Thursday 18 July 2013

Researchers poke holes in solar cells to improve efficiency
3 Jun 2013

Researchers have been working on a variety of ways to improve the efficiency of solar cells, including the use of a spray-coating technique and by working with electrons and photons. Now, government researchers have come up with yet another way--poking holes in silicon wafers so they don't reflect and waste valuable sunlight.

The method, called "dark solar", has been developed by the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and it enables the cells to reflect only 2% of the sunlight that reaches them. The solar cells they've produced through this technology can work at an 18.2% efficiency rate, which is competitive for the type of black silicon cells researchers are working with.

The development of the black solar cells is "quite simple", but is enhanced by the hole-etching technique, according to information about the work provided to Design News by NREL spokesman William Scanlon.

To develop the cells, researchers first put the silicon silver/gray-colored wafer in a liquid solution of silver nitrate and hydrofluoric acid. In that bath, the ionic silver changes to silver nanoparticles. The wafer is then placed in a second bath of hydrofluoric acid and hydrogen peroxide, where the silver nanoparticles act as a catalyst for the oxidation of silicon, according to researchers.

While this process of making black silicon is not new, it's the etching of holes in the second bath of hydrofluoric acid and hydrogen peroxide that NREL has developed to bolster cell efficiency. These holes maximize the cell's sunlight conversion by preventing reflection of sunlight off the cell. To ensure the cells achieve top efficiency through the process, researchers had to consider the depth and size of the cells--they had to be deep and small enough to suppress reflections, but not too deep to impact the conversion efficiency.

"As the wavelengths move deeper and deeper into the holes they change gradually from wavelengths of air to wavelengths of silicon", researchers said in the NREL document provided by Scanlon. "That gradualness is the key. The photons never perceive an abrupt change from gas (air) to solid (silicon), and thus don't bounce back toward the atmosphere". That lack of bounce-back is what allows the photos to be absorbed in the silicon holes and thus non-reflective.

Read More…

Abbott strangles $20bn green investment – to save 50c/week
3 Jun 2013

Two news stories over the weekend give a chilling insight into what might await the Australian renewable energy industry under a Federal Coalition government.

The first story was mostly symbolic in nature. The Newcastle Herald reported that the only wind turbine in Newcastle, the 600kW Kooragang turbine that was constructed in 1997 to "promote the emerging green energy market" is to be removed by Ausgrid-to make way for a new coal loader.

It is just a single turbine but, amazingly, apart from a small demonstration turbine at the CSIRO energy centre nearby, it is the only one in NSW north of Sydney. In fact, going north, you need to travel 2,000kms to the Atherton Tablelands before coming across another commercial wind turbine, 20 small towers amounting to 12MW at Windy Hill in the Atherton Tablelands. There are two other small turbines on Thursday Island, at the tip of the country and that is it-just 12.45MW of wind power north of Sydney, out of a total of 2,500MW across the country.

How many other turbines are built in NSW will likely be influenced by key decisions being made by NSW Cabinet as early as today about rules governing wind farm developments and the state's renewable energy plans. That, of course, and the fate of the large-scale renewable energy target-a federal decision.

The second story was not just one, but a barrage of media placements from Queensland Premier Campbell Newman and others seeking to lay the blame for the state's stunning 22.5% average rise in electricity costs in 2013/14 on green energy schemes, glossing over the fact that the overwhelming majority of the bill increases come because the cost of the billions of dollars of network upgrades is being borne by the consumer.

These are dangerous times for the renewables industry in Australia, particularly those looking to construct some $20 billion of utility-scale installations-be they wind or solar. Newman threw in large-scale renewables as part of the cause of rising prices, but the analysis by the Queensland Competition Authority shows that only 3.5% of the average customer bill of $1451 a year will go to support the renewable energy target, including the small and large-scale schemes. That's less than $1 a week for the average household.

Read More…

New wind farm guidelines ensure better consultation
3 Jun 2013

A NEW set of guidelines has been released to ensure better consultation with regional communities where wind farms are proposed. Renewable energy peak body the Clean Energy Council has also published a community expectations guide to better inform people of what to expect from a wind farm development.

It is hoped the two documents will help guide planners, wind farm developers and communities through the process of building a wind farm. ACCIONA Energy managing director Andrew Thompson said the community expectations guide would help clear up some of the misinformation around wind farms.

