Google’s ‘Project Sunroof’ tells homeowners if solar panels are cost-effective

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The company that lets you compare air fares and translate foreign languages online wants to make it easier to weigh the costs and benefits of installing solar panels on household rooftops.

Google is rolling out a new online service that quickly tallies up considerations of going solar and whether homeowners should consider buying or leasing photovoltaic panels costing thousands of dollars. Google’s Project Sunroof combines the eye-in-the-sky images behind Google Earth with calculations on how much shade trees cast over a rooftop, data on local weather patterns, industry pricing and available subsidies to arrive at its bottom line.

The service expanded in December to analyze properties in the Raleigh area, as well as 15 other metro areas in Arizona, Nevada, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Colorado.

Interested potential customers are referred to solar-panel installers for further follow-up, cutting their marketing costs, said Carl Elkin, the senior software engineer behind the service.

“We at Google believe in solar energy. The solar industry needs our help,” he said.

Google has invested more than $1-billion in recent years into solar energy, including $300-million earlier this year into a fund that finances residential rooftop projects installed by SolarCity Corp. Google invested $280-million in the publicly traded company in 2011.

Project Sunroof launched this summer in San Francisco and Fresno, California, and Boston, where Elkin works. The metro areas were picked based on several criteria, including Google’s available satellite imagery and local market conditions including government incentives, Elkin said.

Google’s proposition is a faster, simpler way of sizing up possible pros and cons of solar than calling out someone for a site evaluation or using the more complex calculator offered by the U.S. Energy Department.

An Associated Press reporter who plugged in his Raleigh home address was informed that installing solar panels would likely be a money-loser based on the amount of usable annual rooftop sunlight, shading from surrounding pine trees, and current household power use. But if the reporter chose to pursue the idea further, buying rather than leasing or a loan would be the better deal.

Google’s increased involvement in solar comes as some states begin to re-evaluate policies that have helped stimulate the rapid growth in turning the sun into electricity.

All but a handful of states have laws allowing what’s called “net metering” for homes or businesses – basically selling power from rooftop cells they don’t use themselves, usually to the local electric utility, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In December, Mississippi became the 46th state to adopt broad rules promoting solar power.

In Texas and some of the remaining states, individual utilities may offer similar solar-purchase options, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a national trade group.

Solar accounts for about 1 per cent of the country’s total reported electricity generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. About two-thirds of that is from utility-scale solar arrays that are often spread across rural tracts.

But as many as two dozen states are considering changes that would reduce the incentives for solar customers under the theory they too should pay for the broader power grid.

Nevada utilities regulators last week adopted a policy to reduce by 75 per cent over five years the amount Las Vegas-area electric company NV Energy pays customers for extra power their solar panels produce. The change means rooftop solar customers will pay more of the costs now shifted to non-solar customers to maintain the utility’s transmission lines and power generation.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/international-business/us-business/googles-project-sunroof-tells-homeowners-if-solar-panels-are-cost-effective/article27988144/

Should we solar panel the Sahara desert?

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Could one solution to climate change be to harvest the power of sunlight where it shines brightest on the planet? Should we solar panel the Sahara desert?

Four experts discuss the radical proposal with the BBC World Service Inquiry programme.


Gerhard Knies: Scientifically sound and economically viable

Dr Gerhard Knies co-founded TREC, a network of experts on sustainable energy that gave rise to the Desertec initiative, which aimed to provide Europe with clean energy by harnessing sustainable power from sun-rich deserts.

“Fifteen minutes after I learned about the nuclear accident at Chernobyl, I made an assessment of how much energy comes from the sun to the earth. It was about 15,000 times as much as humanity was using, so it was not a question of the source, it was a question of the technology.

“When the climate change issue became more prominent, I said we have to pull forward this solution, because it solves the industrial vulnerability problem of our civilisation, and at the same time, the climate vulnerability.

“My strategy was to look for amplifiers. A very good one was The Club of Rome, with its president, Prince Hassan from Jordan. We had a seminar with experts. We included European participants, but also people from North Africa, Jordan and the Middle East. They all said ‘Yes, that would be great for us to have such a thing.’

