By Zachary Shahan
Ghana is looking to get on the solar map, and in a big way. International Solar Utilities, Sustainable Equities Group, and PN Solar intend to build 600 megawatts of solar power parks in the African country, six parks that are each 100 megawatts in size. Furthermore, they intend to open a solar panel factory with an annual output capacity of 300 megawatts. The idea is that the factory will produce solar panels that could help neighboring countries to also move forward with increasingly popular solar power.
Yesterday, I was received a press release from Sustainable Equities Group about these plans (and I was told that I was actually the first to receive it). From that release, here are some more details about the factory:
Using new “glass-on-glass” technology, PN Solar Ghana will manufacture 820,000 of PN. Solar’s PN365 MonoGold Line PV solar panels a year from its facility in Tema, Ghana for an annual manufacturing output of 300MW. PN Solar Ghana will hire 300 local workers to construct its manufacturing facility in Tema, Ghana and construction is estimated to start in the summer of 2014 and take just over one year. Once the facility is operational, over 350 workers will be employed year round. PN Solar Ghana will work with the National Youth Authority to hire workers from the local community and offer training and educational programs for its workers and their families. PN Solar Ghana will contribute a percentage of its profits to facilitate quality of life initiatives and other programs in the local community.
International Solar Utilities (ISU) will use these PN Solar Ghana solar panels in order to develop the six 100 MW solar parks mentioned above, each costing about $125 million. For construction of each park, about 200 local workers will be needed. Furthermore, about 200 unskilled workers will be needed annually for their maintenance. ISU anticipates that it will directly create about 2,000 jobs in Ghana via these six solar parks.
Ghana’s current energy generating capacity is 2,100MW and ISU Ghana will add an additional 28% to Ghana’s national grid upon completion. Ghana is attempting to achieve an electricity generation capacity goal of 5,000MW by 2016. ISU will help Ghana achieve its goal while promoting local economic development.
Electricity and jobs for Ghana without destroying the planet—I think that’s a triple-win.
Because solar panels are designed to accumulate as much light from the sun as possible, they’re typically very dark in color. It makes them more efficient, but also kind of an eyesore, minimizing their adoption. So researchers at the University of Michigan have developed what they believe to be the world’s first semi-transparent, colored solar panels.
After all, solar panels produce energy that’s completely free, but who wants to cover every inch of their home in giant black panels? In the palm-sized American flag pictured above, the tinted stripes and field of blue are all energy-producing solar cells. And were it increased in size to a meter on each side, it would generate enough electricity to power a fluorescent lightbulb.
What’s particularly important about this innovation is that the colors weren’t created by adding dyes or a film that can obscure the light hitting the panels. Instead, the colors are produced by the mechanical structure of the solar cells themselves causing them to reflect different wavelengths depending on the thickness of the semiconductor layer.
But while they certainly look better than your typical solar panel, they’re also less efficient since some of the light is being bounced back to your eyes instead of being absorbed. In the long run, however, if it comes down to someone installing a slightly less efficient solar panel on their home that looks good, instead of not installing one at all, the advantage to this breakthrough becomes clear.
Aquion manufactures cheap, long-lasting batteries for storing renewable energy.
A new kind of battery invented by Jay Whitacre, a professor of materials science at Carnegie Mellon University and founder of the startup Aquion Energy, could make renewable electricity more practical and economical around the world. Aquion is about to start full-scale production of the batteries at a new factory in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania.
Whitacre says his batteries’ most promising near-term application lies in storing energy from solar panels or other renewable sources in off-grid homes or rural areas, providing a much cheaper 24-hour power source than a common alternative: diesel power. Lead-acid batteries are used for this purpose today, but they are toxic and require air-conditioning to avoid deterioration in some climates, raising costs.
Whitacre’s batteries are expected to last twice as long as lead-acid batteries and cost about the same to make. They won’t require air-conditioning and will use nontoxic materials. Electrical current in the battery is generated as sodium ions from a saltwater electrolyte shuttle between manganese oxide–based positive electrodes and carbon-based negative ones.
One place the battery could make a big difference: in poor regions of the world that lack an existing electric grid. By 2030, one billion people are expected to get electricity for the first time. That will mean a lot more use of fossil fuels unless renewable power options are as cheap, safe, and reliable as possible. If “even a fraction of that billion can use solar because of our batteries,” Whitacre says, the company will be able to reduce not only carbon dioxide emissions but also local pollution from diesel generators.
To match the cost of lead-acid batteries, which are among the cheapest types, Whitacre uses inexpensive manufacturing equipment repurposed from the food and pharmaceutical industries. Hydraulic presses originally designed to make aspirin pills stamp out wafers of positive and negative electrode materials, and robot arms built to wrap chocolates are used to package electrode wafers with foils that act as current collectors. At the end of the line, the briefcase-sized batteries are stacked and bolted together. A pallet of 84 batteries, about a meter tall, will store 19.2 kilowatt-hours of electricity. Whitacre says you’d need about 20 such pallets to serve a village of 200 people in a poor country. Two pallets would power a U.S. home for a day.
The technology has its limits. It is best suited for slow and steady operation, not rapidly charging and discharging large amounts of power as some utilities require. And while the batteries are cheaper than other kinds, pairing them with solar panels still can’t beat the economics of conventional power plants in most areas. That is why Whitacre is focusing initially on regions without an existing electricity grid. Aquion has already started shipping batteries to customers for evaluation. The company expects to start full-scale production by this spring, making enough batteries each year to store about 200 megawatt-hours of electricity—enough for roughly 150 solar-powered villages. The factory in Pennsylvania could be replicated in other countries. “If our technology proves out, we won’t be able to make them fast enough,” Whitacre says.
MADRID – Atacama Solar, a company created by about 30 Spanish investors, has put the 3 MW Los Puquios solar power station into operation in Chile.
The $3.9 million photovoltaic energy facility is in Tarapaca, a region in northern Chile.
The facility is the largest fixed solar power station in Chile, Atacama Solar said in a statement.
Chile is one of the markets with the greatest potential for photovoltaic, or PV, stations, which collect energy from the sun using panels, the company said.
PV stations with 128 MW in generating capacity are under construction and projects with more than 5 GW of capacity have been approved by the Environmental Impact Evaluation System, or SEIA, in the South American country, Atacama Solar said.
PV projects with 4.7 GW in generating capacity are in the process of applying for permits, the company said.