Saturday 2 February 2013

GE to snatch German wind-turbine share from Siemens and Nordex
23 Jan 2013

General Electric Co. (GE) plans to win a "double-digit" share of Germany's onshore wind market in two years, taking orders from peers like Siemens AG (SIE) and Nordex SE. (NDX1) GE developed a 2.5 MW turbine for low wind speeds that will help it benefit from surging installations in southern Germany, Stephan Reimelt, chief executive officer of the Energy Germany division, said in an interview in Berlin. GE will present the turbine at a conference in Vienna next month.

"We have the first orders and we're very optimistic that the product will be successful", Reimelt said today. "In Europe, Germany is currently the place where things are happening". GE is "well on track" to achieve its projection of doubling sales in the country by 2015, he said. Germany, Europe's biggest power market, plans to replace nuclear reactors with fossil fuel-fired plants and renewable energy, and build or upgrade 5,700 km (3,500 miles) of power lines. The nation, GE's current focus in Europe, offers a "huge" market for managing energy-related data, Reimelt said.

GE has carried out European acquisitions in the past two years led by the $3.2 billion purchase of Converteam, a French maker of power-conversion products. GE this month announced it would buy Berlin-based energy planning company BLS Energieplan GmbH to strengthen its offerings in the energy industry. Reimelt declined to comment on other possible deals. "It's obvious that the German Mittelstand is highly innovative", he said. "That's interesting to any company with a global focus".

New solar cells hit efficiency record
21 Jan 2013

DUBENDORF, Switzerland, Jan. 21 (UPI)--Swiss researchers say they've developed thin, flexible solar cells with a record efficiency of 20.4% for converting sunlight into electricity. Scientists at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology say the cells on flexible polymer foils offer a significant improvement over the previous record of 18.7%.

Such lightweight and flexible high-performance solar modules will offer an attractive technology for applications such as solar farms, roofs and facades of buildings, automobiles and portable electronics, the Swiss lab said in a release. They are also closing the efficiency gap with rigid, silicon wafer cells, the researchers said, and can be produced using a continuous roll manufacturing processes that should offer further cost reductions compared with standard silicon technologies.

The cells are based on CIGS semiconducting material (copper indium gallium (di)selenide.) "The series of record efficiencies for flexible CIGS solar cells developed at [the lab] demonstrates that thin film solar cells can match the excellent performance of polycrystalline silicon cells", lab director Gian-Luca Bona said. "Now it is time for the next step, the scale-up of the technology to cover large areas in a cost-efficient roll-to-roll manufacturing process with an industrial partner".

Nanowires make good solar cells
21 Jan 2013

Researchers in Sweden and Germany say they have made an important breakthrough in the development of highly efficient solar cells based on nanowires. They have shown that cells made from tiny wires of the semiconductor indium phosphide (InP) have efficiencies as high as 13.8% while covering only about 12% of the surface of a device. While an efficiency of 13.8% is not as good as the best commercial silicon devices, the team believes that it could be improved significantly by further research.

Nanowires-tiny semiconductor wires with a thickness of just a few hundred nanometres or less-show great potential for making solar cells that are more flexible, lightweight and cheaper than conventional planar devices. Nanostructures such as wires are efficient absorbers of light and can act as "antennas", harvesting much more light than a device with a planar surface. This is thanks to collective oscillations of charge carriers-called plasmons-that interact strongly with light. "One consequence of this strong absorption on nanowires is that we observe high light-absorption efficiencies even though only a small part of the device's surface is covered by the nanomaterials", explains team member Magnus Borgstroem of Lund University.

Millions of wires
The devices made by the team measured about a square millimetre and each contains about four million InP nanowires. The researchers grew their nanowires using an established technique called "vapour solid growth". "Our nanowires needed to be uniform, having a certain diameter and length in a certain pitch. From our first working p-n InP junctions, it has taken us four years to reach this result", Borgstroem explains.

