Wind-Powered Schools Create New Possibilities

By: Tom Kiernan

MOODBOARD VIA GETTY IMAGES

MOODBOARD VIA GETTY IMAGES

We all want our children to have the brightest futures possible, and wind power helps check a lot of the boxes we envision when we think of the opportunities we’d like them to have: well-paying jobs, clean air and healthy communities.

But there’s another way wind is ensuring success for the next generation — it’s strengthening schools across the country.

It’s not easy to run a school district in the rural parts of America. Small populations and low tax bases mean resources can be scarce. Our children’s education is one place we never want to skimp, so that presents a challenge. During the recession years, these pressures were only intensified.

However, communities hosting wind farms have gotten a substantial shot in the arm. The exact path can vary depending on town and state, but wind farms often greatly increase property taxes or make payments directly to school budgets.

And that can mean a lot of extra resources.

A study from Oklahoma State University released this fall, for example, found wind projects in the Sooner State will pay counties and schools over $1 billion during the projects’ lifetimes.

We recently heard from Cheryl Steckley, school superintendent for Lowville, N.Y., about what hosting a wind farm has meant for her district. Partially because of the project, Lowville schools offer 11 AP courses, college-level classes, have new athletic facilities, and soon, every student grades three through 12 will have his or her own laptop. During the recession, at a time when many neighboring schools were laying off teachers, Cheryl’s district was actually able to increase its staff.

“We would not have had the resources to have all of those staff onboard, or to have some of the programs we have, absent the revenue we’ve received from the (wind farm),” Cheryl explained.

The hard work of Lowville’s staff, combined with these added resources, is reflected in student performance. Lowville schools ranks favorably both nationally and in New York State, and Syracuse University is currently studying the system because it has performed so well relative to other districts from similarly less well-off areas.

The nearby Maple Ridge wind farm has meant so much to the Lowville school district that a swim team named itself The Turbines.

“The wind project is certainly a part of our district’s landscape. Our students go to the wind farm for field trips. They study wind and green energy in their classrooms. It is part of who we are, it is part of what we see as part of our school district,” Cheryl said.

And the best part of Lowville’s story is that it isn’t unique. Other districts across the country have experienced similar outcomes after wind farms were built nearby.

In Ohio’s Lincolnview school district, revenue from a nearby wind project helped the school provide every student with a laptop or tablet. In Spearville, Kan., wind revenue helped pay for a new school gym which the whole town can use. In West Texas, wind farm payments made it possible to build a new football stadium. And that’s just a sampling of the educational opportunities wind power has created.

With enough installed capacity in the U.S. to power 20 million homes, wind energy is already doing a lot to create a better future. Its contributions to our education system, and subsequently our children, are benefits that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Courtesy: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

Marriage Made in Sunlight: Invention Merges Solar with Liquid Battery

This solar-charged battery, developed in the lab of Song Jin at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, directly stores energy from sunlight in a tank. Credit: David Tenenbaum/UW-Madison

This solar-charged battery, developed in the lab of Song Jin at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, directly stores energy from sunlight in a tank. Credit: David Tenenbaum/UW-Madison

As solar cells produce a greater proportion of total electric power, a fundamental limitation remains: the dark of night when solar cells go to sleep. Lithium-ion batteries, the commonplace batteries used in everything from hybrid vehicles to laptop computers, are too expensive a solution to use on something as massive as the electric grid.

Song Jin, a professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has a better idea: integrating the solar cell with a large-capacity battery. He and his colleagues have made a single device that eliminates the usual intermediate step of making electricity and, instead, transfers the energy directly to the battery’s electrolyte.

Jin chose a “redox flow battery,” or RFB, which stores energy in a tank of liquid electrolyte.

In a report now online in Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Jin, graduate student Wenjie Li, and colleagues at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia have demonstrated a single device that converts light energy into chemical energy by directly charging the liquid electrolyte.

Discharging the battery to power the electric grid at night could hardly be simpler, Jin says. “We just connect a load to a different set of electrodes, pass the charged electrolyte through the device, and the electricity flows out.”

Solar charging and electrical discharging, he notes, can be repeated for many cycles with little efficiency loss.

Unlike lithium-ion batteries, which store energy in solid electrodes, the RFB stores chemical energy in liquid electrolyte. “The RFB is relatively cheap and you can build a device with as much storage as you need, which is why it is the most promising approach for grid-level electricity storage,” says Jin, who also works on several other aspects of solar energy conversion.

