Archive | Solar power

Hawaii grid can’t handle the demand for solar, slowing installations

HECO

There is a huge demand for rooftop solar in Hawaii. However, the grid is barely able to handle the current amount of solar power. The utility has cut way back on new permits and the solar industry is losing workers. The problem, of course, is that solar is variable. When the sun shines, thousands of rooftop systems produce power, and some of it goes back into the grid.

HECO says it is not deliberately trying to hurt the solar industry. Rather, the utility is seeing a growing number of circuits exceeding 100 percent of minimum daytime load during the daytime in residential areas. On the Big Island, HECO says that 10 percent of circuits had reached unstable levels as of February of this year.

“This is a difficult technical issue, and we’re not aware of another utility in the world that has addressed it. There’s no model for us to follow, no resource for us to tap into. We’re really creating new frontiers on this,” said Jay Ignacio, president of the HECO subsidiary HELCO.

Reform is coming, forced on HECO by impatient politicians and homeowners who accuse the utility of being deliberately lethargic. Circuits will be beefed up. Customers will get full net metering rates. However they will pay monthly fees for grid costs.

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power0 Comments

Ivanpah planning multiple ways to stop frying birds

Credit: ivanpahsolar.com/

Credit: ivanpahsolar.com

Reflected heat from mirrors at the Ivanpah solar thermal plant in California near Primm NV has been killing large numbers of birds. To their credit, site operator BrightSource Energy is creating bird deterrent systems. These include anti-perching devices, sonic deterrents, anti-bird LEDS,  and waste and water containment so birds don’t gather.

As to the efforts currently underway, the waste and water containment is actively being done daily and the heliostat repositioning is complete. The sonic deterrent has been purchased and is in the process of being tested on site. The lighting on the towers are now being turned off at night and bids to replace the current ground level lighting with LED were returned this week and will be purchased and installed.

They also plan to donate $1.8 million to cat trap, neuter, and release organizations as cats kill birds too. Current efforts include a “25 million for our desert tortoise program, and in developing a high quality, scientifically valid, and robust avian plan.”

I don’t quite get the advantage of solar thermal, which reflects heat to a central tower to power turbines, over solar photovoltaic. PV is not nearly as destructive to wildlife and birds and uses practically no water, an important issue in baking deserts. Another problem with Ivanpah is airline pilots report the glare can be blinding.

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power0 Comments

California could be 100% renewable energy by 2050, say researchers

solar_power_tower

A combination of renewable energy from wind, water, and sunlight could power California completely by 2050, say perky researchers from Stanford. In my view they’re a bit too perky as well as overly We Know What Is Best For You.

First off, all those pesky gas and diesel vehicles would need to be completely replaced by electric, they say. No word on how electric semis would be able to haul multi-ton loads up the steep Grapevine outside of Los Angeles. No electric truck to my knowledge has the needed torque and power to do this. Maybe they will one day. But they don’t now.

Then there’s this.

[Wind, water, and sunlight] sources selected “ranked the highest among several proposed energy options for addressing pollution, public health, global warming, and energy security.”

Um, shouldn’t cost be a criteria too? Also, grid technology neccessary to support 100% renewables doesn’t exist yet. Perhaps it will soon. However, making projections based on technology that doesn’t exist yet seems a bit specious.

They claim going to 100% renewables would pay for itself.

“The California air-pollution health plus global climate cost benefits from eliminating California emissions could equal the $1.1 trillion installation cost of 603 GW of new power needed for a 100% all-purpose WWS system within ~7 (4–14) years.”

“Global climate cost benefits”, whatever that might be, do not pay for the project or decrease costs eleswhere and should not be included in cost calculations.

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power, Wind turbines

Self-cooling PV cells use layer of silica glass

self-cooling-solar-cells

Stanford researchers have developed a way to keep solar photovoltaic cells cooler, even in baking temperatures. If the cells get too hot, efficiency drops as does the lifetime of the cells. Adding pyramid-shaped layer of silica glass allows the cells to cool on their own, avoiding the need for water or wind for cooling.

“The goal was to lower the operating temperature of the solar cell while maintaining its solar absorption,” Fan said. “We were quite pleased to see that while the flat layer of silica provided some passive cooling, the patterned layer of silica considerably outperforms the 5 mm-thick uniform silica design and has nearly identical performance as the ideal scheme.”

Thus, efficiency and cell lifetimes both increase, hugely improving productivity.

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power

Ivanpah Solar Thermal Plant in Mojave Desert

Ivanpah

Ivanpah

The ginormous Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in California near Primm NV reflects baking heat from the sun to a central tower where electricity is generated from steam turbines. Some solar thermal plants store excess heat in molten salt to be used later to generate power. Ivanpah doesn’t do this. It doest recycle 100% of the steam, keeping water usage at a minimum. However, the concentrated heat does kill birds and the glare can be an aviation hazard. No source of electricity creation is completely benign. That’s just the way it is.

ivanpah-info

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power

World’s largest solar-wind hybrid installation

solar-wind

A Jamaica law firm has installed an 80 kw hybrid solar-wind array on the roof of their office. It is expected to save $2 million over its 25 year lifespan and uses small vertical turbines and solar PV.