ACCIONA Energy operates the Waubra wind farm, which has been the subject of protests from local residents. "The key for industry is to engage early in the process ", he said.

Scientists develop new way to store renewable energy
2 Jun 2013

Scientists based in Canada have developed a new technique for converting electricity into chemical energy. This could lead to improvements to the way that homeowners and businesses capture and re-use solar power. Researchers based at the University of Calgary, Curtis Berlinguette and Simon Trudel, have developed an innovative way to make new affordable and efficient catalysts for capturing solar power.

The innovation, as detailed in the research brief, is a new type of electrolyzer device that uses catalysts to start a chemical reaction that converts electricity into chemical energy by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen fuels. These fuels can then be stored and re-converted to electricity for future use. Key to the new method is the catalyst, the Technology Review notes,which the researchers report is faster, more efficient, and most importantly, cheaper than anything else available.

The technological breakthrough offers a relatively cheaper method of storing and reusing electricity produced by wind turbines and solar panels. The technology is set to be commercialized through a new start-up company called FireWater Fuel Corp. FireWater Fuel Corp, expects to have a commercial product in the current large-scale electrolyser market in 2014, and a prototype electrolyzer--using their new catalysts--ready by 2015 for testing in a home.

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Solar power users will fight back, LNP warned
3 Jun 2013

Solar users could use their power as a voting bloc against the state government if it continues to make false claims about the green power, a Queensland solar installer warned today. Anthony Buckwell, who runs Sun State Solar, said 308,000 Queensland homes had solar power systems, representing more than 23% of Queensland's detached and semi-detached houses, according to the 2011 Australian Bureau of Statistics.

"It is supporting a $2 billion industry, supporting close to one thousand solar installers, so that would be several thousand workers", he said. "It really is 'small business'". "And if we want to get away from a one-dimensional mining economy, these are the types of businesses that should be supported".

Mr Buckwell said some groups had begun to discuss expressing their frustration as a voting bloc, using the theme "I have solar and I vote". "People are thinking of ways to get the views of solar families heard", he said. "We are talking almost 25% of households-if they start to feel unfairly targeted I think some of them will come on board".

He said solar users remained connected to the grid, but did not use the grid permanently. He said the money solar users received was reasonable because the energy they produced was 100% green. On Monday morning Mr McArdle called for a debate about the impact of solar use in Queensland. "In the 2012 13 year, $67 on each person's power bill relates to the solar benefit scheme", he said.

"By 2015 16 the QCA [Queensland Competition Authority] is saying to us, $276 on each person's power bill relates to solar benefits. Now those are people who can't afford to put solar on their roofs". "...The perverse outcome is 92,000 homes don't pay any power bills at all. I don't believe that was the intent of the scheme and a debate must be had about who should pay what in regard to their power bills when you consider that a large number of people pay no power bill at all".

Mr Buckwell accused the government of spin-doctoring, saying Friday's QCA report showed maintaining the network made up the bulk of the costs. "It is just not true", Mr Buckwell said. "If you look at the report that the Queensland Competition Authority issued on Friday, it clearly shows the breakdown", he said.

That report shows the solar feed-in tariff made up 3.9% of a typical residential bill, green schemes made up 3.5% of the bill, and the carbon tax made up 7.4% of the bill. Almost 82% of the increase to power bills will cover generating power, expanding the network of "poles and wires" and getting bills to homes. More than 46% of the increase comes from increases to the network of poles and wires.

Mr Buckwell added the federal government compensated householders for the carbon tax. "obviously they are spin-doctoring the figures", he said. "There is a 7 8% rise in the price because of their own decision to freeze tariff 11 when they first came in". Mr Buckwell said the state government was also ignoring the fact that people taking up solar power generally spent between $8000 and $15,000 to set up a system. "And local generation contributes to the local network, so it means there is less of a need to upgrade [the grid]", he said.

Japan: Floating wind farm
1 Jun 2013

Qualified international subscribers can receive full issues of High-Performance Composites and Composites Technology delivered in a convenient and interactive digital magazine format. Read at your convenience on your desktop or mobile device.

Since the 2011 tsunami and related nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, that country's political leaders have been reassessing the country's energy policy. One result has been the introduction, this past year, of a more attractive financial incentive for offshore wind farm development. In response, a host of Japanese firms announced plans to develop conventional, fixed-foundation offshore wind farms.

