Archive | Solar power

Solar bridge in London now operational, Blackfriar’s Bridge


Blackfriar’s Bridge in London, part of a railway station, now has 4,400 solar PV panels and generates 50% of power needed for the station. It is the largest solar bridge in the world. Construction was a bit tricky, as the panels were installed atop an aging Victorian era bridge while trains ran underneath. Solar PV, clearly, can work anywhere, not just in baking deserts.

During the renovations, the railway station was also fitted with other energy saving measures such as a rain harvesting system and sun pipes that will provide natural lighting throughout the building.

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Ivanpah solar thermal plant blinding pilots, scorching birds



The recently opened, ginormous Ivanpah solar thermal plant in California near Primm NV is a hazard, says airplane pilots. Ivanpah uses huge mirrors to reflect heat from the sun to a central tower to power turbines. The glare is so pronounced that pilots say it was hugely distracting, even blinding.

“Daily, during the late morning and early afternoon hours we get complaints from pilots of aircraft flying from the northeast to the southwest about the brightness of this solar farm,” reported an air traffic controller at a FAA center that monitors the airspace in southern California. A pilot of a commercial jetliner told him the light reflected from the Ivanpah mirrors “was nearly blinding.”

In addition, birds have been killed by having their feathers burned off.

Of 34 birds reported dead or injured at Ivanpah in September, 15 had melted feathers. Dozens of other bird carcasses, not singed but with critical injuries, have been found in recent months at two solar projects about to go online on public land between Joshua Tree National Park and Blythe, Calif.,

Regulatory authorities have been curiously slow in reporting this, much less taking action.

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Ivanpah, world’s largest solar thermal plant, offically dedicated today



The 392-MW Ivanpah solar thermal plant in California near Primm, Nevada officially goes online today, with a dedication ceremony.

Celebrities include execs from the project’s creators NRG Energy, Bechtel, and Brightsource, and financial backers Google and the Department of Energy’s Loan Projects Office which provided a $1.6 billion loan guarantee. Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz is flying in to do the ceremonial honors. Grammy-nominated rock band The Fray, which used Ivanpah as the backdrop for their “Helios” album cover and a music video, reportedly will be performing.

Crescent Dunes in Nevada, another solar thermal plant, starts commissioning this week with a series of start-up procedures, testing the system slowly before coming online with full power. It stores excess heat in molten salt so energy can be produced at night too.

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Development of grid-scale solar power plants has almost stopped

Ivanpah. One of the few new grid-scaler solar plants, in CA near Primm NV. Credit:

Ivanpah. One of the few new grid-scaler solar plants, in CA near Primm NV. Credit:

A lack of federal tax credits, tight financing, and utilities not needing more solar to reach 2020 California goal has greatly slowed development of big solar. California has mandated 33% in-state renewable energy by 2020 and utilities say they will attain that so they don’t need to make additional purchase agreements for expensive renewable energy. This will accelerate the shift to distributed (rooftop) solar continues.

Of the 365 federal solar applications since 2009, just 20 plants are on track to be built. Only three large-scale solar facilities have gone online, two in California and one in Nevada. The first auction of public land for solar developers, an event once highly anticipated by federal planners, failed to draw a single bid last fall.

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New Mexico guts renewable energy portfolio standard laws

New Mexico has cut in half the amount of renewable energy utilities must use in the coming years, citing costs. Renewable energy proponents counter that the price of solar is dropping. However, those lower prices are due to at least in part state and federal subsidies, tax breaks, and incentives.

New Mexico energy regulators altered the state’s renewable energy law this week, infuriating renewable energy advocates who say the move will stunt the state’s growing solar industry. The changes made by the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) will permit utilities to use less solar energy.

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Germany has too much solar power, and that’s a problem


Germany will soon produce enough solar power for most of the county from noon to 2 pm. This could destabilize the grid. Supply and demand must always be in perfect balance. Huge amounts of solar suddenly coming online means traditional power must cut back instantly (and then ramp up in microseconds when clouds block the sun) which is not something they are designed to do.

As Citi’s Jason Channell writes, “any further installations beyond this point could push structural solar power supply above demand and cause permanent mid-day grid instability.”