The team, which includes scientists from Solid State Physics in Lund, Fraunhofer ISE in Freiburg, the University of Kassel and the start-up company Solvoltaics, also in Lund, chose InP because it has a direct band gap of 1.34 eV, which means that it can absorb light over a range of solar-spectrum wavelengths.

In this latest work, the team was able to identify the ideal diameter of the nanowires-which turned out to be about 180 nm. "The right size is essential for the nanowires to absorb as many photons as possible. If they are just a few tenths of a nanometre too small, their function is significantly impaired", says Borgstroem.

Proof of principle
The cells made by the team have efficiencies as high as 13.8%-which is promising but still significantly less than the best commercial silicon devices, which operate at 15 22%. "Our findings are the first to show that it really is possible to use nanowires to manufacture solar cells", says Borgstroem. However, the highest efficiency ever reported for a conventional InP solar cell is 22% and the team admits that it still remains to be seen whether that record can be broken using smaller amounts of nanowire material.

The researchers also believe that the way forward for nanowire-based solar cells is the multi-junction approach, which boosts efficiency by using several different structures tuned to different wavelengths of light from the Sun. "We believe that the road ahead for solar cell application involves multi-junction technology with nanowires, for which the record is 44% in thin films", says Borgstroem.

The work is reported in Science.

Thursday 31 January 2013

Wind power delivers too much to ignore
21 Jan 2013

Although aesthetic concerns need to be heard, qualms about wind's reliability are wide of the mark, argues energy policy researcher Reg Platt

THE location of the British Isles at Europe's wild and windy western fringe does not always seem like a blessing. But in one important respect it is: the UK has the greatest potential for wind power, both onshore and offshore, of any European country.

Onshore wind power has expanded steadily across the UK in recent years and is a key plank of the country's commitment to greening its electricity supply. But as the turbines have gone up across the countryside, so has the level of opposition. Wind power has become a deeply divisive issue in British politics.

The issue exploded last year when 106 members of parliament, mostly Conservatives representing rural constituencies, signed a letter to Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron. They urged him to cut subsidies for the onshore wind industry, describing wind technology as "inefficient and intermittent".

Things escalated in the autumn when the recently appointed Conservative energy minister, John Hayes, told two newspapers that "enough is enough" and that no new onshore wind farms would be built. He was slapped down by his boss Edward Davey, the secretary of state for energy and climate change and a member of the Liberal Democrat party. But simmering tensions remain at the top level of the coalition government. Another Conservative, finance minister George Osborne, is known to be sympathetic to the anti-wind cause. Wind turbines also became an important point of contention between the parties in a recent by-election.

Two of the anti-wind campaigners' main concerns are the impact of turbines on the beauty of the countryside and the opposition of local people. It is absolutely right that these be taken into account. But they need to be balanced against the bulk of public opinion, which strongly supports the increased use of wind turbines.

Any misgivings must also be balanced against the important role that this technology can play for the UK, both in fulfilling its climate-change commitments and for future economic success.

Anti-wind campaigners frequently make claims about the shortcomings of wind power. Their main complaints are that the turbines are so inefficient that they actually increase CO₂ emissions, and so unreliable that they require constant backup from conventional coal and gas-fired stations. If correct, these claims would be devastating to wind power. But they are not.

My organisation, the Institute for Public Policy Research, recently published a report tackling these questions. Our conclusions are unambiguous. Onshore wind power reduces carbon emissions and is a reliable source of electricity, at least up to the capacity of wind power that is forecast to be installed in the UK by 2020.

To answer the carbon question, we used a simple model of the UK electricity market. As demand increases, say on a weekday morning when people are waking up and getting ready to go to work, power plants increase output to meet it. Plants with the lowest marginal cost-that is, those that can produce additional electricity most cheaply-are selected first by the market. Here wind beats gas and coal, as no fuel is needed to generate electricity.

The upshot is that, in theory, adding wind power to the energy mix should displace coal and gas, and hence cut carbon. This is backed up by empirical data on emissions reductions from wind power in the US.

