•Japan (1 GW)
•United States (0.8 GW)
•France (0.5 GW)
•China (0.4 GW)
•Spain (0.4)
•Belgium (0.25)
•Greece (0.2)

“Solar panel prices have halved since 2007, say analysts, at about $1.8 per watt at the end of 2010 compared with $3.7 three years earlier,” Reuters reports.

Source:, Zachary Shahan

Friday, February 18, 2011

£12bn For UK Councils Available; Green Subsidies

Green energy subsidies could alleviate the financial pressures of UK councils to the tune of £12bn in the next 20 years, according to UK think tank New Local Government Network (NLGN).

Its latest study found that an estimated pot of up to £12bn is available to councils in the country in the next two decades if they make greater use of green energy subsidies. The findings come at a time when some councils face budget cuts of nearly 9 per cent next year.

The Power and Money report highlights that although some authorities have accessed funding through the feed-in tariff (FIT) and Renewable Heat Incentive, a lack of regulatory clarity on the schemes and the early consultation has prevented councils making full use of them.

With only 275 community properties among the 20,000 FIT-funded installations accredited last year, there is a danger that the vast potential for green energy solutions across the local government estate will be left largely unfulfilled, it said.

NLGN’s report author Luke Hildyard said, ‘We estimate that the FIT and the Renewable Heat Incentive could represent an estimated £12bn investment in renewable energy. Local authorities will be able to access what could be a potentially vital source of revenue at a time of unprecedented budget cuts.

‘But by carrying out the review of the FIT earlier than planned and delaying the renewable heat incentive, the government has increased the risk factor for those planning to roll-out micro-generation installations locally. Renewable energy projects require costly and time-consuming planning and research, which councils may be reluctant to undertake in an uncertain environment.’

Green investment, the think tank said, can soften the blow of public sector job losses by creating new eco-friendly jobs in the private sector.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Coming Soon Near You: Solar Powered Mobile Phone!

Walking around on the Mobile World Congress 2011, they are hard to miss: e Umeox Apollo, an Android smartphone with a green edge–it runs on solar power!

It’s not just the solar power that makes this one notable, either; it’s running Android 2.2, it’s got a built-in flashlight, a rear-facing camera of as yet unannounced resolution, a 3.2 inch touch screen display, a MediaTek processor, and a microSD card slot for adding storage.

And though it sounds a bit slack in terms of features, one thing that will impress is its low price. Word has already emerged suggesting that this one will go for $100, off contract. Getting a contract with this one will likely drop the price through the floor, possibly even into the free category.

Naturally, this one’s no iPhone killer. Maybe if you got it real drunk, told it the iPhone was sleeping with its girlfriend and then gave it a gun it might, but on its own, there’s no way these two would even play in the same ballpark. A lot of the features you might be hoping for–HD video, plenty of room for pictures and songs in the media player…frankly, I’d be surprised to find Android Marketplace was available on this one–will probably not be found here. But if you’re gearing yourself more toward the basics, I’d say this one could probably do a lot of people a lot of good.

Still though, it’s not the first green item to come out of MWC, and so we’ll have to keep a close eye on what all’s going on in that vein. We might be looking at the start of a real trend here–the eco-friendly mobile hardware trend–and it’ll be things like the Umeox Apollo that drive it.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

By 2050 World Energy Can be 95% Renewable, according to study

Almost all of the world’s demand for energy for electricity, transportation and heating could be met from renewable sources such as wind, solar and geothermal power by 2050, WWF International said.

The share of oil, coal, gas and nuclear power in the global energy mix could be whittled down to 5 percent over the next four decades, WWF said today in an e-mailed report produced with researchers at Dutch organizations Ecofys and the Office for Metropolitan Architecture. Energy saving measures can cut total demand by 15 percent from 2005 levels even as the population, industrial output, freight and passenger travel rise, they said.

The effort would require $3.5 trillion euros ($4.8 trillion) a year in spending by 2035 on modernizing buildings and electricity grids and expanding wind farms and solar parks. It would take until 2040 to pay off.

“This is insurance against the volatility of oil and gas prices and climate change,” Stephan Singer, editor of the study and director of energy policy at WWF, said from Brussels. “It can be done using currently available technologies” and ones due in the market in the next few years.

Ecofys is a Utrecht, Netherlands-based energy consultant, and WWF, based in Gland,Switzerland, is known as the World Wildlife fund in the U.S. The Rotterdam-based Office for Metropolitan Architecture’s AMO research arm, which studies architecture and clean energy, also contributed to the study.

The Paris-based International Energy Agency last year estimated that $33 trillion of energy infrastructure investment is needed by 2035 if countries are to meet their international commitments to limit greenhouse gases.

Consumer Impact

That figure, which averages out at $1.3 trillion a year, doesn’t include consumer purchases of goods such as more efficient cars and refrigerators, which are included in today’s study, Singer said. Those alone could total another $2 trillion a year, closing the gap with the IEA research, he said.

Singer said new technologies that aren’t currently close to commercialization could make it possible to get 100 percent of the world’s energy needs from renewables by 2050.Inefficient products should be phased out, and “strong, legally-binding standards” should be implemented for all energy using products, Singer said.

