Philippines to Save P10 B Yearly on Shift to Renewable Energy

By: Danessa Rivera

The Philippines stands to save over P10 billion a year if it replaces diesel generation in off-grid areas with renewables, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) and Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) said. File

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines stands to save over P10 billion a year if it replaces diesel generation in off-grid areas with renewables, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) and Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) said.

A report done by IEEFA titled “Electricity-Sector Opportunities in the Philippines: The Case for Wind- and Solar-Powered Small Island Grids­” calls for prudent reforms that will require electric cooperatives and private distribution utilities alike to optimize procurement, to help level the playing field for renewable power generators and reduce taxpayer costs by phasing out subsidies for imported diesel fuel.

“Small islands in the Philippines are placed perfectly to benefit from dramatically reduced costs of renewable energy. Simple reforms can pave the way for cleaner, cheaper and more reliable energy for more than 800,000 of the poorest Filipinos,” IEEFA analyst Sara Jane Ahmed said.

Under the current system, there are no incentives for electric cooperatives to procure cheaper sources and reduce costs.

“The Department of Energy should direct the National Power Corp.’s Small Power Utilities Group to speed up the hybridization of its plants and install as much renewable energy-powered plants in new sites identified for electrification,” Ahmed said.

“Moreover, the National Electrification Administration should direct electric cooperatives to be technology-neutral in the procurement of power,” she added.

According to the report, investment opportunities in small island renewables are worth at least $1 billion to private developers in the country.

At present, the country’s small islands are served by mini-grids powered by generators fueled by imported diesel and bunker oil. As a result of grid instability, inadequate generation capacity and lack of subsidized fuel, these islands suffer from blackouts and unplanned power outages.

Power for the islands costs over P60 billion in subsidies despite only accounting for six percent of total energy demand and 0.49 percent of total generation, based on the report.

Moreover, not all islands have 24/7 electricity service even with expensive subsidies. Only 22 of 233 areas in question have 24/7 electricity, with over 70 percent having less than eight hours per day of electricity.

“Currently, Philippine taxpayers are footing a huge bill by subsidizing expensive imported diesel to provide dirty and unreliable power for the small islands,” Ahmed said.

With solar-powered electricity costs falling by 99 percent since 1976 and 90 percent since 2009, and with the cost of wind-powered generation declining by 50 percent since 2009, the economics of renewable energy make it particularly suitable for small islands, which are unable to link to mainland electricity grids, the ICSC said.



Solar-Powered Emergency Phones at Cycling Track

RTA launches solar-powered SOS telephones along Seih Al Salam Cycling Track. Credit: RTA

Dubai: Cyclists can now use solar-powered telephones installed at the Seih Al Salam cycling track in case of emergencies, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announced on Sunday.

RTA in association with Dubai Police and Etisalat has installed 30 phones along the 78 kilometre track located in Al Qudra.

The phones are located along the track spaced out at every few kilometres and can be identified by its bright orange colour during day time and a glow of light makes it visible at night.

“RTA’s specialised team has installed 30 solar-powered SOS telephones along the cycling track at Seih Al Salam in cooperation with Dubai Police, and Etisalat,” said Nabeel Yousef Al Ali, Director of RTA’s Administrative Services.

He said the device will provide enhanced safety and security to cyclist during an emergency as it is capable of working in all weather conditions.

“This service aims to enhance safety and security in the Emirate, and offers assistance to cyclists especially during emergency cases. The service is also intended to enhance RTA’s strategic goal of ‘Asset’ Sustainability’ by using renewable energy sources such as solar-powered telephones and operate them in a sustainable manner with minimal power consumption. These devices operate efficiently in different weather conditions at temperatures ranging from 0 to 70 degrees Celsius,” he added.




These Window Blinds Can Charge Your Devices Using Solar Power

By: Kerrisa Wilson

Photo: SolarGaps

There’s a new type of window blinds that can do more than just provide shade. Smart solar blinds called SolarGaps, use solar power to charge your devices, while also saving you money on your electricity bill.

Launched on crowdfunding site Kickstarter this week, SolarGaps can be installed over a window at home or in the office to maximize solar power consumption. Designed by an LA-based team, the traditionally styled smart blinds automatically adjust to the angle of the sun to generate solar electricity.

The smart blinds are ideal for renters who can’t easily reap the benefits of renewable energy by installing solar panels on their roof. SolarGaps are covered with photovoltaic modules and can produce up to 100 to 150 watts of energy per 10 square feet of a window — enough to power three MacBooks.

Photo: SolarGaps

SolarGaps includes a dock that allows users to charge and power their devices with the generated energy. If extra energy is collected from the smart blinds, it can be stored by battery and used for later consumption. By using SolarGaps, the company claims users can save up to 70 percent on their electricity bills.

The smart blinds aren’t just a cool piece of solar power tech, they actually do provide shade and could also reduce air conditioning costs by 40 percent.

With the SolarGaps app, users can control their blinds from anywhere in the world. Users can lower or raise the blinds, change the angle and view how much energy is being generated. The app also provides weather forecasts and updates so users can maximize solar power consumption.

SolarGaps comes with DIY instructions for installation. It’s recommended the blinds are mounted outside, over a window, because if installed inside, less power is generated. So far, SolarGaps has raised $15,570 USD on Kickstarter and has a month left in its campaign. The first shipment of SolarGaps is anticipated for December 2017.