The installation incorporates 50 of WindStream’s SolarMill devices. The different SolarMill models each comprise one or more solar panels and three or more turbines

Posted in News, Renewable energy, Solar power, Wind turbines

Solar freakin’ roadways would be hugely expensive and won’t work

even-cooler

There are so many things wrong with solar freakin’ roadways; like cost, practicality, and durability, it’s difficult to know where to start. Here’s are some of the major points. Watch the video for more.

Price is a huge issue. Glass panels themselves are expensive. On top of that must be added the price of embedded processors and electronics in the panel, the ginormous cost of connecting the panels to the grid along the roadways, the steep cost of burying power and data lines, and of course, actually building the roads. New electrical infrastructure would need to be build alongside solar panel roads so the power could be sent elsewhere. This inevitably means new, big transmission lines everywhere.

Solar roadways must provide traction, just like regular roads. Will wet or icy glass road panels provide proper traction for braking and turning? Want to bet your life on that during an ice storm when the semi in front of you starts fish-tailing? The raised parts of the glass panels will wear down after prolonged usage, making the surface slippery indeed. Dirt and gravel is stronger and more abrasive than glass and will accelerate the process. Glass will become opaque, cutting down on efficiency of power creation.

Solar roadways cannot melt snow off them in winter during storms because the roads will be covered with snow and thus no power would be created. Plus, melting ice takes large amounts of energy. Snow plows are much more efficient. But would snow plows even be able to be used on solar roadways without damaging the glass due to scraping? I doubt it.

Tiles will inevitably come loose. Water will seep into the road, causing erosion. Asphalt doesn’t have this problem, and is 99% recycled now.

Driving a little bitty tractor on the glass panels as a demo is not sufficient. Try it with hundreds of loaded semis each day for several months, then see what the road looks like.

The Indegogo video shows the inventors shoveling waste colored glass into a wheelbarrow as an example of recycling. However, colored glass is not what is needed for solar panels. The glass needs to be clear. Further, they clearly do not have the facilities needed to turn waste glass into roadway tiles at any kind of scale.

Colored LEDs will be almost impossible to see during bright sunlight. Light pollution at night from thousands of roads with sparkly lights will be severe. Would you want to live on a street that had ever-changing lights all night long? Didn’t think so. And why do roads need lights on them anyway?

Parking lots with solar panels as the pavement seem to be a swell idea until your realize that cars will be parked on top of the panels during the day, thus cutting way down of power generation.

Solar roadways are a wonderful idea. However, they are completely impractical.

Posted in News, Renewable energy, Solar power

Floating solar power on wastewater treatment plant has big advantages

floating-solar-power

A wastewater treatment plant in Australia will use floating solar photovoltaic panels to decrease evaporation and to increase energy. The water cools the panels, allowing them to last longer and work at greater efficiency. The panels will cover 90% of the water surface, cutting down on evaporation. Wow. A double win. Let’s hope this technology spreads to water treatment panels everywhere and maybe even to reservoirs.

The solar panels are supported by buoyant polyethelene pipe and steel pontoons and construction is not all that different from rooftop solar.

 

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power

Solar panels in space could beam power back to earth via microwave

llustration: John MacNeill

llustration: John MacNeill

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency proposes installing ginormous solar panels in space then beaming the power down to us by microwave. If this proves to be feasible, then energy shortages could disappear.

JAXA’s technology road map calls for work to begin on a 100-kW SPS demonstration around 2020. Engineers would verify all the basic technologies required for a commercial space-based solar power system during this stage. Constructing and orbiting a 2-megawatt and then a 200-MW plant, the next likely steps, would require an international consortium, like the ones that fund the world’s giant particle physics experiments. Under such a scenario, a global organization could begin the construction of a 1-GW commercial SPS in the 2030s. It would be difficult and expensive, but the payoff would be immense, and not just in economic terms. Throughout human history, the introduction of each new energy source—beginning with firewood, and moving on through coal, oil, gas, and nuclear power—has caused a revolution in our way of living.

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power

Solar Wind Energy Tower may be built near Mexico border. I’m skeptical

solar-wind

The Solar Wind Energy Tower, promoters say, can produce power 24/7 in hot dry areas using recycled water. Pumps spray water at the top of a ginormous 1,200 foot diameter, 2,250 ft tall tower. Hot, dry air evaporates the water. The air inside the tower becomes cooler and heavier than outside air, creating wind speeds up to 50 mph, which then powers multiple turbines. San Luis, Arizona has just approved construction of a $1.5 billion structure.

Can this be built? Will the company find financing and pass regulatory and NIMBY hurdles? We shall see. Those commenting in an article by The Atlantic are openly skeptical, especially since the technology has not been proven at scale. And, um, what happens when birds get sucked into the turbines?

So, in this tower the moist air is heavier than the dry air? When did they learn to do that? Moist air used to be less dense where the airplanes fly.

I find it hard to believe people are falling for this.

“When water vapor content increases in the moist air the amount of Oxygen and Nitrogen decreases per unit volume and the density decreases because the mass is decreasing.”

The farce is strong with this one

From the company:

Solar Wind Energy’s Tower is unique in that it does not have any operational limitations in terms of time. It’s capable of operating around the clock, 24 hours per day, and seven days per week. Whereas there are operational limitations with solar collectors that work only when the sun shines, and with wind turbines that work only when the wind blows.

It also has the ability to be operated with virtually no carbon footprint, fuel consumption, or waste production. It generates clean, cost effective and efficient electrical power without damaging effects.

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar power, Wind turbines

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