“We did a study so that we had numbers which are scientifically sound, based on the present knowledge in a clear way. We got support from Greenpeace and from several scientific institutions and big companies.

“We didn’t want politicians in the game; it should just be scientifically sound and economically viable. But politicians liked it, and when the Desertec Industrial Initiative launched in Munich in July 2009, we were flooded with politicians. When they see the potential for a solution they get interested.

“The Desertec Initiative was made to study the plan from the angle of industry and see if they find flaws or if everything was right to pave the way for investments, but not to do the investments. [After that work was done] they began to fight about which direction it should go in and dissolved.

“The second stage is now called the Desert Energy Industrial Initiative and they want to organise implementation, and that is beginning.

“At the time when [the idea] was conceived, North Africa looked quite different. Now, this turbulence changes the whole business environment, and the region has to go through that. But the demand, the need to tap into the solar energy in deserts, has not disappeared.”


Tony Patt: Beware political complications

Tony Patt is professor of climate policy at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. He leads the research for the European Research Council on whether the Saharan sun could power Europe.

“The technology is good. It’s matured a lot in the last few years in terms of thermal storage. That allows you to take the heat that you capture from the sun and store it for, let’s say, up to a day, and produce the power later. That means you can generate it around the clock.

“And the Sahara desert is so big that if there is cloudy weather, it’s localised, and with thermal storage, it can provide absolutely reliable power.

“Where I’m from in the US, Boston gets a huge amount of electricity from northern Quebec, which is about 1,000 miles away, via a single power cable. They’re not hard to build as long as you get political approval from all the jurisdictions you’re going through.

“They don’t lose much power. Maybe over 1,000 miles you lose 2%.

“The biggest potential pitfall is that it’s politically complicated. You’re not going to develop solar energy in the Sahara unless you have a very strong state involvement, both on the side of the consumers and the project developers.

“Solar electricity is still a little bit more expensive than electricity from fossil fuels. It’s becoming competitive, but it’s not clearly competitive yet. So it’s nothing that the private sector is doing on its own.

“There are a lot of political battles that need to take place to figure out where we’re going to build the infrastructure, how it’s going to get paid for. And perhaps more critically, how and when we’re going to turn off the old infrastructure.

“Over the last 15 years, Germany has taken vast steps to support solar energy, but that was tied to building it within Germany, creating jobs for Germans. There’s less of a clear case for European governments to support what is still more expensive energy when it’s people in other parts of the world who are getting those jobs.”


Daniel Egbe: Africa must share the benefits

Danie Egbe is an evaluator for the World Bank, a chemist, an academic and the founder of ANSOLE, a network of Africans for Africa, with a focus on renewable energy. He co-authored a book on renewable energy in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Africa has an acute energy problem. Only around 30% of sub-Saharan Africans have access to electricity. Economic growth in Africa is now around 5.5%, but this is hampered by lack of energy.

“The presentations which were given in the past have arrows showing how energy will be funnelled to the north. But there was no arrow pointing down to sub-Saharan Africa.

“As an African, knowing the history about the exploitation of the continent, where there is a big gap when it comes to riches, and Africa is still poor due to the colonial past and the slave time, nobody can just come and do things as if we are still in the past.

“Things have changed. Africans are self-confident now, they want to participate in their development, and they want to have part of their resources, they are not just there to always give to the rest of the world and remain poor.

“The African Network for Solar Energy is there to see that the African interest is taken into consideration.

“I’m not against a big solar project. They can exist, but can only be in certain parts of the countries. If I want to supply electricity to very remote areas, the off-grid approach is the best, where somebody has his own solar panel, or a group of villagers can share one, and they control the production.

“If those conditions are fulfilled, why not? Solar energy is for the whole world. But let’s not just come and say ‘Okay, Joe has something, I come and take it from him and I leave him alone.’ No I have to see, ‘Okay, Joe has something, maybe he can share it with me, and we can benefit from it?'”


