Dubai Ruler wants solar panels on every roof by 2030

 

18/04/07 IMPIANTO A PANNELLI FOTOVOLTAICI DA 25kW  INSTALLATO DALLA DITTA "ENERGETICA" (AFFILIATA ENEL.SI) SULL'EDIFICIO DI PROPRIETA' DEI F.LLI CAVA

Dubai will invest billions of dollars in clean energy as part of a strategy that could see solar panels on the roofs of all buildings in the city by 2030.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, yesterday launched the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, which aims to make the emirate a global centre of green energy and economy.

While inaugurating the second phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai, he revealed plans for a new free zone called the Dubai Green Zone.

The zone would be aimed at attracting research and development centres and emerging companies in clean energy.

The Dubai Clean Energy Strategy aims to provide 7 per cent of Dubai’s energy from clean energy sources by 2020. It will increase this target to 25 per cent by 2030 and 75 per cent by 2050.

Plans include establishing a Dh100 billion Dubai Green Fund, providing “easy loans for investors in the clean energy sector” at lower interest.

“The strategy we are launching today will shape the energy sector over the next three decades,” Sheikh Mohammed said.

The Dh50bn Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park is considered the largest of its kind in the world, and will produce 5,000 megawatts by 2030.

Solar energy will account for 25 per cent of the emirate’s power requirements, while nuclear will take a 7 per cent share, clean coal 7 per cent and gas 61 per cent.

Sheikh Mohammed yesterday also inaugurated building works for the Dewa Innovation Centre, which includes under its umbrella a group of research and development laboratories in the field of clean energy with a total investment of Dh500 million.

“The strategy aims to provide 75 per cent of the emirate’s energy through clean energy sources by 2050, reflecting our commitment to establish a sustainable model in energy conservation which can be exported to the whole world, and support economic growth without damaging the environment and natural resources,” he said.

“Our goal is to become the city with the smallest carbon footprint in the world by 2050.”

How solar panels are making waves

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If you think of electrical current flowing like water from the grid to your home, you can start to imagine the waves your rooftop solar panels create when they try feeding current in the opposite direction.

Now multiply that by 180,000, the number of West Australian homes operating rooftop solar panels, and it’s clear our power grid has never been more complicated.

And with complication, comes expense.

Current policy sees ordinary homes hooked up to just one of three electrical phases supplied by the grid, which is perfectly sufficient for powering the average home.

Problems arise, however, when supply from rooftop solar panels exceeds demand, reversing the flow of power in that single phase for that single house, while the power in the other phases are still flowing downstream.

An expensive way past the problem is to connect every home to all three phases, according to Curtin University Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Arindam Ghosh.

Since the peaks and troughs of each cycling phase are slightly offset, supplying three phases smooths the current into a more regular supply, he says.

As well as being expensive this solution would be wasteful as it would mean supplying extra wires to customers who don’t really require them.

Fix-all for power woes

A more economical solution, Prof Ghosh says, is to use Distribution Static Compensators (DSTATCOMs).

“They’re a device that can shape your power supply, a power-quality enhancement device,” Prof Ghosh says.

DSTATCOMs could be a fix-all for regulating the quality of Perth’s power supply: the devices balance supplied current between all three phases, reducing surges, boosting sags, and ironing out instability and flicker.

“They can also act as energy storage,” Prof Ghosh says.

“They can store excess energy in batteries, you could then use this energy to shave off the evening peak energy use.”

DSTATCOMs work by taking the single-phase reverse-flowing current your solar panels feed into the grid, then rapidly redirecting that current into whichever of the three phases need it most, balancing supply according to demand.

Prof Ghosh and his team have been developing efficient ways to connect and control DSTATCOMs so the devices will work with existing power transformers.

“Eventually we’ll see large uptake of solar, but right now higher penetration will be difficult unless we see policy change,” he says.

