30-Year-Old Solar Module Performing to Factory Specs

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30-Year-Old Solar Module Performing to Factory Specs

Posted: 30 Oct 2012 12:00 AM PDT

Martin Halloway, who is a designer of environmentally friendly buildings, decided to take down his 30-year-old solar panel to meter its performance.

It is a 33 watt Arco solar panel that he purchased in 1980. It was his first, and before he purchased it, he did not have electricity.


Martin Halloway with his 30-year-old solar panel.

Apart from that, he tested it by connecting it to a 4.5 amp, 12 volt blower fan. The blower drew 2.5 amps from the panel at a voltage of 14.8 volts. That translates to 37.2 watts.

Before that, he connected a 35 watt light bulb to it, and that drew 2.015 amps at 14.93 volts (30 watts).

Halloway contacted the manufacturer to tell them, and they said it was probably due to the cool 50°F (10°C) weather. There is a temperature vs performance curve for solar panels. As temperature decreases, solar panel performance increases.

Solar panels normally last 30 years. Their lifespan range is 20 to 40 years. Solar panel warranties are usually  20-25 years, and, like product warranties in general, tend to be a little shorter than their average lifespan (otherwise manufacturers would have to replace most people’s solar panels for free, which would not be feasible).

This is why warranties are so important. Always check warranties – they carry a lot of weight if the manufacturer is financially sound and expected to stick around for a long time.

Solar Panels Perform Best when Cool

Heat reduces the efficiency at which solar panels operate, and therefore reduces their power output. It causes the production of less electricity per unit of sunlight that hits the panel.

Fortunately, this helps to compensate for the lack of sunlight during winter.

Solar panels are semiconductor electronics, and semiconductor electronics in general are best off cool. They are most reliable and efficient when cool.

Still, 30 years and still performing at factory specs is something worth noting.

Source: Renewable Energy World


New Energy Efficiency System Passes the Abrams Tank Test

Posted: 29 Oct 2012 10:37 AM PDT

In its ever-expanding quest for new energy-efficient devices, the Army Research Laboratory has been applying the thermoelectric effect to an M1 Abrams tank, and the project could ripple out into every nook and cranny of the civilian sector.

Thermoelectricity basically taps the difference between hot and cold temperatures to generate an electric current, so it could be used to capture excess energy from vehicle exhaust and other engines, factory equipment, and anything else that normally vents heat into the atmosphere. That includes the human body, too.


Thermoelectricity and Cogeneration

If you’re wondering why cogeneration can’t get the job done, that?s a good question. Cogeneration systems are typically used to capture waste heat from relatively large, stationary facilities, but they?re not the best solution for things on the move, including vehicles, aircraft, watercraft, and people.

Cogeneration systems also aren’t a particularly economical solution for small facilities and standalone devices.

Thermoelectric systems, on the other hand, can be scaled down to a relatively low cost and portable size (“highly miniaturized” is the way Army researchers describe it) because they are based on atomic-level interactions between adjacent materials.

The trick is to identify thermoelectric materials that provide the most electrical bang for the buck.

Thermoelectric Power from an Abrams Tank

GM has been working on a thermoelectric system for capturing waste heat from car exhaust, so it’s no surprise that the company is a partner in the Abrams tank project along with General Dynamics, Creare, Inc. (a heat transfer expert), and the international research group Research Triangle Institute.

So far the project has produced a small-scale, 80-watt prototype system on the exhaust heat of the tank. The next step will be to scale up the system to full size.

By way of demonstrating another advantage of thermoelectric power systems, the tank will be retrofitted without any modifications to its existing engine or powertrain.

Many Applications for Thermoelectric Power

According to an Army article about the Abrams project, thermoelectric power is especially suited for military use “because it has no moving parts, low weight, modularity, covert and silent, high power density, low amortized cost and long service life with no required maintenance.”

For what it’s worth, that makes it ideal for drones and other small-scale devices.

