Apple Patents Solar Panels Integrated Into Flexible Touch Displays

by Darrell Etherington

Apple has a new patent that could pave the way for future solar-powered mobile devices, according to AppleInsider. The new intellectual property describes a method for embedding a solar array within a layer that includes touch sensors, and which can all be fit within a flexible display module, in order to save space in its ever-shrinking electronic devices.

The patent is a modified version of one granted to the company previously, which described the same thing but for touch-sensitive surfaces that didn’t include a display in their makeup. Instead, it described the system but for touch-sensitive surfaces only, giving it limited utility value in contemporary devices.

One version of the tech described in the patent would actually have the solar cells facing away from the touch sensor component (and/or display). This would work by routing light to the sensor through other means, including holes and ports that permit light to enter, and even fiber optic materials to reroute it from the front of the device within.

This is a key tech if Apple were ever genuinely interested in building a solar-powered iPhone or iPad. Given the output of solar-powered devices currently, and the immense power-requirements of mobile devices that feature high-quality displays, it seems very unlikely the company will introduce a fully solar-powered iOS gadget anytime soon, but this could also act as a supplemental tech that helps extend battery life rather than replace charging altogether.


Here comes the sun: Rooftop solar panels get jump-start in Illinois


A compromise measure in the Illinois Legislature would jump-start the market for solar panels on homeowners’ rooftops. Photo: Thinkstock

Call it Illinois’ welcome to SolarCity.

A compromise measure has surfaced in Springfield that’s aimed at jump-starting the market in Illinois for solar panels on homeowners’ rooftops, a much more common sight in states like Arizona and California. The new amendment to the bill, HB 2427, would require the Illinois Power Agency, which procures electricity on behalf of utility customers statewide, to buy up $30 million in electricity from clean sources, mainly solar installations.

The bill, supported both by environmental groups and by the state’s largest power generator, Chicago-based Exelon Corp., is a fallback alternative to an overhaul of Illinois’ clean energy law, which environmentalists say is broken because of changes in the state’s power market that have made it next to impossible to finance new renewable energy projects. That broader effort died earlier this month.


The compromise, authored by Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, could see Senate action as early as tomorrow. With no opposition from industry, environmentalists or consumer advocates, the measure is expected to pass and be sent to Gov. Pat Quinn, an ardent supporter of clean energy.

“We support this proposed legislation to spur more clean energy investment in Illinois,” Exelon said in a statement. The Environmental Protection Agency “soon will release new rules regulating greenhouse gases from power plants. It is anticipated that they will require each state to develop a comprehensive plan to maintain and expand clean energy resources like wind, nuclear, hydro and solar energy. We look forward to working with stakeholders on ways to maintain the state’s clean energy edge.”

The bill gives the IPA considerable discretion in how to distribute the money, which comes from a renewable-energy fund already paid into by power suppliers serving Illinois customers. But advocates hope the lion’s share goes to solar installations on rooftops.

“National solar companies have looked at Illinois with interest,” said Sarah Wochos, senior policy advocate at the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center, which has pushed for broader clean energy law reform but is supporting the compromise. “We hope this bill kick-starts that.”

It’s not just residential providers that are interested. Also seeing opportunity is Chicago-based SoCore Energy, which provides rooftop solar power to big retailers and other commercial clients.

“We are the largest player in this market,” SoCore President Pete Kadens emailed. “We have deep relationships with Walgreen, Target, Ikea, JC Penney and many others that we can leverage to create more jobs and more solar energy here in Illinois that anyone, given our territorial knowledge of the space and size. The incentives (in the bill) could shift our revenues that are now 96 percent outside of Illinois to a better number—something like 20 percent of our revenue could come from Illinois.”


Depending on how much of the $30 million the IPA allocates to solar panels on rooftops, the money could result in up to 5,000 such new installations on top of homes, advocates say.

Companies like San Mateo, Calif.-based SolarCity Corp., the leading solar installer in the country, and a host of smaller players have built businesses by persuading homeowners to lease their rooftops for solar panels. The panels help power those homes and also reduce homeowners’ electric bills by selling excess power into the grid. Princeton, N.J.-based power generation company NRG Energy Inc., one of Exelon’s rivals, recently purchased a solar installation firm, with an appetite for many more such deals.

The legislation will allow existing utility-scale solar projects in Illinois to participate in the procurement as well. Effectively, that would allow bidding by Exelon’s 10-megawatt solar farm on Chicago’s South Side, the largest urban solar project in the U.S.

Likewise, the IPA could set aside money for new utility-scale solar projects. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to use old industrial sites on the South Side for clean energy.

Under the bill, the IPA would have 90 days to write a plan for conducting the special procurement, which would be subject to approval by the Illinois Commerce Commission. The bids likely would take place early next year.