Ultimately, integrating DSTATCOMs would mean a smarter grid, reducing headaches for electrical utilities and increasing the integration of renewable energies, Prof Ghosh says.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-11-solar-panels.html#jCp

Transparent solar panels that could replace windows

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Imagine a world where every pane of glass on the planet – from the screen on your smartphone to the windows on your house – was a solar panel capable of capturing energy. And not those blacked-out photovoltaic cells, either; we’re talking fully-transparent, crystal clear solar panels that look just like a piece of glass. It sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but believe it or not, the technology that would enable this kind of thing already exists. California-based startup Ubiquitous Energy has developed a completely transparent solar panel that’s practically indistinguishable from your average pane of glass – it’s just a matter of scaling it up for production and making the tech available. To find out how long we’ll have to wait until every building in the world is outfitted with power-generating window panes, we caught up with Ubiquitous Energy’s CEO and co-founder Miles Barr.

At first, the basics of transparent photovoltaics are a little counter-intuitive. A solar power cell indistinguishable from a standard pane of glass would have to let all visible light pass through in order to be fully transparent, but without capturing some of the light there is no source to generate power. But here’s the kicker — as it turns out, these solar cells aren’t capturing light that’s visible to the human eye. Instead, they’re designed to trap infrared and ultraviolet light, while allowing all visible wavelengths sail through unobstructed. Once the infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths are captured, they’re directed to the edges of the panel, where the light is captured by a very thin strip of traditional photovoltaic material and transformed into electricity.

This company is making transparent solar power cells a reality
UE clearly has its hands on a potentially revolutionary technology here, but unfortunately it’s still in the very, very early stages of development. The world of the future may very well be filled with transparent solar cell windows, but we definitely won’t get there overnight. So far, Ubiquitous Energy has focused its commercial application efforts on wearable devices and digital signage as the first official tech releases with transparent solar power panel screens, according to CEO Miles Barr. “With the world’s first truly transparent solar technology we are able to use the full surface of these products for energy harvesting without impacting aesthetics or function”, he said. Wearable gadgets, for example, could benefit from significantly extended battery life with transparent photovoltaic panels inlaid in the screens themselves.
Eventually, the Ubiquitous Energy team believes they will be able to completely eliminate the need for batteries in small consumer gadgets and even smart phones. Construction began on a rapid prototyping pilot production facility last year, as part of the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters. With so many production wheels in motion, Ubiquitous Energy is already partnering with commercial companies and manufacturers to join in development agreements that could bring solar powered consumer technology products to market even quicker.

Beyond wearable gadgets and digital signage, Ubiquitous Energy also has its eyes on smart phones, untethered Internet of Things sensors and connected devices, and eventually, large area smart windows. Barr says that the timeline from development to mass market production depends largely on customers’ needs (read: consumer demand): “Any device whose buyers would pay a premium for extended battery life are attractive targets… Our immediate focus is on addressing our customers many applications that have a strong value proposition utilizing our existing materials, while we continue to improve our underlying performance in parallel.”

Improving performance on the Ubiquitous Energy side means rigorous testing, further scientific innovation and more extensive commercial partnerships. Barr believes the company will be able to develop handheld tech applications to surpass 10% efficiency. Even though the company doesn’t commit publicly to an exact timeline for production, the incredible progress being accomplished on both the academic side through Dr. Lunt’s research team and on the commercial side through Ubiquitous Energy’s focus on consumer applications could mean transparent photovoltaic technology in our pockets sooner rather than later. The chronology towards skyscrapers and modern homes powered by transparent solar power cell windows is further off, but as interest and demand increase, so does Ubiquitous Energy’s ability to focus crucial resources on the development in question.

Apple plugs into solar power in Singapore

st_20151116_vnitapple_1840399www.straitstimes.com – SINGAPORE – Tech giant Apple is going all out to tackle climate change, turning to solar power to run its entire Singapore operations, including its upcoming Apple Store in Orchard Road.

When its landmark solar power contract with a local supplier starts in January next year, Apple will be the first company in Singapore to rely entirely on solar energy.

The deal of an undisclosed amount was signed with Sunseap, one of Singapore’s largest providers of solar energy, which manages solar installations on more than 800 buildings.

In an exclusive interview with The Straits Times, Ms Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice-president of environment, policy and social initiatives, said: “Taking action on climate change has been a top priority for Apple.”

“Today, 100 per cent of our operations in the United States and China are powered by renewable energy. Worldwide, the figure is at more than 87 per cent.

“Singapore is at the Equator and is a good source of solar energy.”

Due to land scarcity, companies are installing solar panels on their rooftops and this will be Apple’s approach too, with one of the largest installations of solar panels in Singapore soon to come up on one of its two buildings in Ang Mo Kio.

