Egypt Solar Energy Market Report

The Egypt Solar Energy Association (ESEA) has a released a report detailing the growth of the Egyptian solar industry: “Egypt’s Solar Energy Market – FiT Program and Beyond 2015”. Over the past several weeks, solar has made gains with the announcement of 2.3 GW of power to be generated by photovoltaic energy within the next few years. In addition, leading international players have publicly announced new partnerships with local enterprises to bring proposed solar projects to fruition.

Egypt Solar Industry Association logoThe Egyptian government recently concluded the international Economic Development Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh with hopes of attracting $60 billion dollars in foreign direct investment, including billions for renewable energy.  As a result, there has been a wave of announcements from the solar industry declaring gigawatts of development and billions of dollars in investment, not only in PV power plants, but also in manufacturing facilities, research and development and training.

Egypt’s Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy has already begun to establish favorable policies and a regulatory framework to help make solar energy a true alternate large-scale source of Egypt’s energy mix.

Egypt SIA’s new market report provides detailed insights on the latest solar market developments as well as in-depth perspectives from some of the key stakeholders, including regulators, laws firms, developers and EPC contractors who are active in the emerging Egyptian solar energy market. In addition, the report offers a unique outlook on solar developments beyond the feed-in-tariff scheme; tracking opportunities in various industries and governorates across Egypt.

Bennet Files Amendment for Bridge to Tax Reform

Trade groups are calling for national support of the Bennet Amendment for Bridge to Tax Reform. U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) has filed an amendment to the annual budget resolution being considered this week by the Senate that would make room for renewable and efficiency tax credits. The amendment specifies “a fund for “creating clean energy jobs, including extending over a reasonable period of time, as a bridge to tax reform, expired and expiring tax credits for renewable energy production and investment.”

The renewable tBennet Tax Reform Amendment Trade Group Supportersrade groups endorsed the amendment in a letter:

Dear Senator:

The U.S. Senate begins debate this week on the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Resolution. Senator Michael Bennet will be offering an amendment (#715) which expresses support for the extension of expired and expiring federal tax credits for renewable energy production and investment as the bridge to tax reform. On behalf of the thousands of American companies and over 500,000 Americans working in the renewable energy sector, we strongly encourage you to support the Bennet Amendment.

Over the past five years, nearly 44% of all new domestic power generation capacity has come from renewable energy resources, including more than 56% of all new power generation capacity in 2014 – surpassing all other energy sources. The investment tax credit (ITC) and the production tax credit (PTC) have been the primary federal policy drivers for this growth, spurring private sector investment, creating jobs, and driving down costs significantly, making renewable and clean technologies more cost competitive.

The clean energy sector has the potential to be one of the greatest engines of middle class job growth in the 21st century, while providing our nation with secure sources of clean and renewable domestic energy. To realize that objective, however, we must have a supportive and certain tax policy environment.

Again, on behalf of our thousands of member companies and more than half a million Americans working in our industries, we ask you to send an unambiguous signal of support for clean and renewable energy. Please vote for the Bennet Amendment to the Senate Budget Resolution in support of continuing tax incentives for clean and renewable domestic energy sources.

The letter is signed by representatives of the Solar Energy Industries Association, American Wind Energy Association, Alliance for Industrial Efficiency, Geothermal Energy Association, American Biogas Council, Energy Recovery Council, National Hydropower Association, Biomass Power Association, Distributed Wind Energy Association and Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association.

Solar Goes to Space

Solar has gone to space. SolAero Technologies has announced that 32 of its SolAero solar panels populated with high-efficiency triple-junction ZTJ solar cells are powering the four Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission spacecraft that launched successfully on March 12, 2015 aboard the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

SolAero Solor Panels on MMS spacecraftThe MMS will study magnetic reconnection, a fundamental process that occurs throughout the universe when magnetic fields connect and disconnect explosively, releasing energy and accelerating particles up to nearly the speed of light. Unlike previous missions that have observed only evidence of magnetic reconnection events, MMS has sufficient resolution to observe and measure reconnection events as they occur. While MMS will fly through reconnection regions in less than a second, key sensors on each spacecraft are able to capture measurements 100 times faster than any previous mission. In addition, MMS consists of four identical observatories, which together will provide the first ever three-dimensional view of magnetic reconnection.