There is another way of looking at it. In 2011, wind power contributed approximately 15.5 TWs of electricity to the UK. If this had been supplied by fossil fuels instead, CO₂ emissions would have been at least 5.5 million tonnes higher, and as much as 12 million tonnes higher.

Read More…

U.S. Wind Power Accounted for 6% of Generation Capacity in 2012
18 Jan 2013

US wind power accounted for 6% of the nation's total electricity generation capacity after developers rushed to finish projects before expiration of a subsidy, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said.

The threat that the US Production Tax Credit would lapse on Dec. 31 prompted developers to complete as many projects as they could last month, the London-based research group said. A record 13.2 GWs of turbines were installed last year including 5.5 GWs in December, the most ever for a single month. Total wind capacity is about 60 GWs.

"It's clear that the economics, aided by the Production Tax Credit, drove wind growth in 2012," said Amy Grace, lead analyst on wind in North America for New Energy Finance. "Capacity was built without any near-term state mandated demand. This means that in most areas, utilities are buying wind power because they want to, not because they have to."

The credit has been extended for a year to cover wind farms that start construction in 2013. Previously it only covered projects that started working by the expiration date. Uncertainty about whether the credit would be extended meant developers and investors haven't built up a backlog of projects for 2013.

Asset financing for US wind farms dropped to $4.3 billion in the second-half from $9.6 billion in the first six months of last year. This has hurt component makers such as Vestas Wind Systems (VWS) AS, Gamesa Corp Tecnologica SA (GAM) and Clipper Marine Windpower Ltd., which is owned by Paltinum Equity LLC.

Share Drops
Vestas Wind Systems declined as much as 41% in the past year and Gamesa Corp by 39%.

Equipment prices for wind have dropped by more than 21% since 2010, and the performance of turbines has risen. This has resulted in a 21% decrease in the overall cost of electricity from wind for a typical US project since 2010, New Energy Finance said.

Last year's numbers are especially "striking" given the current price of natural gas which sank below $2 per million British thermal unit in April, the lowest in a decade. At this price, natural gas plants present "stiff" competition for wind projects, the research company owned by Bloomberg LP said.

Novel solar photovoltaic cells achieve record efficiency using nanoscale structures
17 Jan 2013

Here's how to make a powerful solar cell from indium and phosphorus: First, arrange microscopic flecks of gold on a semiconductor background. Using the gold as seeds, grow precisely arranged wires roughly 1.5 micrometers tall out of chemically tweaked compounds of indium and phosphorus. Keep the nanowires in line by etching them clean with hydrochloric acid and confining their diameter to 180 nanometers. (A nanometer is one billionth of a meter.) Exposed to the sun, a solar cell employing such nanowires can turn nearly 14% of the incoming light into electricity—a new record that opens up more possibilities for cheap and effective solar power.

According to research published online in Science—and validated at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems—this novel nanowire configuration delivered nearly as much electricity as more traditional indium phosphide thin-film solar cells even though the nanowires themselves covered only 12% of the device's surface. That suggests such nanowire solar cells could prove cheaper—and more powerful—if the process could be industrialized, argues physicist Magnus Borgström of Lund University in Sweden, who led the effort.

The promise starts with the novel semiconductor—a combination of indium and phosphorus that absorbs much of the light from the sun (a property known as its band gap). "Now we absorb 71% of the light above the band gap and we can certainly increase that," Borgström says.

Read More…

Hoover Dam builder hired for Google’s ocean wind power line
17 Jan 2013

Bechtel Group Inc., the US contractor that built the Hoover Dam, has been hired for a Google Inc (GOOG).-backed project to deliver offshore wind power to electricity users in New Jersey.

Bechtel will construct the first segment of the New Jersey Energy Link, a $1.8 billion system of undersea and onshore transmission cables as well as power converter "hubs," project developer Atlantic Grid Development LLC said in a statement today. The link, which will span the state's coastline when its three phases are completed, may carry as much as 3,000 MWs of electricity.

There are no US offshore wind farms operating or under construction, though companies have been planning to install turbines at sea for more than a decade. Installing the infrastructure needed to connect ocean-based turbines will remove one of the hurdles that have stymied developers, according to Rick Needham, Google's director of energy and sustainability.