In the first such arrangement in South-east Asia, Apple will purchase solar energy harnessed from panels on other buildings to supplement its needs.

Traditionally, companies buy only the energy harnessed by solar panels installed on their premises.

The Economic Development Board (EDB) said the deal, which it facilitated, is “pioneering” and will solidify Singapore’s position as the leading clean energy hub in Asia.

“We are confident that this pioneering business model… will help Singapore address our space scarcity challenge and spur even more companies in Singapore to scale their renewable energy usage,” said Mr Goh Chee Kiong, EDB’s executive director for cleantech.

At 33 megawatt-peak capacity, Apple’s purchase is the largest by any commercial company here.

Under the agreement, Sunseap supplies power at a preferential rate compared with retail electricity tariffs.

Apple is also on a hiring spree ahead of the opening of its first full-fledged Apple Store, rumoured to be at Knightsbridge mall in Orchard Road.

The recruitment page on its Singapore website listed 14 new retail positions, including those for inventory specialists, service specialists and store leader.

News of the store’s opening first broke last month after fitness club Pure Fitness sent an e-mail to its members that it was vacating its space in the mall to make way for the Apple Store.

Four other tenants at the mall – clothing shops Tommy Hilfiger, Topshop/Topman and Brooks Brothers, as well as watch retailer Dickson Watch & Jewellery – will also be moving out for this purpose.

Apple has confirmed that its own store will provide after-sales service such as repairs and diagnostics, currently provided through third-party contractors.

But the company declined to reveal the store’s location and opening date, and how many people it is planning to hire.

Said Ms Angela Ahrendts, its senior vice-president of retail and online stores: “We have more than 900 incredible employees working in our Singapore contact centre and are thrilled to begin hiring the team that will open our first Apple Store in Singapore.”

What Is The Best Angle For Solar Panels?

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costofsolar.com – A home solar array is only as useful as it is appropriately sized, oriented, and installed. A poorly-matched system installed in a suboptimal location can be a big disappointment, so it’s important to pay attention to a lot of little details when planning to go solar.
Even if you hire a top-notch solar installer, someone who should know way more about solar panel angles and optimal panel orientation and array capacity than you do, if you want to get the best system possible for your home, it can pay to understand the ins and outs of producing solar electricity.

One of the key considerations when installing an array of solar panels, after assessing the structural soundness of the roof, is the direction that the roof is tilted, as well as the angle, or pitch, of the roof. A roof can be repaired or reinforced before installation if it’s damaged, but you can’t do much about the location, orientation, or pitch of the roof, short of moving to a new house, so knowing where and when and for how long the sun hits the potential location of the solar array is important. Because that is variable throughout the year, just as power consumption is variable throughout the day, it can be confusing when trying to pin down the ‘best’ solar panel angle and array orientation.

We’re all pretty aware that the sun appears to move through the sky during the day, from east to west, and that the days are longer (more hours of sunlight) in the summer, with shorter days (fewer hours of sunlight) in the winter. But there’s another variable when it comes to the sun’s energy, and that is the angle of inclination that the sun takes (its ‘height’ in the sky), which also shifts gradually throughout the year, so not only do we have to capture the most energy we can from a sun that’s moving across the sky, but one that’s also moving higher or lower in the sky, depending on the season.

And all of those variables are affected by yet another one, which is the physical location on the planet, because depending on where your house is, the amount of sunlight your solar panels will receive on any given day will vary from another location, such as more to the north or south of you. All of that is to say that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solar array that can be installed the same way every time and yet produce the exact same amount of electricity throughout the year, even not accounting for individual differences in homes or neighborhoods (tree cover, tall buildings casting shade, etc.)

When evaluating your own potential solar site, most likely your roof, it’s helpful to understand the particulars of your situation, such as the pitch, or angle, of the roof, as well as the direction that the intended surface faces, and to then relate that to the path of the sun through the sky during each of the four seasons.

Depending on where and when your house was built, the angle of your roof can be anything from flat (not very common, except in some arid regions) up to 45° or more (such as in snowy locations with steeply pitched roofs), but many homes have an angle somewhere right in the middle, around 30° or so. Because the most cost-effective and efficient way to install solar panels is parallel to the roof, your roof pitch will essentially be your future solar panel angle (unless a fixed-angle racking system is added to it), so it’s an important figure to know.