SolAreo said this mission is unprecedented. Building four spacecraft at the same time – something that had never before been done at Goddard – required a unique set of engineering, management and production skills. In addition, SolAero said they provided solar panels for each spacecraft designed and built at the highest efficiency and to the highest standards necessary for a successful mission.

Solar Impulse 2 Takes to the Skies

Solar Impulse 2 has set off on a 35,000-kilometer journey around the world, powered only by solar energy. Schindler, a leading global elevator and escalator provider, is one of the project’s four main partners and welcomed the aircraft as it stops over at the Mandalay International Airport in Mandalay, Myanmar.

The Solar Impulse 2 is a single-seater aircraft made of carbon fiber, with a 72 meter wingspan – larger than that of the Boeing 747 – weighting just 2,300 kg. The 17,248 solar Solar Impulse 2 eighteenth flightcells built into the wing supply four electric motors (17.5 CV each) with renewable energy. During the day, the solar cells recharge lithium batteries, weighing 633 kg, that allow the aircraft to fly at night and therefore to have virtually unlimited autonomy.

The aircraft took off from Abu Dhabi on March 9, 2015 and will stop at 12 locations. The route includes stops in Muscat, Oman; Ahmedabad and Varanasi, India; Mandalay, Myanmar; and Chongqing and Nanjing, China. After crossing the Pacific Ocean via Hawaii, Solar Impulse 2 will fly across the USA stopping in three locations —Phoenix, a location in the Midwest and New York City at JFK. After crossing the Atlantic, the final legs include a stop-over in Southern Europe or North Africa before arriving back in Abu Dhabi. With the plane traveling at a maximum speed of 90 to 140 km/h, depending on the flying altitude, the journey will take five months to complete, including 25 days of flight time.

Schindler, which has been operating in Myanmar since 1999, is proud to participate in the project. “This is a historic moment and we are delighted to be part of a team that shares Solar Impulse takes-off from Varanasi to Mandalaythe same pioneering spirit and passion for engineering excellence, with the common objective to move people safely while using less energy,” said Jujudhan Jena, Chief Executive of Jardine Schindler Group.

Solar Impulse’s founders have welcome Schindler’s participation as an important illustration of how forward-looking companies are approaching sustainable development and seeing the industrial potential of using clean technology and renewable energy.

“Our partnership with Solar Impulse exemplifies our longstanding dedication to invest in clean technologies for sustainable mobility,” added Jena. “Just like those of the Solar Impulse team, the intensive efforts made by our R&D teams over the years have given birth to ground-breaking solutions that have redefined industry standards.”

North Carolina Leads Path to Solar

North Carolina installed the second most new U.S. solar power capacity in 2014 according to the report released this week, “Solar Market Insight 2014 Year in Review”. America’s 12th state is poised to become the first in the South to exceed 1 gigawatt (GW) of installed solar.

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 9.42.27 AMIn 2014, North Carolina added 397 megawatts (MW) of solar electric capacity, bringing its total to 953 MW – just 47 MW short of cracking the 1 GW barrier. The report also demonstrated that North Carolina’s biggest solar gains came in utility-scale installations. Of the new capacity added, 390 MW were utility scale, 4 MW were residential and 3 MW were commercial. Together, these installations represented a $652 million investment in the state in 2014.

“North Carolina is a case study of how solar works as well on the East Coast as it does on the West Coast – with the Tar Heel State now having more installed solar capacity than Oregon and Washington combined,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “To put the state’s remarkable progress in some context, the 953 MW installed today in North Carolina is more than our entire country had installed by 2007. That’s an amazing achievement.”

North Carolina’s notable solar projects include:

  • Apple’s Data Center Solar Farm in Maiden was developed by SunPower. This photovoltaic (PV) project has the capacity to generate 20 MW of electricity — enough to power more than 2,200 North Carolina homes.
  • At 20 MW, Capital Partners Solar Project is among the largest solar installations in North Carolina. Recently completed by SunEnergy, this PV project has enough electric capacity to power nearly 2,000 homes.
  • Several large retailers in North Carolina have also gone solar, including Verizon, SAS and IKEA.
  • Apple has installed one of the largest corporate PV systems in the state with 20 MW of solar capacity at its location in Maiden.