Achieving the ramp-up in energy efficiency and renewable power would require behavior changes including eating less meat, using more public transport, and electrifying cars, he said. New financing models will be needed to promote investments that generate long-term gains rather than immediate profits, he said.

“Sufficiency must be part of the solution -- technology is not the sole provider,” Singer said. “The global middle classes and the global rich of this world are not a blueprint model for the poor.”


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

World's 10 Most Ingenious Solar Boats!

The bright sun has been the ’soul’ of our civilization for centuries, and it will continue to vitalize us even in our modernistic future, by providing us with the all important solar energy. Renewable solar energy is being used in panels, roofs, heaters and less familiar its mark in electric bikes, cars and even buses. Now is the time we discover its full potential in the ‘field’ of water as we look at the 10 most innovative and exclusive solar powered boats. Enjoy!
1. Pedal-powered solar boat:
solar powered boat 1
This latest gem of a concept designed by Jonathan Mahieddine is basically a pedal powered boat embedded with a solar panel connected to a battery pack. So once we get tired of pedaling, we can always switch on the electric motor which draws its power from solar charged batteries.
2. ARKKI Solar Boat:
Conceived by Janne Leppänen, the ARKKI concept boat incorporates a significant open space covered with a polished surface. This entire surface is comprised of small multilayer photovoltaic cells that can produce the required solar energy to power up the boat.
3. Solar Proa Catamaran:
solar proa_1_oifyn_69_zamea_5638
This green technology fueled boat is designed by Carolin Dissmann, Tibor Bartholomä, Daniel Boos and Andreas Schwab. Basically the boat has two folding covers with solar panels imbued in them. When the boat is docked, these covers can be enclosed to form a singular, flat surface that can readily harness solar energy to power the boat.
4. Onda Velocita Powerboat:
onda powerboat_1_rm2ct_69
The Onda Velocita Powerboat is a unique, luxury ‘hybrid’ boat, which is powered dually by a pair of traditional water jet propulsion units, and a photovoltaic system on its roof. The propulsion unit can be switched off on sunny days, as the power generated by the photovoltaic battery is adequate enough to propel the boat.
5. Sea Raider:
Brilliantly contrived by Muhammad Imran, the Sea Raider is implemented with photovoltaic modules to collect solar energy during the day and simultaneously recharge the onboard batteries. So during the day the boat can power itself using the harnessed solar energy via the embedded modules, and during nighttime the boat’s batteries take over the system, ensuring a zero-emission ride, all throughout day and night.
6. SunCat23 Catamaran:
suncat 23_aoa4i_69
Developed by Horizon Yachts, the SunCat23 Catamaran incorporates four solar panels capable of producing a whopping 760W of power to fuel a 2.8KW electric motor. The sturdy catamaran with a capacity of 12 passengers is capable of achieving a top speed of 6 knots. The fully charged battery pack can additionally power the boat for a day trip, even on a cloudy day.
7. Iron 23 Motorboat:
iron 23_1_4q3vg_69
Conceived by industrial designer Carl Hagerling, this dually powered boat has a capacity for three people, with included space for a kitchen and a toilet. Primarily, the boat is powered by an singularly compact solar array, and additionally a conventional engine is provided in case the battery runs out of electricity.
8. The Float:
Designed by Rami Tareef and Milos Ristin, this boat concept features a double motor exclusively powered by solar energy. A system of solar panels occupies the roof, providing enough juice for a speed of 10km/hr. The boat is also daintily equipped with a table, grill and a refrigerator!
9. Buffalo’s Solar-Powered Boat:
buffalos solar powered boat
Designed by Buffalo Solar Boats, this pontoon boat capably tours inland waterways and lakes by utilizing solar power from a rooftop array of photovoltaic modules. The PV modules generate up to 1KW of power, which is stored in a large onboard battery for use during overcast days.
10. Mercury Marine hybrid concept boat:
This electrically powered boat features two 100hp electric engines, run by lithium-ion batteries. These batteries can be charged on shore, as well as by an array of solar panels fitted on the deck and mounted atop the roof. This boat also has a conventional diesel powered engine which can be used if the situation demands.

Monday, February 14, 2011

China profits from Solar-Power Strategy as Europeans backpedal

iChina, the world’s biggest electricity consumer, is figuring out how to capture a larger share of the solar-energy market without losing money.

The government will spend at least a year studying Europe’s system of paying above-market prices for solar power before deciding if there’s a better way to spur clean-energy plants across China, said Wu Dacheng, an adviser to national power regulators. .

“We need to learn from European countries like Germany” that pay subsidized rates to spark solar-panel installations, Wu, vice chairman of the Solar Photovoltaic Committee of China’s Renewable Energy Society, said in an interview.

Europe, which attracted more than $65 billion in solar plant investment in 2010, is providing lessons for China. Germany, the largest panel market, together with Spain and France carried out four unscheduled subsidy cuts in 2010, trying to slow a torrent of projects by developers and speculators.

China’s wait-and-see strategy on projects is part of a broader industrial plan to take a leading global role in harnessing energy from the sun. China is first focusing state support on its own equipment manufacturers. That helps them gain market share and cut prices, lowering the eventual cost of a nationwide solar construction program China plans for itself.