Here’s what he’s talking about (“double penetration” refers to Germany having doubled its solar capacity): Without batteries, that bulge is literally disruptive because it eats into conventional baseload generation, the backbone of current supply needs.

Germany needs a smart grid, which manages supply and demand better. Most of all, it need battery storage for excess solar power. Battery storage is improving. However it’s still expensive, barely deployed, and there’s a long ways to go and a short time get there.

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Greenbotics robots clean PV panels at grid scale solar plants


Here’s a job that no one will mind being replaced by robots, meticulously cleaning solar panels 2-3 times a year in baking heat in deserts. Hell yeah, let a robot to it. Sunpower has bought Greenbotics, who builds these helpful robots, which use much less water than humans too.

Greenbotics is a leader in optimizing the performance of solar power plants through a cost-effective cleaning process. For the past two years, the company has used its proprietary CleanFleet™ robots and service offerings to wash hundreds of megawatts of systems in the Southwest and Western U.S. The robots can be configured for use with a variety of solar panels and mounting types, including fixed-tilt arrays and single-axis trackers and offer a less costly and greener alternative to manual cleaning methods, pressure washers and sprayer trucks. The robots use under a half a cup of water to clean each panel, which is approximately 90 percent less than traditional cleaning methods, making this solution optimum for solar systems built in desert conditions.

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Energy storage for rooftop solar that utilities can also use. Wow



Solar Grid Storage has developed an energy storage system for solar power that not only powers the building and stores enough power for 4 hours, the local grid can use it to store or discharge electricity.  Wow. This is a game-changer. Install enough systems like this and distributed energy becomes a reality everywhere.

The systems are installed and maintained by Solar Grid Storage and are leased to the end users. Utilities also pay the company because the systems help balance supply and demand, which is always crucial, but even more so with renewable energy, since it fluctuates in output.

This is the future of power. Microgrids and local power as well as gigawatt plants. Currently only one major utility allows this. Too many of the rest, with a few exceptions like Duke Power, are troglodytes who will change or die. This technology can’t be stopped.

Solar Grid Storage develops battery energy storage systems co-located with PV systems but separately owned and maintained by Solar Grid Storage. Our solution eliminates the need for PV developers to purchase a solar inverter, reducing installation costs and offering new benefits to the host. Solar Grid Storage finances the storage asset through revenues derived from multiple stakeholders. These revenues come from grid support markets that pay Solar Grid Storage to dispatch assets to maintain grid stability, and a series of new benefits, such as host emergency backup services, demand reduction, and peak shaving.

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Solar thermal plant produces power 24/7 for 36 days, a new record

Gemasolar. Credit:

The Gemasolar solar thermal plant in Spain uses molten salt to store excess heat from the sun to power turbines at night. It recently produced electricity day and night for a record-breaking 36 days. Solar thermal uses heliostatic mirrors to reflect the heat of the sun to a central tower to heat water which powers the turbines. Many solar thermal system convert the steam back to water, thus hugely cutting water usage.

Molten salt is used in solar power tower systems because it provides a low-cost medium to store thermal energy and operates at temperatures that are compatible with steam turbines as well as being non-toxic and non-flammable.

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Big corporations increasingly generating own power with microgrids

Rooftop Solar

Between rooftop solar for homeowners and big companies building microgrids, traditional power utilities are facing a major threat to their traditional monopolistic ways of doing business. We don’t need them nearly so much as we used to. It makes sense for big companies to have control over some or all of their power. Microgrid technology allows companies to easily switch between their own solar, fuel cell, or wind power and that coming from the utility. Smart utilities are gearing up to meet this huge change in distribution of power. Dinosaur utilities will fight it – and lose.

The 3,200 U.S. utilities are already facing what NRG Energy Inc. CEO David Crane calls a “mortal threat” to the industry. Forces including deregulation, green politics and an explosion of rooftop solar and other homemade energy — known as distributed generation — mean a reduction in the fossil-fuel electricity utilities sell.

Microgrids may be the mechanism through which this revolution in clean distributed generation will be carried out – - a portal for leaving the traditional power grid.

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Bob Morris


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