Tiny Dents In Solar Cells Could Make Them More Efficient Than Ever

By: Luke Dormehl

For their demonstration, the Warwick researchers used conductive tips to force semiconductors into a device called a nano-indenter, which deformed the individual crystals. By making the semiconductors non-symmetrical, they were able to create something called the “bulk photovoltaic effect,” another way to collect charge. Combining these two approaches resulted in improved efficiency of solar cells and the chance to generate more electrical energy from sunlight.

“This flexo-photovoltaic effect is a new effect,” Marin Alexe, a professor in the Department of Physics at Warwick, told Digital Trends. “It shows that by engineering the strain applied, any semiconductor can be transformed in a photovoltaic generator without a need [for] chemical doping or any other processing. We haven’t yet evaluated in detail how effective is this effect. But in principle there is nothing to prevent combining the two effects, the classical harvesting using p-n junctions and the present flexo-PV effect.”

So what’s next for the research? And, more importantly, when will be able to lay our hands on these more efficient solar cells? “Next, we would like to understand the microscopic mechanism of this intriguing bulk photovoltaic effect, which stays as the basis of the flexo-PV effect,” Alexe continued. “Then we will look to quantify the gain and efficiency at both macro and nano-scale.”

Alexe acknowledged that this could be the start of a “long and painful optimization and engineering process.” However, the team has filed a patent application to lay claim to their work. Now they just need to find some industrial partners to further develop their ideas.

Courtesy: https://www.digitaltrends.com/

Government Initiative Encouraging Consumers To Save Energy

LED light bulbs are expensive, but they might be the best buy over the long run.

A government initiative featuring instant rebates on energy efficient lights and devices is encouraging consumers to save energy.

A selection of products from LED lights to LED switches and smart extension cords are eligible for instant rebates through the Save Energy Deal Days. The promotion, which started on April 6th and runs until May 6th, is an incentive for people to ditch their incandescent and fluorescent lights for more energy efficient alternatives. Unlike previous campaigns, Deal Days does not require customers to print and download coupons – discounts are applied instantly at the register on eligible products.

For home owners like Brian Houle the switch was an easy choice.

“With the cost of hydro these days, it’s important to try and save where you can so we were automatically thinking LED lights,” he said. “We only have three more in the house to switch over.”

And contractors like Paul Gratton of Fresh Reno are also noticing more and more clients asking for energy efficient upgrades.

“Probably in the last two years there has been a definite shift,” he said. “Before that, I think, people were just concerned about what the lights were going to look like and maybe more about the cost. But certainly in the last two years there have been more questions about what is available in LED and can we put LED, how many places can we put LED.”

Though discounts seem small, Gratton said a difference of even one dollar can have a significant impact on the overall cost of a renovation.

“We’ve done basements where there are 45 pot lights, so that could be a massive saving,” he said.

There are more than 1,300 retailers across Ontario participating in Deal Days.

David Clarke, the store manager at the Canadian Tire on Ogilvie Road, said business has been busier than usual over the last two weeks.

“They go through the register and get their rebate and then the sale price on top of that,” he said. “It’s simple.”

The IESO, the Crown Corporation that runs the program, said more than 12 million energy efficient products were purchased during the Fall Deal Days. This new wave campaign will run twice a year, once in the Fall and once in the Spring.

Courtesy: https://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/

Target Remains the Largest Adopter of On-Site Corporate Solar Power

The company added 43 MW last year, placing it well ahead of Walmart and Prologis. Overall installations at 4,000 companies tracked by SEIA grew slightly to 326 MW last year.

 

Image: Target

There are no major surprises in the 6th edition of Solar Means Business, Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) annual report on corporate adoption at the top U.S. companies. The top three companies for cumulative on-site solar installations remained the same, with Target leading Walmart and real estate company Prologis.

However, within these three the differences are stark. Target added 43 MW of solar to its facilities last year, and has now installed solar on 436 of its roughly 1,800 buildings, with a combined capacity of 203.5 MW. Meanwhile, progress at Walmart was barely noticeable, while Prologis added a respectable 12 MW, to bring it to 120 MW.

But the metric of capacity added does not tell the whole story. Swedish retailer IKEA has fewer U.S. facilities to put solar on than either Microsoft or Target, but by the end of 2017 had installed PV systems on 90% of them. None of the other 4,000 companies tracked by Solar Means Business have even reached 40%, although GGP, Johnson & Johnson and General Motors have put solar at more than 30% of their facilities.