Helen Anne Curry: Technology alone is rarely the answer

Helen Anne Curry is a lecturer in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University

“I am interested in exploring the persistent optimism that surrounds new technologies, even after multiple failures.

“The technological fix is appealing; it’s exciting to think we can solve problems without fundamentally having to change the way we live, the way we get to work every day or the number of cheap flights we take.

“But you can’t just take one point in the system and say ‘that’s solved’; there is much more that extends outwards.

“Think of the work that was done to solve local air pollution in the mid-twentieth century, which was to build super-tall smokestacks.

“But they don’t eliminate the pollution from the air. They just throw it up much higher in the atmosphere, so in fact it circulates further. One of the subsequent problems of building these was they created acid rain in places that didn’t have this kind of concentrated industry.

“We can use our science and technology knowledge to bring other peoples of the world into the quality of life that the global north has enjoyed for far longer.

“Yet if you look back on 60 years of policy work and intervention, there’s a lot of ways in which we’ve failed. We haven’t been able to deliver the social, scientific and technological progress which we envisioned.

“I think the only reason to pursue [solar panels in the Sahara] would be if it were a stopgap measure in which the long-term goal would be to reduce consumption of energy and to change our lifestyles to be more sustainable, so that subsequent generations don’t have to deal with as many problems as we’re going to leave them.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-34987467

Morocco delays first phase of sprawling solar power project

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After a year that saw Morocco take significant steps towards bolstering its renewable portfolio, backers of the Noor-1 solar power plant delayed its opening this week without an explanation.

According to the AFP, the plant was scheduled to be opened on the 27th of December, but was pushed back without further details offered by the project’s communications agency.

In recent years, Morocco has worked to reduce its dependence on foreign sources through the development of domestic projects, including exploring newly found traditional reserves and shale projects. However, the state’s embrace of solar and wind has become a pillar of the country’s energy policy.

The Noor-1 project is the first of three stages planned for solar projects in the North African country, with the door being left open for a potential fourth phase in the future. The Noor 2 and Noor 3 are scheduled to open in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

According to the report, the first stage is expected to provide 160 megawatts and help the country reduce emissions and greenhouse gases.

Earlier this year, the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN) announced that the NOOR II and III solar centers, producing 200 MW and 150MW, respectively, would be financed through a debt/equity ratio of 80/20. The debt will be financed by MASEN and guaranteed by an array of international lenders, including the African Development Bank, French Development Agency, Clean Technology Fund, European Commission, European Investment Bank, Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau and the International Bank.

The projects, estimated to cost $2 billion, are a part of a broader solar strategy that aims to produce 14 percent of the country’s overall energy by 2020, according to the report. The financing development appears to back up the country’s earlier claims that Rabat would not need assistance from outside development partners to pursue its renewable goals.

According to The National, the country hopes to provide 42 percent of its energy needs with renewable energy options by 2020, with the remaining coming from fewer imports and a burgeoning domestic production sector.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/christophercoats/2015/12/29/morocco-delays-first-phase-of-sprawling-solar-power-project/

Research focuses on improving solar panel

Shafarman-SolarPanels-02Solar panels accounted for one-third of all new electricity generation installed in the United States in 2014, up from just 10 percent two years earlier.

With interest expected to keep rising, many research groups are on the hunt for ways to boost efficiency.

Among them is a team at the University of Delaware that is developing materials to harness portions of the sun’s spectrum that in today’s conventional solar panels are largely wasted.

The key is a property of a panel’s semiconductor material called the band gap, an electronic hurdle of sorts. Light particles — photons — with enough energy to clear the bar are converted into electricity, while those with lower energy are lost, mostly as heat.

The Delaware researchers think their materials would combine the energy from two low-energy particles to make one photon with enough energy to clear the hurdle.

The research, funded by a $1 million grant from the Los Angeles-based W.M. Keck Foundation, involves using extremely thin layers of semiconductors to coax electrons to higher energy states.

“We call it the ratchet,” said Matt Doty, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at the university.

It is a perennial industry guessing game to predict which of the next-generation technologies can be made cheaply enough to put on roofs.

