Japan is 2 Years Away From a Solar Power Revolution

Cheap filmlike panels will be able to attach themselves to cars and walls

By: Takuro Kusashio

With an ability to fit the contours of the surfaces they are applied to, perovskite solar cells will bring new opportunities to harvest power from the sun. (Photo courtesy of University of Tokyo)

TOKYO — A new type of solar cell that is thin like plastic film and cheap to produce is expected to hit the market within the next two years. The perovskite solar cell is expected to become a standard along with the silicon solar cells that are commonly used today.

Panasonic and Sekisui Chemical have developed technology to produce bigger and more durable solar cells than conventional ones. The result is a solar cell that can be attached to walls and curved surfaces. Conventional solar cells lack this usability.

The coming cells are already raising hopes that society can make greater use of the sun for its energy needs.

The cells’ development was announced in 2009 by professor Tsutomu Miyasaka at Toin University of Yokohama. The invention has since brought speculation that Miyasaka could be in the running for a Nobel Prize.

Silicon solar cells are thick and heavy. Their production process is complex and costly. Perovskite solar cells are coated with inklike material containing lead and can be combined with objects such as soft sheet metal. Production costs are expected to be half those of silicon cells.

Because they are thin, light and bendable, perovskite solar cells can be used in places conventional solar cells cannot, including in roofing materials, or on columns and car exteriors.

Panasonic has developed a 20cm by 20cm perovskite solar cell. Panels made of these cells can be joined together to create sheets large enough for commercial uses. The company hopes to increase the cells’ power generation efficiency to 20%; they are now slightly more than halfway there.

Silicon solar cells, meanwhile, convert about 25% of the sun’s energy that hits them.

Sekisui Chemical has coated the power generation part of its perovskite cell with film so as to prevent it from deteriorating. The cell will be made to last for about 10 years and weigh about 20% of conventional silicon cells, which can be used for 20 years.

Since the new type of cell is still not as durable as conventional cells, it cannot be adopted by large-scale solar farms. But it is expected to find its way into niche markets that conventional solar cells do not fit into. The new technology will help large buildings and commercial facilities cheaply supply their own electricity.

In developing the cells, Panasonic and Sekisui Chemical received help from the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), which is affiliated with Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Solar power generation has grown significantly in Japan thanks to a feed-in tariff program introduced in 2012. According to preliminary data by the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, Japan harvested 51 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity from the sun in fiscal 2016, 15 times more than in fiscal 2010, when 3.5 billion kwh was produced.

But Japanese solar cell makers are losing market share to Chinese rivals that offer lower-priced alternatives.

South Korea, Switzerland, the U.K. and other economies are also rushing to develop perovskite solar cells. But Japan is a step ahead, and the nation’s manufacturing prowess is expected to give the domestic industry an edge.

The Japanese government hopes the share of solar energy in the country’s power generation mix will rise to around 7% by 2030. Meanwhile, NEDO wants the cost of solar power generation to fall to 7 yen (nearly 7 cents) from around 20 yen per kilowatt-hour.

Courtesy: https://asia.nikkei.com/

Sacramento Airport Installs SMA Inverters Harness Solar Energy

Sacramento International Airport (SMF) has installed a photovoltaic (PV) system to harness solar energy in an effort to advance its sustainability.

Solar technology company SMA has provided the photovoltaics to the US airport.

The 7.9 MW project, using SMA’s inverters, has been implemented across a 15-acre land parcel near the airport’s economy parking lot, as well as a 20-acre location north of the runway.

The solar power facility uses two Sunny Central 2200-US inverters, which are integrated with a medium-voltage block, in addition to three Sunny Central 800 CP-US inverters.

SMA America general manager Jim Crossen said: “We are pleased to partner with Borrego Solar to bring renewable energy to the Sacramento International Airport, which holds special meaning because our US headquarters is located in the Sacramento region.

“With Sunny Central inverters delivering reliable, robust performance, we are confident that the airport—and those who utilise it—will see the benefits of solar energy.”

The project was constructed by Borrego Solar with financing from energy company NRG, which will own and operate the facility. Under a power purchase agreement (PPA) signed for a period of 25 years, NRG will sell electricity to the airport.