The other fixed variable is the direction that the home and its roof surfaces are pointed. In the northern hemisphere, the most sun will hit the southern faces of roofs, on average, throughout the year, so a south-facing roof has been the default for most solar installations. However, the sun also lights up the eastern surfaces in the mornings, and western surfaces in the afternoons, so roof planes that aren’t facing true south aren’t necessarily out of the question for solar panels (and western-facing solar arrays may actually be more useful to the grid, as they produce optimally during times of high demand).

Because the location of the sun in the sky each day varies by geographic location, the optimal solar panel angle is usually said to be equal to the latitude of the location, although because the angle of the roof and the latitude aren’t often an exact match, the solar array is usually simply installed parallel to the roof, in a fixed position. And according to a study at EnergySage, that’s probably the best way to do it, because the additional costs of racking to get the best solar panel angle may not achieve enough of a performance gain to make a big difference. In a location with higher electricity prices, it may make the most sense to use additional racking adjust the angle of the array for optimal production, and in other locations, lower electricity costs may not justify any additional expense for racking.

For those who want to boost their solar production in the winter and the summer, and not just have their solar panel angle be fixed year-round, an adjustable racking system may allow for optimal solar electricity generation. By tilting the panels 15° steeper in the winter and 15° down in the summer, it’s possible to increase the amount of energy your system can capture during those seasons, but there are also a number of different ways of determining when and how much to adjust the angle on a solar array if a default 15° isn’t enough for you.

The other major factor in a home solar array is the available roof space for a system that is sized appropriately to both your budget and your electricity needs. For some homes, with multiple-plane roofs, it may not be possible to put the entire array all together at the same angle, and so some solar panels will have to be installed at different angles from the rest, as the photo at the top illustrates.

If cost was no object, the absolute best performing solar electric array would probably be one mounted on poles, using dual axis tracking so that it can effectively track the sun through the sky and remain directly pointed at it all day long, regardless of what season it is. However, for most of us, a fixed angle rooftop solar array, pointed south, is already economically viable in most places, so there’s no need to invest the extra money to get a great return. Basically, the best solar panel angle for you is the one that either matches your roof pitch, because it’s cost-effective to install an array that way, or the one that gets you the most bang for your buck, electricity-wise, in your location, and your local solar installer can help you figure that out.

Austria’s largest state now gets 100% of its electricity from renewables

downloadqz.com – The Danube is a mighty river. It flows through Austria’s largest state and with it brings power: so much that the state’s governor says they no longer need to use fossil fuels to generate electricity.

 The state of Lower Austria, which encircles Vienna, now gets nearly two-thirds of its electricity from hydropower, Erwin Pröll said at a news conference Nov. 5. Of the remainder, the state sources a quarter from from wind and the rest from biomass and solar. No fossil fuels have to be burned to make the state self-sufficient in power.
 Lower Austria is home to 1.6 million of the country’s 8 million people, and is leading the rest of the country in renewable production. That in itself is quite an achievement. As a whole, Austria produces around 70% of its electricity via renewables, the highest share in the EU. It’s blessed by a mountainous geography that makes hydropower—usually produced by damming rivers at altitude and then letting the water flow downhill—possible.

European countries that have achieved 100% renewable electricity nationwide—like Norway and Iceland—have done it by similarly harnessing natural resources like rivers and hot springs. Denmark’s increase, though, is down to huge investments in wind power.

In terms of total energy production, meanwhile, Austria is sourcing about a third from renewables, already close to hitting it’s 2020 target of 34%. Neighboring Germany, which has invested massively in new infrastructure like wind and solar, is meeting a quarter of the needs of it’s much larger population with clean energy sources.

St Albans council house tentants free to install solar panels – at their own expense

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hertsad.co.uk – In a statement released last week, councillor Brian Ellis, portfolio holder for housing, said that “applications to attach the panels will be looked upon favourably,” but conceded that “tenants will need to find the finance for the work themselves”.

The statement explained that the council had spent £9 million on double glazing and cavity and wall insulation in the last three years – but would not commit to spending any money on solar panels.

It also said that 18 properties and a block of flats in Wheathampstead had been fitted with solar panels under a grant scheme in 2007. A handful of private houses in the area have also fitted solar panels to their property.