However, though the Army is focused on military purposes, the Abrams project has been developed along the lines of a “systems engineering approach,” meaning that lessons learned from developing a thermoelectric device for one specific application could be transferred to any number of new purposes.

Image: Abrams tank courtesy of U.S. Army

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey


Lightway Solar America Executes 62.8 MW of Solar Power Project Contract

Posted: 29 Oct 2012 09:59 AM PDT

Lightway Solar America announced last week the execution of 62.8 Megawatts of contracts through their project development subsidiary, Lightway Solar America Project Development.

According to Lightway, the company “has implemented a sales model in which 11.9 MW of solar panels will be invested into these projects in exchange for equity positions with a commitment from their project partners to purchase the remaining 50.9 MW through executed supply agreements.”

The project pipeline consists of 11 different solar project development partners with a pipeline of projects ranging from 250 kW to 4.8 MW spread throughout New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Arizona, and California. With construction expected to begin immediately, Lightway is expecting 21 MW to be installed in Q4 of 2012 and the remaining 42 MW to be installed throughout 2013.

“The earlier trends of integrating upstream have been successful in undersupplied markets, however, we recognize that in today’s market of oversupply and project financing difficulties, moving further downstream into project ownership will be a key factor towards our future growth and sustainability,” William Sien, President of LWSA PD, said. ?Although our primary business model and expertise will remain in solar module manufacturing, we foresee project development and ownership of photovoltaic projects as key drivers to supplement our solar module sales throughout the North America region.”

“We are excited about the project pipeline, whose strong commercial and residential presence in US provides us with an excellent opportunity as we operate our business in the U.S,” added Wei Na, Global Sales and Marketing VP of LGNE, parent company of LSA. “We are confident our high-quality solar modules and customer service will contribute to the growth of the solar industry as a whole.”

Source: Lightway Solar America via PR Newswire
Image Source: N A I T (some rights reserved)


Should We Focus on Energy Efficiency or Energy Supply?

Posted: 29 Oct 2012 09:52 AM PDT

A new study released last week has looked at the implications of switching the focus of mitigating climate change from developing energy supply technologies towards developing energy efficient cars, buildings, and domestic appliances.

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change shows that twice as much effort is currently being directed towards developing supply technologies such as new power stations than is being directed towards improving the efficiency of end-use technologies.

“About two-thirds of all public innovation efforts are directed toward energy supply technologies,” explained  Dr. Charlie Wilson of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia who led the study.

“It is vital that innovations in renewable energy supply continue, but the imbalance in spending needs to be redressed urgently to mitigate climate change. Evidence strongly suggests that energy end-use and efficiency currently stand as the most effective ways to mitigate climate change.”

“Efficiency gets short shrift in both public energy research and development, and in private market investments alike,” said Study co-author Prof Arnulf Grubler, of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and Yale University. “In contrast, improvements in technologies like domestic appliances and more energy-efficient transport are underrepresented given their potential for mitigating climate change.”

The study, led by Dr Wilson in collaboration with an international team of scientists fro Austria and the US, assessed energy technology innovation and quantified the relative emphasis placed on energy supply technology versus the technologies that are using the energy supplied.

The researchers considered three desirable outcomes of energy innovation – the potential for greenhouse gas emission reductions; broader social, environmental and energy security benefits; and the potential for technological improvements.

What they found might be surprising to those advocating a clear focus on developing energy supply technologies.

Energy end-use outperforms supply technology in each of the three desirable outcomes listed above. According to the researchers, “they occupy a greater share of energy system investments and capacity, and engage higher levels of private sector activity, they offer higher potential cost reductions, and they provide higher social returns and higher emission reduction potentials.”

“Directed innovation efforts are trying to push energy supply technologies to mitigate climate change into a market that’s already heavily occupied by subsidised incumbents,” explained Dr Wilson.