Borrego Solar is a commercial solar company and is specialised in the design and construction of solar and energy storage projects.

The system will compensate 30% of SMF’s electricity use, providing cost savings of up to $850,000 annually over the agreement period.

Borrego Solar Systems president Aaron Hall said: “SMA is a valuable partner, and we were glad to utilise the company’s exceptional technology and local expertise for this PV system.

“With the Sunny Central’s reliable performance and power production, we are confident the airport will see great savings with its solar investment.”

The airport processed 10.9 million passengers in 2017.

Courtesy: https://www.airport-technology.com/

Add Cow Manure to Your List of Renewable Energy Sources

By: Jim Efstathiou Jr.

The average Holstein cow produces over 100 pounds of manure a day. It’s a lot of poop. It’s also a lot of potential power.

On some farms, that energy is already being collected: The manure’s tossed into an anaerobic digester system where gas concentrates and then has to be stripped of water, carbon dioxide and other elements before being mixed with traditional natural gas and used for heat.

David Simakov, assistant professor of chemical engineering at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, is working to make that process more efficient. He and his colleagues are researching ways to boost the energy content of this raw biogas with a refining process that uses hydrogen in a chemical reaction to convert carbon dioxide into methane. This conversation doubles the production rate of the older separation techniques, producing so much renewable natural gas that the volume could be stored and eventually used as a natural battery. As a bonus, the new method results in lower carbon dioxide emissions.

“We’re not inventing any chemical reaction or process,” said Simakov, who co-authored a paper on biogas published in January in the International Journal of Energy Research, said in an interview. It’s just “a bit of engineering” to lower the cost of the refining, he said.

A truck dumps food waste into a pit that feeds an anaerobic digester at a dairy farm in Plymouth, Indiana. This family-run farm invested in a biogas recovery system that transforms cow manure and other waste into electricity. Photographer: Mira Oberman/AFP via Getty Images

Ironically, producing the hydrogen needed for the chemical reaction takes a lot of electricity and constitutes the most expensive input in the whole process. The key to making it economically viable? Renewable power from solar, wind or hydroelectric sources.

Methanation, as the process is called, can be viewed as a way to improve the performance of solar or wind power, according to Patrick Serfass, executive director of the American Biogas Council. Wind and solar power is intermittent and must be stored for use at times when there is no sun or wind. Rather than storing that power in batteries, it can be used to create renewable natural gas that can be utilized during those energy gaps. The process can “bridge the variability of wind and solar with the reliability of energy from biogas systems,” Serfass said.

Manure, you see, is just a smelly natural battery.

Simakov’s research is still three to five years from producing renewable natural gas economically, but the eventual payoff is promising. The U.S. has the potential to produce enough raw biogas to power 7.5 million homes and reduce emissions that contribute to global warming by equivalent of as many as 15.4 million vehicles, according to the biogas council.

Overall, more than 2,200 sites in the U.S. produce biogas, with the potential to add 13,500, according to the biogas council. Europe has more than 10,000 operating digesters, and some communities are already essentially fossil fuel-free because of them.

“The potential is very big because, once we have this technology for converting animal waste, we can apply it at other places, such as landfill sites,” Simakov said.

Courtesy: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/

Dubai’s First Smart Park Boasts E-Charging Bays, Solar Panels

Civic body has experimented with a smart control panel for outdoor lighting systems and to increase efficiency of lighting systems

A parking lot at Dubai’s Al Barsha South Park where solar panels are used as roofing material for the park. Credit Google maps/ S.Jan

Dubai: The first smart park with electric car charging stations and parking lots that can harness solar energy has come up in Dubai’s Al Barsha South.

Dubai Municipality’s General Projects Department has completed the construction of Al Barsha South Park, which is considered to be the first smart park in Dubai that has applied modern sustainable technologies, the civic body said in a press release.

Marwan Al Mohammad, director of General Projects Department, said the project has been completed at a cost of Dh15 million and is spread over an area of seven hectares.

Fatima Al Muhairi, head of Horticulture and Landscaping Projects, told Gulf News it is the first neighbourhood park in Dubai with electric car charging stations in the parking lot.