Spray On and Printable: What’s Next For The Solar Panel Market?

A researcher works with hybrid perovskite solar cells at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Photograph: Dennis Schroeder/NREL

Spray on, printable and other new thin film technology looks set to provide a major boost to the global solar market.

Currently being developed by researchers and a small number of companies, the new film materials offer the potential of lighter and cheaper manufacturing.

With big names including Panasonic, Fujifilm, Statoil ASA and Legal & General Capital now investing in the technology, energy experts expect the first panels to be on sale within five to 10 years.

“This field is moving so rapidly that I’m sure in a few years you will start seeing products you can actually hold in your hand,” says Dr Jao van de Lagemaat from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado.

The most promising of the new film technologies is perovskite cells, named after the 19th century Russian mineralogist Lev Perovski.

Unlike silicon-based photovoltaic (PV) cells, perovskite cells are soluble in a variety of solvents so can be easily sprayed on to a surface, similar to inks or paints. That potentially makes the cells much cheaper to manufacture and means that the light-gathering film can be attached to flexible materials, opening up a range of new applications.

Solutions of all-inorganic perovskite quantum dots, showing photoluminescence when illuminated with UV light. Photograph: Dennis Schroeder/NREL

“You could, in a factory, print these solar cells using a similar process as is used for printing newspapers,” says Van de Lagemaat. “Your solar panels would come out as a roll at the end.”

What has really got people excited about perovskites though is the rapid increase in efficiency that materials scientists have achieved with them in the lab. In seven years they have gone from converting 3.8% of the light that falls on them into electricity, to more than 20%.

That figure might not sound hugely impressive but consider that traditional silicon-based cells, with their decades of research behind them, only achieve 24% or 25% efficiency in the lab and around 18% in real-world applications. The theoretical maximum is around 33% energy conversion.

Although recently touting it as a “gamechanger” for the solar market, Prof Yang Yang at the department of materials science and engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles remains cautious: “We have to face reality. To put them on the rooftop and the power plant requires a significant improvement in the material.”

One problem is connected with the material’s inherent advantage – their solubility. That, combined with heat sensitivity, means the cells are not as stable as silicon PV. Instead of lasting for 25 years or more they degrade over a period of months or a few years. That might not matter for short-lived disposable products such as cellphones, but would exclude the technology from the large-scale solar farm market, for example.

Researchers are working to improve the material’s inherent stability or come up with coatings that would encapsulate the perovskite, but that may add cost.

Another issue is disposal. Perovskites typically contain small amounts of lead – not enough to prevent their development (the lead in a single car battery is apparently enough for hundreds of square metres of perovskite solar cells), but enough to make the search for non-toxic alternatives an active line of research.

Oxford PV, a spin-off from researchers at Oxford University, announced two large investments (£8.1m and £8.7m) in late 2016 from investors including Statoil Energy Ventures and Legal & General Capital. The company has also announced it is partnering with an unnamed major global solar manufacturer and intends to bring a product to market by the end of next year.

Aside from perovskites, organic PV can also be printed as a thin film on to a flexible substrate. In this case though the light-activated layer, or layers, are made up of conducting organic materials, usually polymers.

Like perovskites, organic PV has stability issues and, at around 13%, the efficiencies that scientists have achieved in the lab are not as good. But it does have other advantages. It does not contain toxic elements, for example, and can be engineered to be transparent and coloured. That means it could potentially be retrofitted to buildings as a tinted window coating.

Another new approach is so-called quantum dots, which are semiconducting particles that can be coated on to a surface. The technology is further from commercialisation but theoretical work from Van de Lagemaat’s team suggests that, in combination with perovskites, it may be possible to manufacture a panel that is 30% efficient.

Leonie Greene, head of external affairs at the UK’s Solar Trade Association, believes the industry in general is adopting a wait-and-see posture. “There are lots of areas of research and we wait to see which can make it out of the lab into commercialisation,” she says.

“We shouldn’t forget,” she adds, “that commercially available solar, where conversion efficiencies of over 20% are commonly available, are already providing power cheaper than other sources of power in many parts of the world.”



Warren Buffett Says He’s Got a ‘Big Appetite’ For a Solar or Wind Project

Photo by Bloomberg

By: Evelyn Chung

Warren Buffett is looking for investment opportunities in renewable energy.

“We have got a big appetite for wind or solar,” Buffett said Saturday at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholders meeting.

“If someone walks in with a solar project tomorrow and it takes a billion dollars or three billion dollars, we’re ready to do it,” he said. “The more there is the better.”

Buffett said Berkshire is in a good position to compete with electric utilties companies since the conglomerate can take better advantage of tax incentives for alternative energy projects.

Berkshire Hathaway Energy already sells wind-generated electricity in Iowa. In a March presentation, the firm said captial expenditure forecasts for the next two years have increased $4.6 billion from the prior year, primarily due to wind and solar energy projects.

Earlier during Saturday’s shareholder meeting, Buffett said he expects coal to decline as a percentage of railroad revenues. “If you’re tied to coal, then you’ve got problems,” he said.

Berkshire also owns the Burlington Northern railroad company. Together with Berkshire Hathaway Energy, the two units accounted for a third of Berkshire’s after-tax operating earnings in 2016, according to the latest shareholder letter.