Japan Begins Work on ‘World’s Largest’ Floating Solar Farm

Electronics firm builds floating solar farm on a reservoir due to a scarcity of land for utility-scale solar in Japan

A floating solar power farm built by Kyocera in Kyoto, Japan. Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Japanese electronics multinational Kyocera has begun work on what it says will be the world’s biggest floating solar farm.

The power plant is being built on a reservoir in Japan’s Chiba prefecture and is anticipated to supply enough electricity for nearly 5,000 households when it is completed in early 2018.

Space-starved Japan has already seen several floating solar farms built as part of the country’s drive to exploit more renewable energy in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster. The shutdown of nuclear plants has seen Japan increasingly reliant on fossil fuel imports that have hit its emissions-cutting ambitions.

The Yamakura dam power plant will see more than 50,000 solar photovoltaic panels cover a 180,000 m sq area, but compared to other land-based plants it is relatively small. At 13.7MW when finished, it would not make the top 100 of the world’s largest solar photovoltaic farms.

In the UK, water company United Utilities started work last year on a floating solar farm on a Greater Manchester reservoir, which will be Europe’s largest once complete. Kyocera said it was turning to water because of a scarcity of land for utility-scale solar in Japan.

Ray Noble, a solar adviser at the UK-based Renewable Energy Association, said that the technology was relatively straightforward but the only reason to build floating farms would be if land was very tight.

“If you’re short on land like they are in Japan, you could build on water. But in the UK with plenty of industrialised areas, it’s cheaper to put solar on land than on water.”

The main challenge was to keep wiring away from the water and put the inverters – which convert the electricity generated into a usable form – on floating structures. But he added: “If anything goes wrong, I’ve always said electricity and water don’t mix.”

Kyocera has already built three floating solar farms, which are much smaller than the new one, which was first announced in October 2014.

Courtesy: http://www.theguardian.com/

Solving the Soft-Cost Puzzle

By: Ben Willis

Fraunhofer CSE is developing ‘plug-and-play’ PV technologies as part of efforts to cut solar soft costs in the US. Image: Fraunhofer CSE.

Such has been the speed at which solar module prices have fallen in the past few years that other elements of a PV system’s installed cost have failed to keep up. According to a recent GTM Research study, despite falling overall, balance-of-system (BOS) costs as a proportion of the total installed cost of a typical residential PV system actually increased between 2007 and 2015, from 58% to 77%.

Within the total BOS equation, which encompasses all non-module elements of a PV system, one of the persistent offenders has been soft cost – expenditures relating to non-hardware BOS such as permitting, labour, finance, customer acquisition and so on. High soft costs are a particular issue in the USA, where they account for significant proportion of overall cost, especially in the residential segment.

“Soft costs have come down – but they haven’t matched the speed with which hardware costs have fallen,” says MJ Shiao, director of solar research at GTM. “To put some numbers behind that, if we look at soft costs of the overall system, it’s about 60% of residential cost in 2015 [in the US]. And if you look at just BOS, soft costs are more along the lines of about 75% of residential BOS.”

With the US investment tax credit (ITC) due to be eradicated entirely for residential PV systems and to be significantly slashed for larger projects at the end of 2016, now more than ever the heat is on for the industry to remain competitive. Module costs will continue to fall incrementally as more efficient cell technologies are developed, but soft costs still offer significant headroom for further reductions.

The good news is that the trajectory for soft costs appears now to be on a determinedly downward trajectory in the US, across utility, commercial and residential segments. The Department of Energy’s Sunshot Initiative has set some specific targets for overall soft-cost reductions (see Figure 1), and all three sectors are over half way towards achieving these goals with half of the programme still to run. But in the residential segment particularly progress has been slower, Read more »

BENEFITS OF SOLAR PANELS

Solar power helps in reducing the effects of global warming. Global warming is proven to be a threat to the earth’s ecological system and the survival of countless species. Luckily, decades of research have led to efficient solar panel systems that create electricity without producing global warming pollution. Solar power is now very clearly one of the most important solutions to the global warming crisis.

