A Solar Panel Factory On The Moon?

As far-fetched as it may seem, space-based solar electricity production may become a reality if a California high school student’s vision of installing a self-replicating solar power factory on the moon is realized.

Justin Lewis-Weber, a senior at Viewpoint School, California, believes terrestrial solar energy cannot work on a planetary scale. The sun isn’t always reliable, weather affects power output, and electricity demand peaks at times when solar production is usually at its lowest point, forcing utilities to resort to coal and gas to ensure supply.

Lewis-Weber’s concept, published in the journal New Space, uses existing ideas of space solar power (SSP), whereby giant solar satellites constructed from thousands of PV panels, reflectors and antennae sit in orbit, beaming uninterrupted energy from the sun back to Earth via microwaves.

Rather than building and launching these massive and shockingly expensive arrays here on Earth, Lewis-Weber proposes a self-replicating system (SRS) that would produce SSP components on the moon, using materials mined from the lunar surface.

A small launch package containing around 18 species of self-replicating machines, each assigned a specific role in building solar power satellites (SPSs), along with a moon-based launch platform (known as a Mass Driver), could feasibly be launched for around USD $10 billion, according to Lewis-Weber.

“In essence, if an SRS that is capable of reproducing itself and producing SPS’s on the lunar surface was created, the entire Earth could be powered for contextually minimal cost,” says Mr. Lewis-Weber

“Because only a small and (in context) lightweight package will need to be sent and manufactured, the entire system is essentially free, and because all power produced can be sold at a profit, there is very little exposure (in the context of space missions and energy production investments) for practically unlimited upside.”

The biggest challenge to Lewis-Weber’s dream is the SRS – the machine that can reproduce an exact copy of itself using the materials in its environment. The idea has parallels to biomimicry, and to date, no such machine exists. But Lewis-Weber believes it can be achieved with concentrated engineering.

And the pay-off would be worth it: his proposed SSP system would deliver a levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of $0.00042 per kilowatt-hour – around two orders of magnitude below that of fossil fuels.

Courtesy: http://www.energymatters.com.au/

Wales’ First Full-Scale Tidal Energy Device is Installed

A Welsh tidal stream technology company has installed the country’s first tidal energy generator in Ramsey Sound, Pembrokeshire.

The DeltaStream is the first tidal energy generator to be deployed in Wales (Image courtesy of Delta Stream).

Developed by Cardiff-based Tidal Energy Ltd, the DeltaStream device will become one of the first grid-connected demonstration devices worldwide to generate green, sustainable and predictable tidal power.

The patented DeltaStream device was loaded off the quayside in Pembroke Port yesterday by the offshore construction vessel ‘Siem Daya 1’, before making the short passage to Ramsey Sound for installation during today’s suitable tidal window.

Managing Director of Tidal Energy Ltd, Martin Murphy said, “The deployment of DeltaStream marks a significant achievement for the original inventor of the device, Richard Ayre, and for our team, our shareholders, Wales and the wider tidal industry. We are immensely proud to be one of the frontrunners of tidal energy development in this nascent industry, which has great and far-reaching potential for green energy production.”

Weighing 200 tonnes, with a frame 16m long and height of 18m, the DeltaStream 400kW demonstration device has a gravity-based foundation which sits on the seabed under its own weight, without the need to drill or pile the structure into the seabed.

Chris Williams, Development Director of TEL said, “After initial testing and commissioning of the device in the next few days, DeltaStream will gather data relating to its electricity generating performance and environmental impact over the coming months. We intend to recover the device for inspection and upgrade work next year.”

The company says that Ramsey Sound was chosen as the test-site for the device because it is sheltered from prevailing wind and wave conditions, but has a good tidal climate with tidal streams reaching up to 3m/s on spring tides. There is a good grid connection feeding electricity to St Davids city and excellent port facilities and marine engineering capabilities nearby in Pembroke Port.

Chris Williams added, “We have worked closely with the local supply chain and contractors to install the necessary infrastructure to make this project happen. We would like to thank those organisations involved for their hard work, resilience and support which has helped us reach this pivotal milestone. We look forward to building upon this by further developing skills and creating green jobs in the area.”

A total of around £15M has been invested in the project, which has been provided by the company’s majority shareholder, Welsh renewable energy company Eco2 Ltd, along with EU funds worth £8M delivered through the Welsh Government.

“The DeltaStream device literally takes renewable power generation out of sight, minimising environmental impact whilst harnessing the largely untapped energy resources of the oceans. There is great potential here and we look forward to demonstrating the viability of our technology and developing our commercial scale demonstration project at St Davids Head.”

The site at St Davids Head in Pembrokeshire is two miles north of Ramsey Sound and is being developed by Eco2 in partnership with Tidal Energy Ltd. This will involve up to nine DeltaStream devices being deployed, generating enough power for approximately 10,000 homes.

Courtesy: http://www.renewableenergyfocus.com/

MIT Creates Solar Cells that are as Light as a Soap Bubble

By: Julie M. Rodriguez

A team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has unveiled the lightest, thinnest solar cells in existence — so lightweight and flexible that they can be placed on top of a soap bubble without popping it. The breakthrough came about when researchers realized they could create the solar cell, the substrate that protects it, and a protective overcoating in a single process, rather than creating them separately and joining them together later.