Solar installations benefit from an investment tax credit that Congress extended this month. In a recent analysis, Deloitte Center for Energy Solutions said that true “grid parity,” defined as cost-competitiveness without subsidies, is still years away

Doty, along with Delaware colleague Joshua Zide and others, wants to push the technology further by taking a new stab at an old idea.

Previous efforts to combine the energy from low-energy photons — a concept called photon upconversion — have resulted in poor efficiency.

The Delaware team is tackling the problem by fabricating high-purity, ultrathin films of gallium and indium compounds, deposited in precise amounts with molecular beam epitaxy.

The process is carried out in a vacuum in a machine where the pressure is less than one-trillionth that of the air on Earth, said Zide, an associate professor of materials science and engineering.

Numerical models suggest that solar panels made with this method and configuration of compounds could, in theory, achieve efficiencies in the high-30 percent range, Doty said. Conventional silicon-based solar panels, by comparison, are generally no more than 22 percent efficient.

But the molecular-beam method is expensive, so Delaware is also experimenting with a cheaper though less-efficient method.

This could be the last word in producing cheap solar energy

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Meet two budding Emirati scientists who strive to make world a better place through their inventions.

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After year-long research and experiments, Maryam Al Hashmi, an 18-year-old Emirati student, has invented an affordable method to produce solar energy.

Her invention titled ‘Epilogue of Plasticus’ could eventually replace silicone filaments in solar cells with plastic photocells.

When Khaleej Times asked how she did it, a reserved Hashmi said: “I can’t reveal that secret, I experimented with several chemicals to make this invention. but one plastic photocell on a solar panel can conduct 202 to 349 milliwats of energy. Eventually, all silicone-based solar panels can be replaced with these plastic photocells.”

Her invention can make solar energy cheaper and easily accessible.

The young Emirati contested her invention at the 6th Intel Science Competition Arab World and has won the first place under the ‘Environmental Engineering’ category.

Hashmi, student of Al Ittihad Private School, Jumeirah, was also awarded second place for the category Grand Awards from the Intel Foundation. Thirteen Emirati boys and girls participated for the competition, which took place recently in Alexandria, Egypt.

The competition celebrates young scientists and played host to over 110 students from across 11 Arab countries who presented 77 projects and competed for $20,000 worth prize money.

The finalists were selected from 77 projects spanning from biochemistry to electrical and mechanical engineering to energy and transport.

Their projects were evaluated on the site by over 40 judges representing 10 Arab countries, all of which are university professors from the region.

The projects were selected based on creativity and originality of the idea, scientific thought of the project, achieving engineering goals, thoroughness of detail, skills of performance, clarity of ideas and team collaboration.

Speaking about how her idea for the project was developed, Hashmi said: “I got the idea from the YouTube viral video about solar electricity bottles being used in Philippines. If it is being used there, I was sure it could be used for this project as well.”

Hashmi spent an entire year working on the project.

“I’ve always loved science as a subject. I attended my first science competition when I was in 10th grade, I’ve been hooked since then.”

Crucial for women

Noora Hamad Al Marri, 18-year-old student of Dubai National School in Al Twar whose invention ‘Thermoelectric Smart Buildings’ got the second place under the ‘Physical Energy’ category said that it is crucial for women to enter the field of sciences.

Her project converts the air temperature surrounding buildings to power electrical appliances inside the building.

The project will work in both hot and cold temperatures. Al Marri invented the project along with her teammate Marwa Rashed Saif Ali Khatem. “We’re still using fossil fuels as a major source of electricity. I thought to myself, there must be some other way to generate power,” said Al Marri.

“My interest in science began since I was in Grade 2. Unlike other schools that say science is not for girls, my school really motivated me to take up more interest in science,” said Al Marri.

“The Intel Science Competition is a crucial event for the future of young scientists in the Arab world. These finalists represent the best and the brightest innovators and leaders from our region,” said Taha Khalifa, Regional General Manager for Intel, Middle East and North Africa.