“The multitude of small-scale innovations that improve end-use efficiency often go unnoticed because they don’t have the glamour of solar panels and wind turbines, and they don’t benefit from the well-established institutions, powerful market interests, and political influence that support supply technologies such as fossil fuels, nuclear, and wind and solar power. Yet end-use efficiency innovations have more potential and provide higher social returns on investments.”

Source: University of East Anglia
Image Source: Raymond Shobe (some rights reserved)

Vestas Reaches 3000 MW of Installed Capacity in Italy

Posted: 29 Oct 2012 07:08 AM PDT

One of the world’s leading developers of wind technology Vestas has announced it has now reached a total of 3,000 megawatts of installed capacity in Italy, which equates to 40 percent of the total installed wind energy in the country, making it a big contributor to the country’s EU 2020 Targets.

“This is another important milestone for wind energy in Italy and a source of hope for the entire sector in these difficult times,” states Simone Togni, President of the Italian Wind Energy Association (ANEV).

“Wind has great potential in Italy and this needs to be fully unlocked, not only for EU 2020 and post 2020 objectives, which the country has committed to, but also because of the benefits it can bring at many different levels. It allows Italy to have clean energy at a cost which is not linked to the price of fossil fuels, as well as contributing to energy independence, and fostering economic development and employment – two areas which Italy needs to improve on.”

“We have always believed in wind as a fundamental element of the Italian energy portfolio and as pioneer of the sector we are proud of having boosted it and we will continue doing so,” declares Rainer Karan, General Manager, Vestas Italia.

“Until now, the sector in Italy has experienced a constant growth of around 1000 MW per year, with an overall installed capacity of more than 7,400 MW. There is much more to do for Italy to reach the 2020 objectives and it is up to the new auction system to allow the market to follow this growth rate, considered the newly introduced feed in tariff scheme with the respective installation capacity limitations.”

Since its arrival in Italy in 1998, Vestas has installed and serviced nine separate generations of turbine. Turbines have been erected all over the country, from the “more traditional sites” in central and southern Italy or the islands to locations where turbines have never been installed before, such as in Valle D’Aosta.

In fact, the Italian sales department for Vestas has been responsible for business development activities in Switzerland, the Balkans, Libya, Egypt, and Jordan.

“Our products, the local service set up and long-lasting partnerships built and fostered with the customers on the territory, allowed us to reach this target and we look forward reaching other important milestone in the country,” affirms Juan Araluce, Acting President, Vestas Mediterranean and Chief Sales Officer, Vestas Wind Systems A/S.

Source: Vestas


New York Manufacturer Goes Solar, to Save $50,000 Annually

Posted: 29 Oct 2012 07:03 AM PDT

A family-owned manufacturer located next to Yankee Stadium, GAL Manufacturing, has recently completed the construction of one of the city’s largest commercial rooftop solar arrays. The 237-kilowatt system was designed and installed by MC Solar Development, and SolarCity and is expected to save the company an estimated $50,000 a year on utility bills.

The solar array is comprised of 988 solar panels and will generate power sufficient to offset almost half of the building’s current electricity usage. The project received funds from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), and SolarCity and MC Solar Development have partnered to provide, install, and maintain the installation.

“Going solar not only makes financial sense, it also has a positive effect on our local Bronx community,” commented Paul Seifried, Vice President of GAL Manufacturing, an elevator manufacturing company. “We’re excited to be a pioneer in New York City, and we hope other companies will take advantage of the opportunity to go solar, save money, and use cleaner energy.”

“The funding for this project is possible through Governor Cuomo’s NY-Sun initiative, which is initiating the installation of solar PV systems across the state, and especially in New York City,” said Francis J. Murray Jr., President and CEO of NYSERDA. “Commercial building owners like GAL who install large scale PV systems play an integral part in the State’s efforts to meet its NY-Sun goals, expand its diverse renewable energy portfolio and help businesses reduce their energy costs.”