“China is definitely playing a longer game in solar,” Daniel Guttmann, head of renewable energy strategy at the consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in London, said by telephone. “It has done a lot to subsidize its manufacturers.”

Polysilicon to Panels

The government’s China Development Bank alone approved more than 126 billion yuan ($19 billion) in credit facilities in the second half of last year for makers of everything from the raw material of polysilicon to the finished solar panel, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Chinese solar equipment makers outperformed most U.S. and European competitors in stock markets in the last 12 months. The top three, led by LDK Solar Co., gained about 57 percent on average in the period, compared with 50 percent for the top three based in the U.S. and 6 percent for the Europeans.

China this year will increase its share of the global solar photovoltaic panel market by about 10 percentage points and for the first time supply a majority of the devices that turn sunlight into power, according to London-based Bloomberg New Energy Finance. In contrast, China bought less than 3 percent of the 18.5 gigawatts in estimated worldwide panel sales for its domestic projects.

Source:, by Reed Landberg

Friday, February 11, 2011

Solar energy takes over; even in Alaska!

Few eyebrows were raised when we heard about Alaska getting 'HOT' for solar energy. However even in a state like this where the sun's rays are precious, solar power is gaining a foothold.
A building in down town Anchorage, Alaska, will soon be outfitted with solar panels, making it one of the few clean energy projects of its type in the entire state, according to a report from the Anchorage Daily News. The building will be dressed up with 64 solar panels on its south side, replacing a number of unsightly metal panels.
The project may also (read: probaply) have been driven by the fact that a number of the building's tenants are conservation groups with a particular interest in reducing the state's dependence on fossil fuel, the report said. It made the decision to retrofit the wall, which needed replacing anyway, with solar panels an easy one for owner Steve Zelener. (Go Steve!)

The project will cost about $100,000, but qualified for a 30 percent tax credit from the federal government, the report said. It will generate between 5 and 10 percent of the building's energy needs. Alaska, we salute you!
Complete article:Danny Vo;

Thursday, February 10, 2011

New method for calculating lifetime solar energy costs

Gartner's analysts and U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) have developed a new and more instructive approach to calculate the lifetime cost for a solar-generated energy system for comparison to other energy systems.

Usually when people consider the cost of solar energy they use the dollars per Watt metric, which is only a measure of the initial capital cost and the solar panel vendor’s performance specification. This doesn’t take into account the actual energy you will get from the system or other cost factors such as maintenance. A far more informative metric is the levelized cost of energy (LCOE).

"In typical LCOE projections for solar energy, many assumptions are swept under the rug, and we wanted to make a small step toward lifting up that rug and showing how you can truly get a handle on those assumptions to develop a more accurate picture of the potential costs," said Argonne solar researcher Seth Darling, who leads the development of the new approach. LCOE is the cost of an energy supply over its lifetime per energy unit produced.

"Specifically, the Argonne approach uses a Monte Carlo simulation that statistically selects from probability distributions to account for the uncertainly associated with various cost and production parameters," Darling said. A Monte Carlo simulation can produce millions of possible performance outcomes that might occur in the future, weighted to reflect their likelihood.

The new methodology is presented in the paper "Assumptions and the levelized cost of energy for photovoltaics" in Energy & Environmental Science. The lead author of the paper is Seth Darling. Argonne researchers Fengqi You and Thomas Veselka and Gartner analyst Alfonso Velosa are co-authors. The DOE's Office of Science provided funding for this research.

Source: Scandinavian Oil-Gas Magazine; (full article)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Solar-panel cycle path coming to Netherlands town

A town in The Netherlands will soon become home to a solar cycling path which it is hoped could pave the way for a new source of sustainable energy.

Called SolaRoad, the project in the town of Krommenie, around 10 kilometres to the northwest of Amsterdam, is backed by the Province of North Holland, construction firm Ooms Avenhorn Group, research group TNO and technology business Imtech, and essentially sees the standard road surface replaced by solar panels.

The cycle path being used to pilot the scheme will have between 1.5 and 2.5 metres of concrete base, with a tough glass surface, underneath which will be a 1 centimetre layer of crystalline silicon solar cells, reports the website Green Blorge, which adds that the surface will be tough enough to withstand the force of a lorry being driven over it.

The website adds that the group developing the concept believe that the cycle path should generate 50 kWh per square meter annually. ICT systems will allow electricity to be distributed during peak sunshine hours as well as at night and during cloudy conditions.

It is hoped that eventually the concept could be rolled out across the 137,000km road network in the Netherlands, providing power for everything from traffic signals and street lights to nearby homes.

In response to concerns expressed in the comments below regarding the possibility of cyclists slipping on the surface, particularly during wet conditions, a spokesman for one of teh project's partners, TNO, told "The safety and comfort of the future users of the SolaRoad is an important requirement in the technical development.

"In the current prototype the glass surface is treated to create a roughness, which gives sufficient skid resistance for a safe use of the road, both in dry and wet conditions. We are currently testing the durability of the roughness and skid resistance and will make improvements when and where necessary."