Solar panel electricity systems, also known as solar photovoltaic’s (PV), capture the sun’s energy using photovoltaic cells. These cells don’t need direct sunlight to work – they can still generate some electricity on a cloudy day. The cells convert the sunlight into electricity, which can be used to run household appliances and lighting.

One of the main benefits of solar power to you the consumer is that you can either use the electricity generated in your own property to sell it back to your electricity provider for later use. In effect your electric meter will run backwards when you are producing solar powered energy & forward when you are using the electricity.

HOW DO SOLAR PANELS CELLS (PV) WORK
PV cells are made from layers of semi-conducting material, usually silicon. When light shines on the cell it creates an electric field across the layers. The stronger the sunshine, the more electricity is produced. Groups of cells are mounted together in panels or modules that can either be mounted on your roof or on the ground.
The power of a PV cell is measured in kilowatts peak (kWp). That’s the rate at which it generates energy at peak performance in full direct sunlight during the summer. PV cells come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Most PV systems are made up of panels that fit on top of an existing roof.

THE MAIN BENEFITS OF SOLAR ELECTRICITY
Cut your electricity bills. Sunlight is free, so once you’ve paid for the initial installation your electricity costs will be reduced.

• Get paid for the electricity you generate. The UK government’s Feed-in Tariff scheme pays you for the electricity you generate, even if you don’t use it.

Sell electricity back to the grid. If your system is producing more electricity than you need, you can sell the surplus back to the grid through the Feed-in Tariff scheme.

Cut your carbon footprint. Solar electricity is green renewable energy and doesn’t release any harmful carbon dioxide or other pollutants. A typical home solar PV system could save over a tonne and a half of carbon dioxide per year – that’s more than 30 tonnes over its lifetime.

MAINTENANCE
Solar PV needs little maintenance & should typically last you 25 years or more. You just need to keep the panels relatively clean and make sure trees don’t begin to overshadow them. In the UK panels that are tilted at 15° or more have the additional benefit of being cleaned by rainfall to ensure optimal performance.

SAVINGS
In a recent survey of customers who had solar panels fitted for over 1 year found that the average reduction in their annual electric bill was 37%, with 25% of those questioned enjoying savings of 50% and over.

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Courtesy: Nexus Energy Solutions

About Nexus Energy Solutions

Nexus based in Scotland offers businesses energy solutions. Primarily working with commercial businesses to increase renewable energy usage. Nexus also offer commercial EPCs to help businesses become more energy efficient.

Major Offshore Wind Operator Plans £6bn UK Investment by 2020

Dong Energy says it is now convinced UK government will back offshore wind power despite recent cuts to renewable energy sector subsidies

Offshore wind turbines off Skegness in Lincolnshire, UK. Photograph: Alamy

Dong Energy, the biggest operator of offshore windfarms in Britain, has said it plans to spend a further £6bn in the UK by 2020, convinced that the government is serious about supporting wind power.

Vattenfall, another significant UK windfarm operator, says it too is “optimistic” about 2016 and is hoping to proceed with a turbine testing site off Scotland this summer.

The statements of intent are a major boost to Amber Rudd, the secretary of state for energy and climate change, who has been under fire for cutting subsidies to solar and other low-carbon sectors despite signing up to the Paris climate change accord.

Brent Cheshire, Dong’s UK division chairman, said he had harboured concerns about government policies as little as two months ago, but had since been reassured by recent firm commitments to offshore wind.

“It was a concern that it took as long as it did [for ministers to recommit to offshore wind] but we have now got it. I think there is the clarity we need to commitment to new investment,” he explained.

Cheshire said it made more sense for the government to back offshore wind than the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, which was going to prove a lot more expensive.

But he also warned it would take time for companies to cut their offshore windfarm costs, and that hopes that this arm of the renewable sector could become subsidy-free as early as 2023 were “not realistic”.