In the new device, standard silicon solar cells are mounted on the reaction chamber and energy converted by the cell immediately charges the water-based electrolyte, which is pumped out to a storage tank.

Redox flow batteries already on the market have been attached to solar cells, “but now we have one device that harvests sunlight to liberate electrical charges and directly changes the oxidation-reduction state of the electrolyte on the surface of the cells,” says Li, the first author of the new study. “We are using a single device to convert solar energy and charge a battery. It’s essentially a solar battery, and we can size the RFB storage tank to store all the energy generated by the solar cells.”

The unified design suggests multiple advantages, Jin says. “The solar cells directly charge the electrolyte, and so we’re doing two things at once, which makes for simplicity, cost reduction and potentially higher efficiency.”

Having proven the concept of an integrated, solar-charged battery, Jin and Li are already working on improvements. One would be to match the solar cell’s voltage to the chemistry of the electrolyte, minimizing losses as energy is converted and stored.

The aqueous electrolyte used in the current study contains organic molecules but no expensive rare metals, which raise costs in many batteries. Jin and Li are also searching for electrolytes with larger voltage differential, which currently limits energy storage capacity.

A system that both creates and stores electricity will be judged by cost, efficiency and energy storage density, Jin says. “It’s not just about the efficiency of converting sunlight into electricity, but also about how much energy you can efficiently store in the device.”

As solar energy use grows, the storage problem becomes more acute. “People say the solar electricity capacity cannot exceed about 20 percent of overall grid capacity, because of supply shortages at night or during cloudy weather,” Jin says. “In some places, further solar installations may have to wait until better storage is available.”

Courtesy: https://www.sciencedaily.com/

Brilliant Harvest — Artistic Florida Solar Installer & Tesla Powerwall Installer

By: Cynthia Shahan

I met Bill Johnson, founder of Brilliant Harvest, at the EcoFriendlyFloridaFest and then spoke with him again at National Drive Electric Day a few weeks ago. He is knowledgeable, easygoing, and up to date on all things solar. He offers pleasant passion for renewable energy as a provider who knows his work both technically and creatively.

As the CEO of Brilliant Harvest and as an EV enthusiast, Bill was keen to become a Tesla contractor. “Getting certified as a Tesla installer is a testament to the quality of our work,” Bill told me.

The hanging panels are partially see-through. The light is transmitted through the panel. Imagine what filtered sunlight creates — a wonderful pattern of sun and shade.

The hanging panels are partially see-through. The light is transmitted through the panel. Imagine what filtered sunlight creates — a wonderful pattern of sun and shade.

Brilliant Harvest in not a cookie-cutter solar company. Bill and his team work with clients to deliver solutions that fit the needs of each individual’s solar designs. A lovely array of solar accomplishments mounted on the wall of the Brilliant Harvest office feature dynamic photographs. Bill pointed out a project with the solar panels integrated into the structure, thus providing shade as well as generating electricity. The solar panels create walkways among sunspots mixed with shade. The thoughtful aesthetics combine the best of nature, art, and technology.

“This project won [Honor Award for Sustainable Design from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean]. This is a great example of addressing what the individuals may want. They wanted something that was going to provide shade for the backyard and have some filtered sunlight, that moves throughout the day. We were able to do this lumosolar array — it really worked out perfectly and delivered a solution that exceeded their expectations. It certainly enhances the look and feel of the building itself.”

Honor Award for Sustainable Design from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, with an artistic solar panel installation by Brilliant Harvest.

Honor Award for Sustainable Design from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, with an artistic solar panel installation by Brilliant Harvest.

I drove by to experience the passerby’s view of the house.

The old McClellan Park neighborhood is picturesque on its own. The house swept up the AIA award for a variety of reasons, rising above others for technological and artistic reasons among the entire Florida–Caribbean region. I delighted in the patterns of sun and shade due to the solar panels blending with the leaves and branches of the trees. The panels transmit a filtered sunlight down through the panel.

Another photograph in the office is a display from South St. Petersburg over a large air-conditioned structure. It is a >100,000-watt system, with the panels on the wing of a self-storage facility producing more energy than it consumes. Sending energy back to the main building offsets energy consumption of the main building and cuts energy bills drastically.

Solar Work and Photograph from Brilliant Harvest

Solar Work and Photograph from Brilliant Harvest

As noted in the title, Brilliant Harvest recently landed a deal with Tesla to become one of its certified residential and commercial Powerwall installers. “The Powerwall is a Tesla home battery system that turns your home’s solar panels into an all day resource — increasing self consumption of solar — while offering back-up in the event of outage.” Typically, if solar panels produce more power than a home needs, the excess goes back to the grid. The Powerwall instead enables a homeowner to capture and store excess solar power produced during the day for use at night.