One Wheathampstead couple told the Herts Ad that they own their house and paid around £7,000 for the solar panels six years ago.

Phil Watkins, 65, said: “It’s our house and we paid for the solar panels. And unless the people who fitted it applied, we didn’t need planning permission at that time.”

Despite many councils across the country forking out for solar panels – Kirklees, for example, fitted 2,000 homes with solar panels at a cost of £9.2 million, without charging tenants a penny – St Albans are advising residents that if they want to go green, they must do it at their own expense.

Councillor Ellis said: “Double glazing and insulation have a high pay back in terms of energy efficiency and therefore reduced carbon emissions; these have been the focus of the council’s investments.

“However, we recognise that some tenants may wish to reduce their energy bills by installing solar panels. Therefore, we will look favourably on any applications by tenants to install solar panels at council homes.”

The statement comes as the government plans to slash the so-called ‘feed-in tariff’ that is paid to anyone generating electrical energy from solar panels.

Owners of property with an EPC rating of D or above, for example, are paid 12.92 pence per kWh for excess solar energy. But ministers are pushing through proposals which would see a reduction of 87 per cent – meaning that new adopters of solar would be paid just 1.63 pence from January 1.

Simon Grover called the district council’s statement “comical”, adding that “solar power can provide cheaper energy bills for council tenants and an income for councils. It’s a win-win.

“But while many councils have invested heavily in solar, St Albans has done almost nothing.”

Cllr Grover pointed out that the district council had 2,900 houses for which solar panels should be considered and said: “Half a dozen panels here or there is just a wasted opportunity.”

Karen Dragovic, head of housing at St Albans district council, explained that the reason tenants were expected to pay for solar panels was that “the financial and energy benefits are shared between the tenant and the energy supplier.”

Global Floating Solar Panels Market (Size of $4 Million in 2014) to Witness 116% CAGR During 2015 – 2020: P&S Market Research

big-floating-solar-array-580x358The global floating solar panels market was valued at $3.89 million in 2014, and it is expected to grow with a CAGR of 116.1% during 2015 – 2020. The factors driving the growth of the market include increased government initiatives and stringent environmental regulations, no need for acquisition of large land areas, and increased efficiency of power generation. The rapid depletion of fossil fuels and global warming caused by their usage has shifted the global interest from conventional energy to green energy. The different governments across the globe have initiated several projects and schemes to promote and encourage the generation of renewable energy. With the advent of floating solar technology, several countries such as Japan, the U.S., the U.K., France, Australia,India, and Brazil have started taking initiatives to develop floating solar power plants. Many of these countries are providing direct capital subsidies and tax benefits to the manufacturers of solar panels. Based on product type, the stationary floating solar panels accounted for the larger share in the global floating solar panels market in 2014.

Geographically, the Asia-Pacific market accounted for the largest share in the global floating solar panels market in 2014. The floating solar panels market in Asia-Pacific is growing mainly, due to increased government initiatives in promoting the usage of floating solar panels. The stringent environmental regulations and high energy demand at lower cost are also supporting the demand for cost effective and efficient floating solar panels. The installation of ground-based solar systems requires large land, the acquisition of which increases the cost of solar power installation. Therefore, floating solar panel technology and presence of abundant water bodies (such as ponds, lakes, rivers, waste water bodies and industrial effluent ponds) are creating ample growth opportunities for the solar panel industry in Asia-Pacific during the coming years.

The information and data in the publication “Global Floating Solar Panels Market Size, Share, Development, Growth and Demand Forecast to 2020 Industry Insights by Product Type (Stationary Floating Solar Panels, Solar-Tracking Floating Solar Panels), Location (On-Shore Floating Solar Panels, Off-Shore Floating Solar Panels)“, represents the research and analysis of data from various primary and secondary sources. A bottom up approach has been used to calculate the market size of the global floating solar panels market. P&S Market Research analysts and consultants interacted with leading companies of the concerned domain to substantiate every value of data presented in this report. The company bases its primary research on discussions with prominent professionals and analysts in the industry, which is followed by informed and detailed online and offline research.