A recently announced project, known as Forward (Fukushima floating offshore wind farm demonstration), will be delivered by a consortium of 11 companies and join two floating scale pilots already in Japanese waters. Funded entirely by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the project will have a leadership team provided by conglomerate Marubeni (Tokyo, Japan), with the University of Tokyo acting as technical advisor.

Another effort is a 300 MW project led by Hitachi Zosen Corp. (Osaka, Japan). This is problematic, however, because Japan's long coastline boasts relatively few locations where the water is shallow for some distance from shore, maming them suitable for large fixed-foundation projects. Instead, water depths plunge quickly near the shoreline. The conditions are similar off the coasts of Portugal and the U.S, state of Maine, and research proceeds in both locations to develop cost-effective floating technology. Japan is following suit.

Forward will initially consist of three floating wind turbines and one floating power substation off the coast of Fukushima. The first stage, already underway, consists of one 2 MW floating wind turbine, the world's first 66 kV floating power substation and an undersea cabling system. In the second stage, two 7 MW wind turbines will be installed between 2013 and 2015. Industrial development partners will include Mitsubishi Heavy Industries; shipbuilder Japan Marine United Corp. (formerly IHI Corp Marine); Hitachi Zosen, which purchased Fuji Subaru's wind turbine business; and Mitsui Engineering. All are based in Tokyo, Japan. Reportedly, Mitsui will be responsible for the foundations, wind turbines and blades for the initial phases.

The floating foundations, it is rumored, will be of the semisubmersible type. The project will ultimately include 143 floating wind turbines stationed 10 miles off the coast and could generate up to 1 GW of power as part of a national plan to increase renewable energy resources.

Project manager Takeshi Ishihara of the University of Tokyo has said in published reports that "this project is important--I think it is impossible to use nuclear power in Fukushima again". For their part, political leaders within Fukushima prefecture have made it known that they intend for it to be completely energy self-sufficient by 2040.

CIG enters windfarm market
30 May 2013

The Central Industry Group (CIG), a group of ten predominantly Netherlands companies which all provide goods and services to the international shipbuilding market, has come up with a unique new vessel for offshore wind installation.

Two subsidiaries of CIG, Shipkits and Vuyk Engineering Groningen, working under the collective name of CIG Shipbuilders, have developed a new vessel called the VG 6000 E-a multipurpose vessel for the offshore wind power market. CIG says that compared to the traditional use of tugs and jack-up barges on offshore wind farm operations the VG 6000 E is "faster, easier to handle and cheaper to run".

CIG's VG 6000 E is an unique twin-screw diesel-electric concept based on active front end and DC-bus technology. It's an extremely versatile multipurpose open topped special cargo vessel of 6000 dwt designed for open top and with a limited draught.

The vessel can be manoeuvred easily through a wind farm site and docked alongside a construction vessel and it can act as a wave breaker and create a lee for other small service or personnel craft. Its anti-roll and anti-heave abilities mean that more working days can be achieved. The vessel also uses a "smart" passive heave load and unload system.

Though the vessel is classed for worldwide trade and unrestricted services, CIG says it will initially be used for short sea services and offshore wind market support. The vessel can also be fitted out as a offshore feeder vessel, accommodation vessel, cable layer or platform supply vessel.

Hans Vogelzang, Central Industry Group, said to Maritime Journal: "We've anticipated the need for new development of specific types of vessel for the wind farm market and CIG is now now ready to enter into the market. Our background is in building dry cargo and short sea vessels and we have a lot of experience and knowledge of what operators and shipping companies want.

We think that we know what's important for these companies in terms of cost of ownership, service, power consumption, reliability, ease of use and greener emissions. At the moment there's still a large difference in transport concepts and compared to the oil & gas industry no real standards. We would like to set this new standard".

Read More…

First floating wind turbine in North America hits the water in Brewer
31 May 2013

BREWER, Maine--VolturnUS, the first offshore floating wind turbine in North America, hit the water Friday.

The University of Maine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center unveiled its new turbine at Cianbro in Brewer, where the pieces were assembled and placed in the Penobscot River. A crane lowered the turbine into the water during a ceremony late Friday morning.