The residential market began to show some promise in 2014 with installed system prices dropping again – and down a total of 49 percent since 2010. But the big driver in the state’s solar market has been in utility-scale installations. A recent study by Duke University found that North Carolina now has 150 utility-scale solar facilities, with another 377 facilities planned. “Our assessment of the North Carolina utility-scale solar value chain finds that at least $2 billion in direct investment has been made in the state, affecting at least 4,307 direct jobs in 450 companies,” the report stated.

Utilities Show Appetite for Solar & Energy Storage

A new paper released from research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance has found that North American utility companies focused on two sectors in 2014: advanced energy storage and solar. Analysts tracked 52 clean energy requests for proposals (RFPs) released in 2014, and found that solar dominated the field with more than 27 RFPs, and that Western states sought the most capacity. The white paper details several trends including:

  • Solar dominated the market, both in capacity (1.8GW) and quantity (27 RFPs). There was also a significant amount of interest (at least 12 RFPs) in energy smart technologies, particularly energy storage.
  • Western states represented the biggest region for RFPs, with 1GW being requested. The Southeast was the second-largest region in terms of capacity requested, almost all of it solar.
  • Wisconsin-based Alliant made the biggest splash in capacity sought with a single RFP.
  • Collectively, the US armed forces issued seven RFPs.
Bloomberg Energy Research Utility RFP study

Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance, companies issuing RFP’s.

“The data reveals particularly strong interest in energy storage,” said Will Nelson, head of analysis for Bloomberg New Energy Finance in North America. “Interestingly, most storage RFPs are looking for a relatively small amount of capacity, evidence that these may be initial experimental forays into a rapidly changing sector.”

Nelson said RFPs are a leading indicator for trends in the utility industry because they are solicitations issued by companies to potential vendors. The issuers of RFPs specify the products or services they are seeking. In response, bidders submit proposals, competing against each other on the basis of pricing, capabilities, and other factors. In the world of clean energy, RFPs could involve procurement for renewable electricity-generating capacity or for technologies to make the grid more flexible or resilient.

“For project sponsors and equipment vendors, RFPs are the lifeblood of their business development efforts,” added Mark Taylor, product manager for Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “They also give an early but concrete glimpse into which sectors are catching the eye of the market, and about the strategic direction of utilities and other energy-consuming organizations.”

Lund U Trying to Produce Solar Fuel

Several researchers have come a step closer to producing solar fuel using artificial photosynthesis. The Lund University team has successfully tracked the electrons’ rapid transit through a light-converting molecule. The goal of the study is to discover a way to make fuel from water using sunlight, similar to photosynthesis. Researchers around the world are attempting to borrow ideas from photosynthesis in order to find a way to produce solar fuel artificially.

Our study shows how it is possible to construct a molecule in which the conversion of light to chemical energy happens so fast that no energy is lost as heat. This means that all the energy in the light is stored in a molecule as chemical energy,” said Villy Sundström, professor of Chemical Physics at Lund University.

Lund University Solar Fuel researchToday solar energy is harnessed in solar cells and solar thermal collectors. Solar cells convert solar energy to electricity and solar thermal collectors convert solar energy to heat. However, producing solar fuel, for example in the form of hydrogen gas or methanol, requires entirely different technology. The idea is that solar light can be used to extract electrons from water and use them to convert light energy to energy rich molecules, which are the constituent of the solar fuel.

“A device that can do this – a solar fuel cell – is a complicated machine with light-collecting molecules and catalysts,” said Sundström. Continue reading

U.S. Solar Market Insight 2014 Hot off the Press

The latest U.S. Solar Market Insight 2014 Year in Review has been released and solar had another banner year. Newly installed solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity for the year reached a record 6,201 megawatts, more than 30 percent higher than in 2013. An additional 767 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) also came online during 2014. Solar accounted for 32 percent of the nation’s new generating capacity in 2014, beating out both wind energy and coal for the second year in a row. Only natural gas constituted a greater share of new generating capacity. The report was released by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

The solar industry broke the gigawatt (GW) level in 2011 and in 2014, 3.9 GW of utility-scale sized solar power projects came online with an additional 14 GW under contract. The commercial segment in the U.S. also first installed more than 1 GW 2014 PV Installations by Statein 2011 but has not shared the same success as the utility-scale segment. In 2014, the commercial segment installed just over 1 GW, down 6 percent from 2013. The report notes, “Many factors have contributed to this trend, ranging from tight economics to difficulty financing small commercial installations.” But GTM Research expects 2015 to be a bounce-back year for the commercial segment, highlighted by a resurgence in California.