The floating solar power plants have higher efficiency of power generation, as compared to the ground-mounted solar plants. The ground-mounted solar panels have reduced efficiency, due to the heating up of ground. Solar panels have improved efficiency at low temperature. Therefore, floating solar panels are more efficient, as water helps to lower the temperature of the photovoltaic panels. The increased efficiency of power generation by floating solar panels attracts high investment from major manufacturers and government, which is driving the growth of the global floating solar panels market.

The massive unexplored floating solar panels market across the globe and lack of availability of large land masses in densely populated countries of Asia is expected to create strong opportunities for the growth of the market. The global floating solar panels market is in its nascent form; hence as of current scenario, there is little market penetration across the globe. Currently very few countries, such as Japan, the U.S., India, Australia and Brazil, have initiated projects to install floating solar power plants. However, the high cost of installation and maintenance, along with the lack of financing schemes by banks has created a challenge for the floating solar panels manufacturers.

The key companies operating in the global floating solar panels market include Novaton AG, Ciel & Terre International, DNV GL AS, Infratech Industries Inc., KYOCERA Corporation, SPI Solar, Pristine Sun, Yingli Green Energy Holding Company Limited, Trina Solar Limited and Sharp Corporation.

www.prnewswire.com

District 65 approves solar panels at King Arts magnet school

kids_solar_panels_1_copyThe District 65 School Board approved last month a plan to install solar panels at an Evanston magnet school by the end of the year to boost energy efficiency and to educate students about sustainability.

The new project at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Literary and Fine Arts School will include the construction of one solar panel system, estimated to cost $8,000, in addition to incorporating new aspects to the school curriculum focused on solar energy.

“The city is always looking for ways to immediately reduce greenhouse gasses, so we’re super excited about the district’s plans,” Evanston’s sustainability manager Catherine Hurley said.

The Chicago-based renewable energy vendor Windfree Solar will be constructing the new solar panels for King Arts. Windfree Solar estimates District 65 could save as much as $127 per year on energy costs.

“We always want to pay attention to the energy costs we have, because as those costs increase, we have less resources to spend on our educational mission,” District 65 superintendent Paul Goren said.

The bulk of the project’s cost will come from a $7,000 grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, an organization designed to provide funding to nonprofits for conservation purposes. This specific grant’s purpose was to promote the education of renewable energy for grade school students. King Arts’ PTA will cover the remaining $1,000 cost as well as $500 in additional fees.

Goren said King Arts’ PTA has been pivotal in bringing this grant money to the school.

“In this case, it was really the parents who actually went about getting the grant to move forward with this,” he said. “Their enthusiasm, their hard work all contributed to getting this grant, so this is being done with the great enthusiasm of the parent community.”

The seven-step grant application process was spearheaded largely by Ethan Chatfield, an Environmental Protection Agency employee and a school parent, as well as other parents who worked to persuade District 65 to approve the project and to obtain the grant itself.

“Working with the EPA, I had brought these units to other schools, so I thought I should bring it to my own kids’ (school),” Chatfield said. “The science curriculum is being cut and a number of parents are concerned, so this is a way to try to get students and the district excited about solar energy and science.”

The school sees this project as not just an opportunity to conserve energy but also to educate students about the possibilities of solar energy, Goren said.

Chatfield said the grant also will send some teachers from King Arts to a conference where they will learn about the various dynamics and intricacies of solar energy.

“This is opening the door for young people to learn more about solar energy and learn about it right at their schoolhouse,” Goren said. “There’s a set curriculum they will use, which I believe will be through our science instruction.”

From the city’s perspective, this project is more about the educational value for students than the cost benefit, Hurley said.

“We’re certainly not pressuring schools to do this, but we do applaud (King Arts) for taking the initiative,” she said.

Goren said this type of project isn’t new to the district, since other schools have completed similar projects.

While many in District 65 remain excited about the new solar panels, there are no active plans for solar panel facilities at other schools at this time, he said.

The new solar panels are expected to be completed by the year’s end when Chatfield and other parents hope to host an unveiling ceremony, dubbed a “Solarbration.”

http://dailynorthwestern.com/

ergy and Environment Surprising study finds that solar energy can also cause climate change (a little)

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washingtonpost.com – Large solar arrays could have some surprising side effects, according to a new study, including causing changes in the local climate.

On a global scale, these changes will be minor compared to what would happen if humans continue to burn fossil fuel for energy instead, but are still worth watching, scientists say.