To prove the process was possible, the team used a flexible polymer called parylene as the substrate and overcoating. The primary light-absorbing layer was made of an organic material called DBP. Parylene has been widely used as a plastic coating to protect biomedical devices and circuit boards from the elements, making it perfect for the task of protecting the solar cells. The entire process was carried out in a vacuum chamber at room temperature without any harsh chemicals — a major change from conventional solar-cell manufacturing, which involves high temperatures and strong solvents.

The team says that this process could easily be repeated using different substrate and protective layers, and even different types of solar film. The end result is a flexible film just one-fiftieth the thickness of a human hair, about two micrometers thick. That’s about a thousand times thinner than an equivalent solar cell on a glass substrate, and by all accounts, these ultra-thin cells work just as efficiently to generate electricity.

While it’s possible to drape the new solar cell over a bubble without popping it, that might not be very practical for most applications — the light weight of the material also makes it easy to simply blow away. However, thicker parylene films can also be made using the same technique, and these might be possible to manufacture and directly apply to variety of household items and surfaces without adding extra weight or bulk. For now, the MIT team is doing further research before attempting to use the cells in any commercial applications.

Images via Joel Jean and Anna Osherov/MIT

Courtesy: http://inhabitat.com/

Bifacial PV System Shows Large Energy Yield Increase

The first exciting results have emerged from one of the very first BiSoN bifacial module operating systems to be installed: during the first month of exposure (from 27/11 to 23/12) the average yield was 120% greater compared to a standard system, meaning that the bifacial installation produced more than double the amount of energy compared to the traditional installation made up of standard non-bifacial modules.

The statistics speak clearly and demonstrate a daily average production of 1.8 kWh/kWp made by the bifacial BiSoN modules compared to a 0.8 produced by traditional monofacial modules.

These are the first data gathered from a private installation of 4,4 kWp (16 BiSoN mod. MBF GG60 modules) on Reichenau Island in Lake Constance and announced by the ISC Konstanz research institute, which specifies that these data are certainly trustworthy but slightly approximate, as the comparison is made with a 10 kWp installation located 7 km away.

Although it cannot be defined as a true test as the two installations do not have identical characteristics (location, configuration, power etc.), it is still the first significant and trustworthy estimation of the real production capacity of the bifacial photovoltaic modules.

The statistics speak clearly and demonstrate a daily average production of 1.8 kWh/kWp made by the bifacial BiSoN modules compared to a 0.8 produced by traditional monofacial modules.

ISC’s Joris Libal explains that this noteworthy difference is due to the fact that during winter there is a high incidence of diffused light caused by cloudiness: in this situation the traditional monofacial photovoltaic module has a low production, only from the front, whereas the bifacial module can also rely on the contribution from the rear side.

In sunny conditions this difference would be less significant as the front efficiency of the module would be proportionately bigger.

Making a yearly projection, ISC estimates that the efficiency yield of this installation with bifacial BiSoN modules should be between +25% and +40% with very high peaks during the winter months, as already demonstrated, or during very cloudy days.

The greater productivity of the bifacial BiSoN module compared to the traditional monofacial concept, especially during days with a poor level of irradiation, demonstrates that the highly efficient bifacial technology, of which MegaCell is a world-leading pioneer, surely represents the future of the photovoltaic industry.

Courtesy: http://www.solardaily.com/

SunPower Introduces a New Kit System for Residential PV

Equinox, SunPower’s new fully integrated residential solar solution introduced today to the market, is said to deliver 70% more energy with 70% fewer visible parts.


SunPower’s Equinox has 70% less visible details: only the panels and a Smart Energy management device can be seen from the outside SunPower

In October last year, the U.S. PV manufacturer SunPower introduced Helix – its first fully integrated “kit” system for commercial rooftop installations. Due to clip-in racking and plug-and-play cabling SunPower claims a kit can be installed on a rooftop 2.5 times faster than any other traditional system. Today the company offers the benefits of a kit solar system to homeowners.

All the major components of Equinox system have been designed and engineered by SunPower, the company says in the announcement. The rooftop solar system is said to deliver greater than 22% efficiency and 70% more energy.

Highlighting the main advantages of the new pre-assembled PV system, SunPower points out that SunPower’s own microinverters, which are integrated into each solar panel at the factory, don’t have to be attached by hand on rooftops as with conventional solar systems.

“Conventional home solar design and systems can be complicated and not harmonious, with companies assembling disparate parts – each built in isolation by different manufacturers,” said Howard Wenger, SunPower president, business units. “For homeowners, this piecemeal approach can result in decreased performance, substandard reliability, low-quality aesthetics, and longer installation times.”

Considering how important it is for homeowners that the solar panels are aesthetically pleasing on the rooftop, SunPower highlights “industry-best aesthetics” of its new product as one of the main benefits. The only parts that are visible from the outside are the panels and a Smart Energy management device – hardware smaller than a shoe box, which tracks energy production and consumption in real time and allows homeowners to control their power use. Cabling is hidden behind walls and under roofs; mounting system is hidden beneath solar panels and hardly seen.

Just like the companies using SunPower’s Helix kit system, homeowners are guaranteed 25-year power and product warranty with Equinox.

Even though, SunPower claims its Equinox to be the “game changer for home solar”, pre-assembled rooftop PV systems are not new for the residential PV market. Last summer, Solar Frontier re-launched its residential lineup of PowerSets, with improvements including a new smart turbo inverter and a new monitoring portal.

Courtesy: http://www.pv-magazine.com/news/