The U.S. residential segment’s 1.2 GW in 2014 marks its first time surpassing 1 GW. Residential continues to be the fastest-growing market segment in the U.S., with 2014 marking three consecutive years of greater than 50 percent annual growth.

“Without question, the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) has helped to fuel our industry’s remarkable growth. Today the U.S. solar industry has more employees than tech giants Google, Apple, Facebook and Twitter combined,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO. “Since the ITC was passed in 2006, more than 150,000 solar jobs have been created in America, and $66 billion has been invested in solar installations nationwide. We now have 20 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar capacity – enough to power 4 million U.S. homes – and we’re helping to reduce harmful carbon emissions by 20 million metric tons a year. By any measurement, the ITC has been a huge success for both our economy and environment.”

GTM Research forecasts the U.S. PV market to grow 31 percent in 2015. The utility segment is expected to account for 59 percent of the forecasted 8.1 GW of PV.

Today Natural Gas Rush, Tomorrow High Bills

According to a new report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), consumers and businesses are becoming increasingly vulnerable to higher electricity bills due to increased natural gas bills. As such, USC calls for more energy efficiency and renewable energy resources like solar and wind to be integrated into the U.S. grid. This would help insulate against economic risks tied to one energy source, while diversify the power energy mix.

The Natural Gas Gamble,” finds that the power sector is leading the country into a danger zone by favoring natural gas over renewables and energy efficiency options.

“There’s a well-documented history of volatility in natural gas prices,” said Jeff Deyette, senior energy analyst at UCS and report co-author. “Increasing demand, extreme weather energy-cover-natural-gas-gambleevents, and uncertainties about available gas supplies can cause prices to spike dramatically. For example, last winter when the Polar Vortex brought bitter cold to much of the U.S., prices in some regions jumped 10- to 12-times higher than recent lows. Despite the recent surge in natural gas production, these trends could continue and leave consumers that rely on natural gas paying the price.”

The analysis also found that if renewables made up a much greater share of the U.S. electricity mix and were combined with investments in energy efficiency, electricity prices would stabilize and consumers would ultimately pay less for their energy. Factoring in the limit on carbon emissions and strong renewable energy and energy efficiency policies at both the federal and state levels, by 2040 renewables could make up nearly 40 percent of the electricity mix and consumers would see an annual net savings of $59 billion (in 2013 dollars).

“Businesses and shareholders may also see their bottom lines negatively affected if utilities continue to expand natural gas in their electricity mix,” Deyette added. “Cleaner-burning natural gas can help in the transition away from coal to cleaner electricity generation sources. However, simply substituting dependence on one fossil fuel for another is a dead end that ultimately limits our ability to slow climate change and safeguard consumers.”

The UCS report concludes that as the nation moves away from coal, enacting a breadth of policies to ensure a diverse supply of low-carbon power sources—made up primarily of renewable energy and energy efficiency, with a more balanced role for natural gas—would protect consumers’ pocketbooks and the environment.

Researchers Combine Biomass, Solar Conversion

Photo: UW-Madison Chemistry Department

Photo: UW-Madison Chemistry Department

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have come up with a new approach to combine solar energy conversion and biomass conversion.

In a study published this week in Nature Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison chemistry Professor Kyoung-Shin Choi and postdoctoral researcher Hyun Gil Cha discussed their research to split water into hydrogen, a clean fuel, and oxygen using photoelectrochemical solar cells (PECs).

They developed a novel PEC setup with a new anode reaction. This anode reaction requires less energy and is faster than water oxidation while producing an industrially important chemical product. The anode reaction they employed in their study is the oxidation of 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) to 2,5-furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA). HMF is a key intermediate in biomass conversion that can be derived from cellulose — a type of cheap and abundant plant matter. FDCA is an important molecule for the production of polymers.

“When we first started this study, we were not sure whether our approach could be really feasible,” Choi says. “However, since we knew that the impact of the study could be high when successful, we decided to invest our time and effort on this new research project at the interface of biomass conversion and solar energy conversion.”

Read more from UMW.