“We’re excited to be installing clean affordable solar right here in a classic New York location,? said Ed Steins, SolarCity’s Northeast Regional Vice President. “It’s a great time for commercial businesses across the region to look at the money they can save by going solar.”

“MC Solar Development is thrilled to have worked with SolarCity and our long-time client GAL Manufacturing to produce the largest commercial solar system in The Bronx,? remarked MC Solar Development Managing Member Jim Nadel. “New York City offers a very attractive opportunity for Commercial Solar Systems, and we are encouraged that the high visibility of this project with its proximity to Yankee Stadium will promote not only Solar Energy but all renewable energy in the City.”

“I congratulate GAL Manufacturing for installing one of the largest commercial rooftop solar systems in the city, right here in the Bronx,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. “This is proof that the Bronx continues to be a leader in embracing green technologies and the green economy. More than 30 percent of all solar energy, and solar panels, in the five boroughs are being installed right here in the Bronx, helping reduce the city’s carbon footprint and putting our energy consumption on a more sustainable path. I am proud that our borough continues to lead the way in creating a cleaner, greener City.”

Source: SolarCity
Image Source: N A I T (some rights reserved)

Nest Thermostat Installation is Child’s Play

Posted: 29 Oct 2012 06:53 AM PDT


Deciphering an instruction manual can confuse even the most competent of people. Good thing Nest has created an installation kit that even elementary school kids can handle. In a 10 minute video, 10-year-old Alex takes viewers step-by-step through installation of the Nest Learning Thermostat. Easy enough for Alex, good enough for Matthew McConaughey.


Solar Project Saves Music Programs in California School District

Posted: 29 Oct 2012 06:51 AM PDT

An impoverished rural school district in – California’s San Joaquin Valley has resuscitated its music ed classes – shuttered since 2009 for lack of funds “with savings from the solar it’s installed on three of its five schools,” one of our readers and a representative of SolarCity noted to CleanTechnica in a recent email. Blessings for the children, thanks to environmental concern, productivity, and hard work.


Dynamic Solar Events

Right Brain Integral in Brain Integration, Cognition

Everyone should know that children learn better when their right brain is not shut down. Schools tend to shut it down on some levels, unless one is in a Waldorf School system, which would be considered by some educators to be too right-brained.

And yet, in the name of education, and with disregard for our youth, we have cut arts programs from our school systems, hoping instead that with our young ones on debilitating amounts of Adderall, Ritalin, and Effexor (promoted as educational enhancers) they will learn.

Honestly, we seem downright stupid as a culture in terms of real educational programs. Either we want to create drones or we are strangling ourselves. Blame it on whoever holds the reins of ?the Illuminati? and give up. Or rather, don’t. Create a solar project and fund the arts through holistic energy sources!

Here’s more on how the school district mentioned above has done so, courtesy the Fresno Bee (print edition):

$900,000 in 5 Years from Solar

“Firebaugh-Las Deltas Unified School District has restored music instruction, which had been suspended since 2009 for lack of funds, with savings from SolarCity’s installation of nearly one megawatt of solar at three of its five district schools,” the Fresno Bee notes.

“The newly installed SolarCity systems at Firebaugh High School, Middle School, and Hazel Bailey Elementary will allow the district to pay less for clean solar power than it would for fossil fuel utility power. The district is expected to save more than $900,000 in the systems’ first five years of operation, and several million over the life of the system.”

“Solar energy projects for public schools are essentially revenue enhancements for school districts which directly benefit the students and taxpayers,” said Russell Freitas, Superintendent of Firebaugh-Las Deltas Unified School District.  “During these past ten years, school districts have experienced the most difficult financial times and because of the savings this solar project has created, we are able to bring music instruction back to the District.”

Music programs for grades six through twelve that have been eliminated since 2009 have been revived due to the new solar savior, with a variety of new or revived music programs for 4th through 12th graders in place for the 2012-13 school year.