Bill notes that problems with solar policies (in Florida) are improving, but are far from over. As I recently wrote, 73% of Florida voters voted “Yes” in August for pro-solar legislation. However,Amendment 1 needs a “No” vote in November.

Courtesy: https://cleantechnica.com/

Chemists Find Key to Manufacturing More Efficient Solar Cells

A new class of solar cells. Credit: Nicoletta Barolini

A new class of solar cells. Credit: Nicoletta Barolini

In a discovery that could have profound implications for future energy policy, Columbia scientists have demonstrated it is possible to manufacture solar cells that are far more efficient than existing silicon energy cells by using a new kind of material, a development that could help reduce fossil fuel consumption.

The team, led by Xiaoyang Zhu, a professor of Chemistry at Columbia University, focused its efforts on a new class of solar cell ingredients known as Hybrid Organic Inorganic Perovskites (HOIPs). Their results, reported in the prestigious journal Science, also explain why these new materials are so much more efficient than traditional solar cells—solving a mystery that will likely prompt scientists and engineers to begin inventing new solar materials with similar properties in the years ahead.

“The need for renewable energy has motivated extensive research into solar cell technologies that are economically competitive with burning fossil fuel,” Zhu says. “Among the materials being explored for next generation solar cells, HOIPs have emerged a superstar. Until now no one has been able to explain why they work so well, and how much better we might make them. We now know it’s possible to make HOIP-based solar cells even more efficient than anyone thought possible.”

Solar cells are what turn sunlight into electricity. Also known as photovoltaic cells, these semiconductors are most frequently made from thin layers of silicon that transmit energy across its structure, turning it into DC current.

Silicon panels, which currently dominate the market for solar panels, must have a purity of 99.999 percent and are notoriously fragile and expensive to manufacture. Even a microscopic defect—such as misplaced, missing or extra ions—in this crystalline structure can exert a powerful pull on the charges the cells generate when they absorb sunlight, dissipating those charges before they can be transformed into electrical current.

In 2009, Japanese scientists demonstrated it was possible to build solar cells out of HOIPs Read more »

First Utility-Scale Tesla Battery Being Installed in Europe

By: Sam Pothercary

The Tesla Powerpack is the company’s large-scale storage offering that is specifically designed to work with solar PV sites, whether they be utility-scale or commercial in size, as it can be scaled to space, power and energy requirements. Read more: http://www.pv-magazine.com/news/details/beitrag/first-utility-scale-tesla-battery-being-installed-in-europe_100026216/#ixzz4KzV6aBRB

The Tesla Powerpack is the company’s large-scale storage offering that is specifically designed to work with solar PV sites, whether they be utility-scale or commercial in size, as it can be scaled to space, power and energy requirements.


Tesla’s utility and business energy storage solution, the Powerpack, is being installed by U.K. developer Camborne Energy Storage alongside a PV plant in Somerset, making it the first large-scale Tesla storage unit to be installed in Europe.

As energy storage solutions become more in vogue in is little surprise to see big global brands such as Tesla muscling in on the industry. This landmark event is just the latest move that Tesla has made in various energy storage markets around the world, as the company looks to become one of the top global providers of residential- and utility-scale storage solutions.

The Tesla Powerpack is the company’s large-scale storage offering that is specifically designed to work with solar PV sites, whether they be utility-scale or commercial in size, as it can be scaled to space, power and energy requirements.

U.K.-based developer Camborne Energy Storage is working with EPC Poweri services for the installation, that is being completed at a ground-mounted solar PV site in Somerset. Camborne hopes that this solution will prove successful, as it looks to deploy battery storage across the U.K.

“The development of Tesla’s first European grid-tied system is an exciting step forward for Camborne and Tesla in terms of our respective storage strategies,” commented Managing Director of Camborne Dan Taylor. “The project is another success for storage development in the U.K. and being co-located with a renewable generation site, should offer significant benefits to all stakeholders.”

Incorporating such energy storage units is moving the energy system in the right direction, as it will help it improve efficiency and allow it to more easily incorporate renewable energy sources. Tesla has already set its stall out as a major player in the energy storage market, and installed its first residential offering to a home PV array earlier in the year.

The first Tesla Powerwall was installed in the UK in March at a home in Essex. It was a 7.2 kW Tesla Powerwall that was connected to a 4.5 kW rooftop PV array.

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