IKEA Gets Unsubsidized Rooftop Solar Power Plant In Italy

IKEA Gets Unsubsidized Rooftop Solar Power Plant In Italy (via Clean Technica)

When it comes to clean energy, I don’t think there’s a non-cleantech company that deserves more love than IKEA. IKEA is the clear leader in renewable energy by many relative terms (installed renewable energy per acre of rooftop, per $1 of revenue…

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The Beast solar-powered e-bike built for off-road adventure

By Nick Lavars


Several years in the making, the Beast features a solar-powered battery pack for eco-friendly off-road adventure

Since the release of its groundbreaking wireless Shadow Ebike in 2011, Canadian electric vehicle company Daymak has been toiling away looking to take its eco-friendly bike tech beyond the asphalt. The Beast is a product of around two years of development and, fitted with 8-inch thick tires and solar power battery pack, is equipped to power sun-fueled expeditions over the roughest of terrain.

Resembling something brawnier than a scooter yet not quite a chopper motorcycle, the Beast cuts something of an unusual figure. Inverted suspension forks hold the first of the 10-inch alloy rims and bear a 4,500 lumen LED headlight on the front. The alloy frame sits atop two 19.7-inch off-road tires, measuring 3.75 ft (1.1 m) from end to end, with a height of 6.3 ft (1.92 m) and weight of 55 kg (121 lb).

It features 15 W-hr solar panels which complement power from the grid by channeling energy to the 60-V 12-AH lithium battery with continuous trickle charging. While one full charge is good for an electric range of 40 km (24 mi), Daymak says that the solar panels can deliver 10 km (6.2 mi) of range for every eight hours they are exposed to ambient sunlight. This means that plugging the Beast into the outlet could be something of a rarity for those traveling only short distances.

Running on a modest 500 W (0.67 hp) gearless hub motor, the Beast has a top speed of 32 km/h (20 mph). This adheres to the legal limit for e-bikes in motor-only mode, meaning that it can cross from off-road to the city streets without raising any flags.

With hydraulic disc brakes at the front and the rear, the bike is key-operated and also communicates via Bluetooth with a smartphone application. Within the app, users can track metrics, such as speed, average speed, battery level, odometer, motor temperature, battery level, trip distance and GPS tracking. The removable solar unit also features two USB ports, meaning that it can be used as a backup battery pack to power mobile devices.

The Beast Ultimate version, whose specs are outlined here, will have a suggested retail price of CAD$3,499 (around US$3,200). Daymak will also offer a 75 kg (165 lb) basic version with a steel frame and smaller 48-V 12-AH lead acid battery at a price of $1,299 (US$1,190). It is planning to enter full-scale production of the Beast this (Northern Hemisphere) summer. Before then, Daymak will launch a Kickstarter campaign where it says early pledges for the ultimate version will be available and range from $999 to $2,999.


PV sector leads in global renewable energy employment

By:  Edgar Meza

The solar sector accounts for 35% of all renewable energy jobs worldwide, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. China in particular has seen a sharp increase in photovoltaic employment.

PV installation jobs are on the rise as the solar sector leads the global renewable energy field worldwide. NREL/Astro Power

The photovoltaic sector has become the biggest employer in the global renewable energy field, according to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Last year, the global PV sector accounted for 2.3 million jobs around the world, with most of them concentrated in China, the IRENA report, Renewable Energy and Jobs – Annual Review 2014, found.

The comprehensive annual review shows steady growth in the number of renewable energy jobs worldwide, which expanded 14% from 5.7 million in 2012 to 6.5 million in 2013, according to IRENA.

The report underscores the important role that renewables continue to play in employment creation and growth in the global economy, according to IRENA, which will present its analysis at the Clean Energy Ministerial in Seoul, South Korea, on Monday. The conference brings together energy ministers and other high-level officials from 23 countries with the aim of accelerating the transition to a global clean energy economy.

PV installations in China increased five-fold from 2011 to 2013

The trend shows an increase in Chinese PV installation jobs while while manufacturing jobs remain stable as growing demand is absorbing the oversupply of PV modules, the report found. IRENA added that growth in China can be attributed to a significant increase in annual installation and manufacturing activity as well as differences in the way employment figures are estimated. IRENA estimates a five-fold increase of solar PV installations in China from 2011 to 2013.

“Surging demand for solar PV in China and Japan has increased employment in the installation sector and eased some PV module over-supply concerns,” said Rabia Ferroukhi, heading the Knowledge, Policy and Finance division at IRENA and lead author of the report. “Consequently some Chinese manufacturers are now adding capacity.”

“With 6.5 million people directly or indirectly employed in renewable energy, the sector is proving that it is no longer a niche, it has become a significant employer worldwide,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “The insights into shifts along segments of the value-chain revealed in the report are crucial to developing policy that strengthens job growth in this important sector of the economy.”

Renewable energy employment was shaped by regional shifts, industry realignments, growing competition and advances in technologies and manufacturing processes in 2013. The largest employers by country are China, Brazil, the United States, India, Germany, Spain and Bangladesh, while the largest employers by sector are solar photovoltaic, biofuels, wind, modern biomass and biogas.

In the wind industry, China and Canada provided positive impulses while the outlook for the United States remains somewhat mixed because of political uncertainty. The offshore wind industry is still concentrated in Europe, particularly the United Kingdom and Germany.

The biofuels value chain provides the second largest number of renewable energy jobs after solar PV. The United States remains the largest biofuels producer, while Brazil remains the largest employer.