“School districts across the country are pursuing ways to allocate as much of their budgets as possible to what matters most: the education of their communities’ children,” said Dennis Cox, Regional Vice President at SolarCity. “Firebaugh-Las Deltas is at the forefront of the movement to go solar and save money while doing right by the planet that their students will inherit.”

The Fresno Bee notes that “SolarCity has completed or undertaken more than 200 solar projects for schools, community colleges and universities across the country. The company employs more than 70 people in its Fresno office.”

And the solar project isn’t only helping with the arts. The students will also be able to examine how solar technology works, learn about solar energy’s numerous benefits, and access SolarCity’s web-based monitoring “PowerGuide®,” which will show the students what the solar panels are producing at their school in real time.

Image: Dynamic Solar Events by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (some rights reserved)

Poland Surpasses Original Green Power Output Target

Posted: 29 Oct 2012 05:53 AM PDT

Poland has more to be proud of than vodka and pierogi these days, as green power output has surpassed original estimates. With an abundance of renewable power on their hands (especially from wind farms that have been making the news recently) officials have signed a decree that forces utilities to increase the share of green energy sold to customers by 1 percent every year, according to Renewable Energy World.

Electricity from renewable sources is expected to be about 11 percent this year, slightly higher than the 10.4 percent requirement established in 2008. Along with wind farms, the green power increase is attributed to biomass power generation, which is undergoing its own change-up in Poland. The grade of wood used as biomass has been lowered, putting an end to the mandatory usage of high-quality wood. Requiring high quality wood for biomass power generation caused wood prices to spike in other industries.

Image: Poland stamp via Shutterstock


Gray Goes Green: First U.S. Net Zero Senior Community Opens in Texas

Posted: 29 Oct 2012 05:48 AM PDT

Seniors are getting sustainable at the Paisano Green Community in El Paso, Texas – the first net zero energy public housing project for senior citizens in America.

The 73-unit community is the latest example of net zero construction, where a facility generates at least as much energy as it consumes. Paisano combines energy efficiency and renewables generation, burns zero fossil fuels, is a certified Enterprise Green Community, and is expected to receive LEED Platinum certification for construction and operation.

Making It Net Zero

Clean energy factors into every facet of the Paisano complex. Rooftop solar panels and two 80-foot wind turbines generate all the electricity needed by the facility, and excess power is sold back onto the grid via net metering rules with the local utility in order to lower operating costs. Considering El Paso sees 300 days of sunshine annually, the complex expects to turn a tidy profit, and some units will have annual utility bills as low as $8.

Each living unit features air-source heat pump water heaters and EnergyStar appliances, is insulated with a hybrid of three types of insulation, is optimized for solar passive design with large overhangs between units and above windows, and maximizes natural daylighting to reduce energy demands.


Sustainable Design, Construction, and Operation

Sustainable practices were also a major factor during community design and construction. Paisano was built upon a 4.2-acre lot that had been vacant for 10 years, the wood framing was prefabricated off-site to minimize on-site waste, and as much waste as possible was recycled during construction. In addition, the complex features desert landscaping to reduce water needs, and is served by several bus stops so seniors can get where they need to go without cars.

Project funding was split between the federal and local governments, with $8.25 million of the project’s total $10.9 million cost coming from a competitive federal stimulus grant and the rest coming from the El Paso city government and housing authority.

Planned developments like Paisano truly represent the sustainability ideal – especially in arid settings. By combining renewables, efficiency, and public transportation, residents can rely on their own energy sources while keeping energy costs low and reducing their carbon footprints.

Source: Inhabitat
Photos via Arch Daily/Jesse Ramerez



Solar Power, Coconut Biofuel to Meet 150% of Pacific Nation?s Electricity Demand

Posted: 29 Oct 2012 05:44 AM PDT

Solar power plants and coconut biofuel-powered generators will be switched on in Tokelau next week as the three-atoll administered region of New Zealand gears up to become the “the world’s first truly renewable nation.” The renewable energy system comprising of solar panels, storage batteries and generators running on biofuel derived from coconut will generate enough electricity to meet 150% of the islands’ power demand.