"If there's one thing apparent to me today, it's how hungry the people of Maine are for a celebration of success", Cianbro Chairman Peter Vigue said at the beginning of Friday's event, which was attended by members of Maine's Congressional delegation, university and business officials.

Vigue said this project shows Maine is primed to be a leader in renewable energy production in the United States. The effort to get 20 GWs of offshore wind capability by 2030 could bring as much as $20 billion of private investment to Maine and create thousands of jobs, according to UMaine officials.

Maine has 156 GWs of offshore wind capacity within 50 miles of its coastline, and this is one of the first major visible steps after years of research toward harnessing that energy, according to composites center Director Habib Dagher, who has lead the project since its infancy "We are energy rich, we just haven't taken advantage of this energy richness that we have", Dagher said. The turbine design is called VolturnUS, a combination of the words volt, turn and US, a name that happens to be shared by Volturnus, the Roman god of the east wind.

The 65 foot turbine is a one-eighth scale model of the full-size version UMaine plans to place in the Gulf of Maine by 2016. By 2030, the university hopes to install a farm of roughly 170 huge, 6 MW turbines--each taller than the Washington Monument and with blades longer than the wingspan of a Boeing 747 -that would produce 5 GWs of electricity for the mainland. That's roughly equal to the energy five nuclear power plants would provide.

Read More…

Push for $50m fund to support community energy projects
31 May 2013

Community energy and pro renewable NGOs are calling for the Federal government to establish a $50 million fund that would seek to leverage up to half a billion dollar of investment in community-owned renewable energy projects.

The call for a Community Energy Grant Fund is an attempt to offer a catalyst for growing community interest in renewable energy projects, and to fill in a gap in the country's portfolio of renewable energy projects of between 10kW and 50MW.

According to a proposal led by the Community Power Agency, Yes2Renewables and other NGOs and community energy groups, the funding could cover early stage development costs for around 75 projects and bring them to the stage of being investment ready and able to release share offerings to the community.

This would include feasibility studies, resource assessment (such as wind monitoring), community engagement, planning studies, business case development, and legal advice.

The proposal seeks to tap into growing interest in the community renewables space, as outlined in RenewEconomy last week. On Thursday, the NSW Government confirmed our story that it is awarding $441,000 to help 9 local groups lay the groundwork for some community energy projects-mostly commercial scale rooftop solar-and to conduct feasibility studies.

Many more projects are being contemplated, organisations such as Community Power, Embark, and Starfish Enterprises have numerous proposals on their books, and say this fund would take the concept of community energy onto a national scale.

Community Power's Nicky Ison said more than 35 communities across Australia are developing community owned wind and solar projects, but only two are up and running-the Hepburn wind farm in Victoria and the wind farm in WA. "If the other 33 groups don't receive start-­up assistance soon, they risk dying on the vine", she said.

Read more

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Wind industry angered over red tape
30 May 2013

WIND energy producers are in a twist after being forced to demonstrate they are operating within noise limits every time they seek to surrender Renewable Energy Certificates.

As of the start of June, all large-scale power stations accredited under the renewable energy target will have to submit a "standing notice" of ongoing compliance with all local, state and federal planning and approval requirements. Operators say they were only advised of the change late last week. Power stations, including hydroelectric, will continue to be required to complete an annual electricity generation return as before.

"The standing notice was introduced to enhance the integrity of the large-scale renewable energy target", a spokesperson for the Clean Energy Regulator said. "The standing notice will ensure the [regulator] is able to identify issues related to non-compliance as large-scale generation certificates are created".

The change follows debate in the Senate last November over wind farm noise, with Democratic Labor Party's John Madigan from Victoria calling for wind farm operators to provide wind and noise data to an independent authority every three months.

Senator Madigan stirred bemusement from the industry at the time with his call for the regulator to cancel a wind farm's accreditation should it operate in contravention of a law "whether written or unwritten". Even though the proposed amendments failed, the regulator opted to require compliance proof before certificate payment "to avoid a hint of a hint" that the industry was falling short, an official said.

Jonathan Upson, senior development manager of regulatory affairs with wind farm owner Infigen Energy, said while all power generators should operate according to the regulations, state governments are the responsible authorities to ensure compliance with planning decisions. This includes having acoustic experts on staff.

"The benefit of having a federal energy regulator attempt to duplicate the compliance role of state government planning departments is not clear to us", Mr Upson said.