Figuring out how renewable energy sources will affect their local landscapes is an increasingly relevant challenge for scientists, as more and more nations are vowing to slash their carbon outputs and switch to alternatives, such as solar and wind energy. Previous studies have shown that both solar arrays and wind farms have the potential to cause regional changes in temperature and precipitation by altering the amount of solar radiation absorbed by the Earth or disrupting local airflow patterns.

With this in mind, Aixue Hu, a climate change research scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, conducted a study, published Monday in Nature Climate Change, that attempted to predict the climatic effects of solar arrays.

For their experiments, Hu and his colleagues assumed a low-carbon scenario, in which global greenhouse gas emissions would start to decline after the year 2020 as renewable energy sources are more widely used.

The researchers then carried out a series of simulations. The first simulation included solar panel installations across the world’s deserts — the parts of the world likely to receive the most sunlight — and throughout all the world’s urban areas.

The second simulation mimicked that scenario, but also assumed that the world would continue to consume a lot of energy through the use of air conditioning.

The final simulation dropped the thermostat assumption and scaled back the number of solar panel arrays. This scenario is the “more realistic” of the bunch, according to Hu, and was meant to test whether a more modest solar panel installation would be able to address the global energy demand through the end of the century.

After running the simulations, the researchers found that the solar power generated in each of the experiments would be enough to satisfy global electricity demand by 2100. That was the good news. But the experiments also showed that the panels do have an impact on climate, at least regionally.

Solar panels change the way sunlight is reflected and absorbed by the Earth. Any radiation they take in is radiation that’s not being absorbed by the Earth. This leads to a cooling effect in the region surrounding the array. In fact, the first two simulations in this study, which assumed solar panel installations throughout the world’s desert and urban areas, produced a 2-degree Celsius regional cooling in the desert regions. This cooling was also associated with a 20 percent decrease in precipitation in the deserts. Other, slightly broader changes in precipitation and wind patterns occurred as a result in the regions surrounding the deserts.

In urban areas, the effects were a little different. In the first simulation, the model predicted a very small amount of cooling, with temperature falling approximately 0.26 degrees Celsius. In the second simulation, the one in which global thermostat regulation is significantly increased, the large amount of power consumed actually produced an urban heat island effect, in which human energy use releases heat into the environment and causes the regional temperature to warm up. In this scenario, the warming from the heat island effect essentially compensated for the cooling caused by the solar panels.

When considered on a global scale, these effects become much smaller. In the first simulation, the average change in global temperature is an average decline of about 0.34 degrees Celsius, relative to the temperature that would be expected under the same low-carbon climate scenario with no solar parks. In the second simulation, where the heat island effect is taken into account, there would be an average increase in global temperature of about 0.09 degrees Celsius.

However, the authors acknowledge that it’s unrealistic to assume such widespread solar panel installations in the future. So they looked to the third simulation for a more realistic view of what’s to come.

In the third simulation, which included fewer solar panel arrays, the climate effects are scaled down accordingly. The average global cooling observed in this simulation is only a decline of about 0.04 degree Celsius.

The study shows that, while large solar arrays can cause some significant regional changes in climate, “globally it will not affect the global climate much,” said Hu. “This is a big contrast with the fossil fuels.” According to most climate projections, human-caused global warming — the result of releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere — could lead to anywhere from 1 to nearly 3 degrees of global temperature increases under even moderate climate scenarios.

That said, the study does also provide some insight into how the local solar panel-induced climate effects might be minimized. The results suggested that local climate effects were smaller in urban areas than in the more remote desert areas and can be mitigated by the urban heat island effect. So while it’s tempting to place large solar arrays in desert areas, where they’re most likely to receive the greatest amount of interrupted sunlight, the authors note that “a more distributed solar panel installation could reduce the impact of the solar panels on regional and global climate.”

And being aware of the way certain regions could be affected by large solar deployments, could help policymakers make decisions about how to distribute panels in these places and how to prepare for the local changes that could occur as a result, Hu said.

So future research may also examine how the distribution of solar arrays could be changed in order to maximize their positive effects on land use and minimize their negative ones.

In the meantime, this study reinforces the idea that a transition to renewable energy is imperative to protecting Earth’s climate future. While the transition won’t be without its own effects, the authors note that the alternative — a world in which fossil fuel burning is allowed to continue unabated — would be far worse.