Fakaofo Atoll, part of Tokelau

These systems are part of the Tokelau Renewable Energy Project that has been funded by the New Zealand government and represents one of the largest off-grid renewable energy projects in the world. With this project, the islands will make the transition from being completely dependent on imported fuels to being completely energy independent.

Tokelau spends about $820,000 every year to import fuels. The government of Tokelau now plans to spend these savings on other essential services like health and education. The savings will also be used to repay the grants and financial assistance the government received for this project.

This project serves very well for other Pacific islands that plan to reduce their dependence on imported fossil fuels and do their part in the reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Fiji, Cook Islands, Niue, and Tuvalu plan to achieve 100% electricity generation from renewable energy between 2013 and 2020.

These island nations are getting significant monetary and technical assistance from developed countries and are also learning from the experiences of each other. The Small Developing Island Renewable Energy Knowledge and Technology Transfer Network (DIREKT) is a cooperation scheme involving universities from Germany, Fiji, Mauritius, Barbados, and Trinidad & Tobago, with the aim of strengthening the science and technology capacity in the field of renewable energy of a sample of ACP (Africa, Caribbean, Pacific) small island developing states, by means of technology transfer, information exchange, and networking.

The Japanese government launched the Pacific Environment Community (PEC) Fund in 2009. This fund has provided $66 million to several island nations in the Pacific region for renewable energy projects. The Fund has provided assistance worth millions of dollars to Kiribati, Micronesia, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Nauru, and Tuvalu for solar power projects and solar desalination projects.

Image Credit: Marchman (some rights reserved)

The views presented in the above article are the author?s personal views only



Try the Scorpion fs 26 S-Pedelec – A Fast, Folding Electric Trike

Posted: 29 Oct 2012 04:00 AM PDT

At the this year’s EUROBIKE show – the world’s largest bike show – HP Velotechnik exhibited the first full-suspension electric trike – a smartly foldable e-bike that can cruise up to speeds of 45 kilometers an hour (28 mph).

Manufacturer cites ergonomic seat position and secure road holding for this foldable ride

HP Velotechnik?s recumbent model Scorpion fs 26 S-Pedelec focuses on secure road holding for a multi-track vehicle with chassis technology from the automotive engineering sector.

At the international bike show, this e-bike was awarded with the “Eurobike Award 2012” for “particularly innovative design and above-average product quality.”

The motor draws its power from a 48V Li-Mn rechargeable battery with a 423Wh capacity. A 500-watt rear wheel BionX hub motor provides extra propulsion if desired.

Low air resistance is standard thanks to the efficient recumbent position, and extends the rechargeable battery’s range.

The Scorpion fs 26 S-Pedelec will be available from specialist dealers from early 2013. The price? 6,990 euros, or $7,495 for the US export model.

“With average speeds of over 25 km/h, a reliable, fully suspended chassis is almost obligatory,” commented HP Velotechnik CEO Paul Hollants regarding the Scorpion fs 26 touring trike.

Hollants attributes the company’s entry into the fast pedelecs class to the increasing demand for alternative, efficient, and fun mobility solutions. “In recumbents in particular, an assisted speed of over 25 km/h is useful as experienced trike riders quickly reach this speed without assistance and are generally used to traveling at higher speeds,” stated Hollants in a press announcement.

Ergonomic Recumbent Seat

Regardless of how fast you are traveling, the ergonomic “BodyLink” hard shell seat provides a relaxed sitting position. Individually adjustable to the rider’s back shape, the seat distributes the body weight evenly – making sitting discomfort among riders a thing of the past, says the company.

Accessories turn this e-bike into a practical tourer that can transport additional luggage. When walking is called for, the trike can be folded into an easy-to-transport package with dimensions of 123 x 83 x 69 cm.

Sources: HPvelotechnikGas2