"This will jump start an industry that will provide 20,000 jobs in New Jersey and GWs of long term, clean energy," Needham said today at a conference in Holmdel, New Jersey.

Google, based in Mountain View, California, has invested more than $1 billion in renewable-energy projects.

Monday 28 January 2013

Using snail teeth to improve solar cells and batteries
16 Jan 2013

An assistant professor at the University of California, Riverside's Bourns College of Engineering is using the teeth of a marine snail found off the coast of California to create less costly and more efficient nanoscale materials to improve solar cells and lithium-ion batteries.

The most recent findings by David Kisailus, an assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering, details how the teeth of chiton grow. The paper was published Jan. 16 in the journal Advanced Functional Materials. It was co-authored by several of his current and former students and scientists at Harvard University in Cambridge Mass., Chapman University in Orange, Calif. and Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, NY.

The paper is focused on the gumboot chiton, the largest type of chiton, which can be up to a foot-long. They are found along the shores of the Pacific Ocean from central California to Alaska. They have a leathery upper skin, which is usually reddish-brown and occasionally orange, leading some to give it the nickname "wandering meatloaf."

Over time, chitons have evolved to eat algae growing on and within rocks using a specialized rasping organ called a radula, a conveyer belt-like structure in the mouth that contains 70 to 80 parallel rows of teeth. During the feeding process, the first few rows of the teeth are used to grind rock to get to the algae. They become worn, but new teeth are continuously produced and enter the "wear zone" at the same rate as teeth are shed.

Kisailus, who uses nature as inspiration to design next generation engineering products and materials, started studying chitons five years ago because he was interested in abrasion and impact-resistant materials. He has previously determined that the chiton teeth contain the hardest biomineral known on Earth, magnetite, which is the key mineral that not only makes the tooth hard, but also magnetic.

Project tipped to grow wind power investment
17 Jan 2013

The Energy Supply Association of Australia expects an upgrade of ElectraNet's power infrastructure will lead to more investment in wind power in South Australia. ElectraNet will upgrade the Heywood substation and reconfigure the south-east network at a cost of $108 million. The association's Matthew Warren says ElectraNet's upgrade will pave the way for more South Australian wind power to be transferred interstate, opening the door for more investment in the technology.

"There are times when there's a lot of wind power being generated and times where's there's not very much," he said. "At the moment, on those really good wind days, the network is constrained, all that clean power can't find a market and you can't store electricity, so this really unlocks extra value for South Australia.

"That wind farm investment is basically stalled now because of the constraint between the South Australian network and the Victorian and eastern seaboard networks, so this upgrade will allow more investment and more clean energy generation to come through from South Australia to the eastern seaboard."

China revs up wind power amid challenges
16 Jan 2013

BEIJING, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- As the world's largest wind power market, China continues to push forward with wind power installations, yet it faces ongoing problems with grid connection. New wind power installations in China in 2012 brought the country's grid-connected capacity to more than 60 GWs, says the State Electricity Regulatory Commission.

While a total of 100.4 billion kW hours of electricity was generated by wind power last year -- an increase of 35.5% over 2011 -- only 12.85 GWs was connected to the grid, compared to 2011's figure of 16 GWs

"In the past few years, wind farm development has been too rapid and grid construction has not been able to keep up. The huge gap put a lot of pressure on the grid," said Ma Jinru, vice-president and secretary of the board at Goldwind Science & Technology Co Group, one of China's biggest manufacturers of wind power equipment, China Daily reports.

In a news release Monday promoting a Shanghai wind power exposition, the deputy director general of China's National Energy Administration said that wind power is China's third largest source of electricity. "Wind power has become the third-largest electric power in China," Liu Qi said. "There is no electric power to substitute the position of wind power as number three, following thermal power and hydroelectric."

As part of the National Energy Administration's renewable energy development plan announced last August, China is aiming for 100 GWs of wind power to be connected to the grid by 2015, including 5 GWs of offshore wind power. Improved grid construction and dispatching, enhanced equipment performance help the wind power sector reach to reach the 100 GW goal, the news release states.