Vattenfall has for years being trying to build a European offshore wind deployment centre off the Scottish coast in Aberdeenshire, but has faced legal opposition from American billionaire and Republican presidential hopeful, Donald Trump. The British supreme court has now ruled the project can go ahead.

The centre would allow the Swedish-based company behind windfarms in Thanet and Kentish Flats to experiment with different kinds of turbines to see which are the most cost-effective.

Vattenfall said it was upbeat about offshore wind after Rudd said last month she would support the industry as long as it brought costs down.

“We are optimistic about offshore wind and although we still think there may be potential investment opportunities onshore we are more cautious about that,” the Vattenfall spokesman said.

Denmark-based Dong has spent £6bn so far developing windfarms in Britain and now says it wants to double this amount in the next four years. This means pressing ahead with projects such as the giant Hornsea scheme off Yorkshire.

Once completed, this scheme will become the world’s first gigawatt-scale windfarm, 80 miles offshore. Hornsea’s 240 turbines are scheduled to commence electricity generation by 2020 with the capacity to power 800,000 homes.

Cheshire admitted that the intermittent nature of wind – and many other renewable energy technologies – meant back-up “baseload” generation was needed but said this did not need to come from nuclear but could come via interconnectors – electricity cables from abroad.

He also argued that offshore wind power was very predictable given the sophistication of modern weather forecasting systems.

Courtesy: http://www.theguardian.com/business/

Queensland installs Australia’s first Powerwall battery for Solar Trial

Energex, which is owned by the state government, launches a 12-month trial of solar batteries to investigate ways to integrate them into electricity supply

The first Tesla Powerwall home battery in Australia has been installed by a Queensland government-owned power company. Photograph: Patrick Fallon/Reuters

A Queensland government-owned power company has installed the country’s first solar battery storage system from Tesla as it begins a year-long trial into how it can reward consumers who cut their reliance on the electricity grid.

Energex, which has installed a Tesla Powerwall and another storage system from Californian company Sunverge at its Brisbane training facility, will collect data to work out how to integrate solar batteries into the network with financial incentives for customers.

The trial, which will extend monitoring of systems in Energex employees’ homes to those in outside consumers’ in coming months, follows lobbying by the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, of Tesla executives in the US six months ago.

Queensland boasts one of the highest rates of household solar panel systems in the world, although uptake in recent years has been inhibited by a dramatic cut in the rate consumers are paid for power that they return to the grid.

The commercial release of the Powerwall this year is widely expected to drive popular take-up of a system that at best would supply about seven hours of nightly power for televisions, air-conditioning and other appliances.

However, the cost of solar batteries remains a key barrier for the fledgling industry in Australia. Estimates of time taken to recover an investment in a Powerwall – from about $10,000 for a household already with solar panels to $17,300 for an entirely new system – range from 17 to 26 years.

Palaszczuk said Energex’s Powerwall was “the first operational one of its kind in Australia” and meant “the jobs of the future are here”.

“This is the first step. It is going to change the way Queensland families will obtain their electricity into the future,” she said.

“It will mean a great mix, whether that is from the solar that you have installed on your rooftops with the current mix of what you are getting through the transmission wires.”

Energy minister, Mark Bailey, said the trial of solar battery integration would put the state’s energy network owners “ahead of the game and make sure we can get the most out of the Powerwall and other battery storage systems that benefit consumers and also the network and our electricity grid”.

“Queensland now has got one of the highest solar [photo voltaic] take-up rates in the world, higher than Hawaii, higher than Germany, higher than California and leading the nation,” he said.

“We must manage this transition to clean energy – consumers want it, the public wants it, it benefits everybody and this is a very exciting day.”

Terry Effeney, the chief executive of Energex, said information about the effect of solar batteries on peak demand could allow power network operators to defer costly infrastructure investments or reduce generation where possible.

Contrary to the idea of consumers being able to quit the grid, Effeney said the 12-month trial would “demonstrate that in fact the best way to use batteries and solar is to integrate them into the grid to deliver the best possible outcome to the customers”.

Courtesy: http://www.theguardian.com/