Smart Park in Al Barsha SouthImage Credit: COURTESY Dubai Muncipality

More EV Charging Stations Planned

“Dubai Municipality has a plan to provide electric car charging stations in all the upcoming neighbourhood parks with parking lots. This is the first one to implement it.”

The entry is free to neighbourhood parks in Dubai’s residential areas.

Al Muhairi said the smart park has 150 shaded parking spaces installed with solar panels, which have an electricity production capacity of more than 260 MW/hour per year.

Robotic Cleaning System

The official confirmed that, for the first time in the Dubai, the solar power facility that is connected to the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) network has been provided with a robotic self-cleaning system, which increases the efficiency of power generation.

“The energy generated from these panels is used in the operation of the lighting systems in the park, the irrigation system and electrical loads in the service buildings in the park,” she stated.

For the first time, she said, Dubai Municipality has experimented with a smart control panel for the outdoor lighting systems of the park, adding a new look to the park, increasing the efficiency of lighting systems and contributing to the safety of the park visitors.

Al Muhairi said the main energy distribution panel has been set up underground.

“We have implemented the green building regulations under the Al Sa’fat evaluation system of the municipality in this park.”

The project was constructed as part of the strategy of Dubai Municipality to provide the residential areas of the city with parks to keep up with the urban expansion in the emirate, said Al Mohammad.

“The park was designed taking into consideration all the standards of sustainability and quality that are the basis of the design of parks, and the category of the People of Determination in terms of choosing the appropriate games and ease of movement as well as the safety factor,” he said.

The main entrance of the park includes a service building, which has toilets for men, women and People of Determination.

The areas that are linked by pedestrian paths of various types have shaded wooden seating and sign boards. Visitors and fitness enthusiasts can use the 800-metre jogging track around the park, which is also equipped with a variety of fitness equipment, Al Mohammad said.

A bicycle track, two children’s games areas and a fenced family area are among the other facilities provided in the park.

Courtesy: http://gulfnews.com/

Researchers Figured Out How to Generate Power From Falling Raindrops

By: Jeremy Berke

An employee walks between rows of solar panels at a solar power plant in China. Thomson Reuters


  • Solar panels are generally useless in rainy weather. 
  • But researchers in China have found an ingenious solution: They’ve developed solar panels that can harness the motion of raindrops for energy.
  • It could revolutionize the solar industry.

One of the biggest problems plaguing the widespread adoption of solar power is, quite simply, rainy weather.

Solar panels are designed to convert sunlight into electricity. But when it’s cloudy or rainy, they’re rendered useless. There are batteries, like the Tesla Powerwall, designed to store electricity for those cloudy days. But the technology isn’t quite effective or cheap enough to make using solar power worth it in regions that don’t receive a lot of sunlight.

A group of researchers from Soochow University in China has come up with a promising solution to that problem: they’ve developed solar panels that can generate power from raindrops.

Their research, published last month in the journal ACS Nano, details how technology known as a triboelectric nanogenerator, or TENG, could get added to a solar panel to capture energy from the motion of raindrops that hit it.

Nanogenerators, in simple terms, are devices that convert mechanical energy, or movement, into usable electricity. The TENG would do that on a very small scale for raindrops.

A schematic the researchers used to demonstrate a raindrop-harnessing solar panel. ACS Nano

The researchers behind the new study developed a hybrid solar panel that incorporated the TENG technology yet was still lightweight and cheap enough to mount on roofs. To accomplish this, they experimented with different transparent plastics, or polymers, that form a layer between the TENG layer and the solar cells on a panel. The layers were connected, but could function independently — making it possible for the solar panel to generate electricity in a range of weather conditions.

If the researchers can figure out how to bring down the cost of production of such a product, the technology could potentially revolutionize how solar panels are used. It would make solar power an efficient clean-energy solution even in less sunny areas that aren’t currently considered ideal for solar-energy collection.

Solar power, despite its weather-related challenges, is quickly becoming one of the fastest-growing energy sources worldwide. The price for installing commercial solar panels — those used by companies like Apple, Walmart, and Amazon — has fallen by over 58% since 2012, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The International Energy Agency predicts that renewable energy will comprise 40% of global power generation by 2040. In the next five years, the share of electricity generated by renewables worldwide is set to grow faster than any other source.

Courtesy: http://uk.businessinsider.com/