Some companies are moving more quickly than others. Real estate investment trust GGP is new to the top rankings; however in 2017 the company installed more than 19 MW of solar, and now has solar on nearly 40% of the properties it owns – the second-highest portion after IKEA.

It is important to note that Solar Means Business tracks only on-site solar, and the large majority of this is rooftop installations. It does not track the power purchase agreements with off-site solar and wind projects that have been extremely popular with technology giants including Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft, which recently signed power supply contracts for 315 MW of solar in Virginia to power its data centers.

Some of these firms are also installing solar at their facilities, and in 2017 Apple and Facebook added the 4th and 5th largest volume of solar of the 4,000 companies tracked by Solar Means Business.

Overall, while these 4,000 large and prominent companies are important social indicators, they are becoming a smaller portion of the overall commercial and industrial (C&I) solar landscape. In 2017 these companies collectively installed over 300 MW of solar, however the total “nonresidential” market in the United States, including community solar and solar at schools, reached more than 2 GW for the first time.

Courtesy: https://pv-magazine-usa.com

More Va. Schools Benefiting From Clean Renewable Energy

By: Kathy Stewart

Dominion Energy’s “Solar for Students” now includes Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, Virginia. The school’s ribbon-cutting for its new solar panel took place on Monday, March 19, 2018. (Photo credit: Chuck Penn/Dominion)

WASHINGTON — It’s like a giant science experiment that teaches students how solar energy works.

Dominion Energy’s “Solar for Students” program was introduced three years ago at four Virginia schools, including T. Clay Wood Elementary School in Prince William County. With the success of the program, it has now expanded to more schools, including Kenmore Middle School in Arlington.

The hands-on educational program provides each school with a large solar panel, as well as classroom materials and training for teachers.

“We thought it was a great opportunity to teach young people about solar and so we created the ‘Solar for Students’ program,” said Chuck Penn with Dominion.

The students can watch the displays in their classrooms that show real-time data on the electricity that’s being generated from their school’s solar panel.

Penn said the importance of this program is to educate the next generation about clean, renewable energy: “So they can continue to be more aware of their environment and continue the trend of cleaning up our environment.”

He said that Kenmore Middle School held a ribbon-cutting for the school’s new solar panel in March. And last week, Penn said other educational places received their solar panels, including Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center in Charlottesville; Deer Park Elementary School in Newport News; Hampton High School in Hampton; the MathScience Innovation Center; and the Children’s Museum of Richmond.

During the 2018-2019 school year, eight schools in southwest Virginia will be included in the program.

The four schools that were part of the pilot program in 2015, besides T. Clay Wood Elementary School in Prince William County, include Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School in Fishersville; Goochland High School in Goochland; and Landstown High School in Virginia Beach.

Courtesy: https://wtop.com/virginia

Renewable Energy Meets 100% Of Portugal’s March Electricity Needs

 By: Joshua S Hill

According to new numbers published earlier this month, Portugal’s renewable energy production in March exceeded the country’s electricity consumption for the month, a record not seen in forty years.

Earlier this month the Portuguese Renewable Energy Association, APREN, alongside ZERO, Portugal’s Sustainable Earth System Association, highlighted data from Redes Energéticas Nacionais (REN), the country’s transmission system operator (TSO), that showed electricity produced from renewable energy sources in March exceeded the consumption of mainland Portugal, reaching 4,467 gigawatt-hours (GWh) for the month, or 103.6% of consumption.

This does not mean that the country was consistently run on renewable energy during March — most countries do not rely so heavily on renewable energy that they presume they won’t need excess sources of electricity generation, or that renewable energy will generate consistently 100% of the time. Accordingly, thermal fossil fuel power plants and/or imports were required to complement the country’s electricity supply at times, but these periods were fully compensated by renewable energy generation in other times.

Specifically, therefore, Portugal’s supply of renewable energy accounted for a minimum daily share of 86% on March 7, and a maximum of 143% on March 11. Hydroelectricity and wind energy accounted for the lion’s share of renewable energy production, with 55% and 42% respectively.

Another bright point from March was the role renewable energy had in lowering the average daily wholesale market price for electricity, which came in at €39.75 per megawatt-hour (MWh), well down on the €43.94/MWh a year ago.

Courtesy: https://cleantechnica.com/