Also as part of the 2011-15 energy plan, State Grid Corp. of China will invest more than $80 billion to extend the ultra-high-voltage electricity transmission networks in North, Central and Eastern China, China Daily reports. Meanwhile, China's wind sector face challenges following a US decision to increase import duties on Chinese wind turbines.

In its final verdict in December on anti-dumping and counter-subsidy duties against wind turbine towers imported from China and Vietnam, the US Department of Commerce said that Chinese producers dumped towers in the United States and set anti-dumping duties of 44.99-70.63

"With rates of duty like this, it's impossible for the products of Chinese wind tower manufacturers to enter the US market," Zheng Kangsheng, secretary of the board of Titan Wind Energy (Suzhou) Co. was quoted as saying by China Daily. "The company's US market share will definitely decline sharply," he added.

Nitrogen servicing kit improves wind turbine ergonomics
14 Jan 2013

Cv International has announced the release of an enhanced Nitrogen WINDPACK, offering improved ergonomics and productivity for wind turbine maintenance technicians.

The portable nitrogen servicing solution reduces by over 66% the weight and volume that technicians must maneuver into place when servicing a turbine's nacelle accumulator using traditional methods. The WINDPACK and previously released WINDKIT address the safety and productivity concerns of maintenance technicians supporting wind turbine maintenance.

Cv International's newest WINDPACK reflects users' requests for a lightweight and durable nitrogen servicing unit that enhances ergonomics by maintaining the load on the hips. Recognising that technicians are working in challenging vertical and space constrained conditions, "It was imperative that the unit be adjustable and comfortable for a wide range of body shapes, allowing technicians to work safely and effectively in the nacelle while enhancing their productivity," said Richard Browne, Vice-President of Marketing, Cv International.

Cv International's WINDKIT is used by major wind power OEMs, including Siemens Energy and Vestas Wind Systems American Wind.

"Traditionally technicians have had to manage large nitrogen storage tanks that are heavy and difficult for one person to safely handle in the confined space of the nacelle, or pull pressurised hoses up 200 plus feet from the ground. By using the WINDKIT, technicians are able to get a lightweight, highly portable unit that allows them to move and work with greater safety and productivity," stated Kevin Considine, Specialist, Sustainability & Management Systems, Vestas Wind Systems - American Wind Technology, Inc.

1st part of offshore wind power line moves ahead
14 Jan 2013

WASHINGTON — An audacious plan to lay a multibillion-dollar wind power transmission spine under the seabed from southern Virginia to the New York City area will take a step forward on Tuesday with an announcement of plans for the first leg, a 189-mile segment running from Jersey City to a spot south of Atlantic City.

The proposed backbone, first outlined publicly in October 2010, is intended to link future wind farms far offshore, sparing them the expense and regulatory problems of bringing power lines all the way to shore individually, and to move power to land-based sources. The project's backers, which include Google and other prominent investors, argue that the buried offshore spine, impervious to storms, could also come in handy in an emergency, providing a backup for hospitals and police stations and restarting power plants in blacked-out areas.

The latter selling point has gained importance for the line's promoters as interest in offshore wind has suffered setbacks, including the declining price of natural gas, a competing energy source.

The Atlantic Wind Connection, the project's sponsor, says the first segment would run from a substation called Cardiff, near Pomona, N.J., operated by Atlantic City Electric, out into the ocean 12 to 14 miles. That leg represents less than half of the 350-mile project, but the plan was always to build it in stages. Near the line's southern end, it would tie into multiple wind farms in a region that the Obama administration has identified as prime territory for offshore wind.

Executives at Atlantic Wind say they chose to begin with a segment solely in New Jersey because the project could level the big price differences for electricity within the state, yielding an economic benefit that could justify at least some of the first leg's $1.3 billion construction cost. Remaining within one state simplifies the regulatory process, they added, and political support for offshore wind farms is relatively strong in New Jersey.