“Judging by the caliber of the projects presented this week, I am confident that these young innovators will make our world a better place.”

http://www.khaleejtimes.com/nation/general/this-could-be-the-last-word-in-producing-cheap-solar-energy

Despite Elon decision, solar energy continues to shine locally

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Solar panels soak up the sun from the rooftop of Skarm Furniture Company, located on West Trade Street. The high-end furniture maker hopes to get enough solar energy from the panels to offset 30,000 pounds of coal and 50,000 pounds of carbon dioxide.

The Elon Board of Aldermen’s decision earlier this month to deny a San Francisco company’s request to build a solar farm on North Manning Avenue came down to the little wiggle room that the town has to grow, according to board members.

Ecoplexus, a San Francisco solar firm, had asked the board to rezone about 40 acres of a 70-acre tract so it could buy the land from a local family and build an $8.5 million solar farm there.

The board has historically been very receptive to solar energy: Alamance County’s first working solar farm is just inside the town limits on Front Street.

The Dec. 8 decision to deny the request came as an obvious shock to the land’s owner, the Johnston family. The unanimous vote came down to three aldermen on the six-member board: Stephen Buff, Ron Klepcyk and Mark Greene.

Alderman Davis Montgomery abstained because he works for Duke Energy, which would have bought power from Ecoplexus. Alderman John Peterson did not attend the meeting. Jerry Tolley, as mayor, does not vote unless there is a tie.

The denial of the request, board members said, wasn’t anti-solar but rather pro-growth. The land in question is part of the town’s extraterritorial jurisdiction district, meaning while it is not inside the city limits, it is there for the town to annex.

“The rezoning request was not consistent with our long-range plan,” Klepcyk said. “It’s in the long-range plan for the land to be residential, and there was no reason for us to consider changing that.”

SEAN GALLAGHER, vice president of state affairs for the Solar Energy Industry Association, told the Times-News that while he cannot comment on the specifics of the Elon decision, his group “encourages its member companies to pick good sites that avoid and minimize conflicts with other values, such as land use or threatened species, and to mitigate environmental impacts that are unavoidable.”

In a Facebook post, Christy Johnston said that she and her mother are “vehemently against single, low-cost family housing being built on our property.”

“I am not against change or growth,” she said. “I am against destroying land to build houses on it when it’s been proven time and time again that the developments built for these things consistently have homes that aren’t filled or over time fall apart because they aren’t being cared for.”

For its part, Ecoplexus is moving forward with plans to build a 26-acre solar farm in Mebane, and North Carolina continues to shine as a powerhouse in the solar industry.

On Wednesday, Duke Energy announced that it would build a 60-megawatt solar farm in Union County, along with a 15.4-megawatt facility in Davie County.

Source: http://www.thetimesnews.com/article/20151218/BUSINESS/151219063

Solar energy: Australia is not an innovation nation, it’s an inertia nation

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TheGuardian – Australia stands at a crossroads after the Paris agreement and a week of talk about being an innovation nation. This has been coming for some time and, as a successful energy entrepreneur, I think the choices facing the country could not be starker.

A mate and I left Australia in 2007 to build a solar business in the United States called Sungevity, which is now selling solar systems to homes and businesses across America and Europe and holds a market value greater than that of Peabody Coal. As our business has continually strengthened, we’ve watched Australia’s solar industry lurch up and down, struggling under the curse of intermittent policy and a lack of commitment. It has affected investment (the policy seesaw was behind our decision to sell our interests in Australia to Roofjuice) and cost Australia its place as a world leader in renewable ingenuity.

By comparison California, with its ambition to lead the solar game and its robust innovation culture, has thrived. We started up a business incubator, which now houses dozens of renewable energy companies. I also have the good fortune to run the California clean energy fund, which has invested in startups and entrepreneurs driving climate solutions, creating wealth and jobs and changing the world.

In the US they may not like to say the dirty words “industry policy” in public, but in California they’ve still got one and it’s delivering major benefits in the new energy economy. Coming from an epicentre of the enormous changes that are disrupting energy industries globally, I have a few observations of the Australian industry following a recent trip home:

Firstly, hats off to the Australian solar industry which, despite it all, pioneers the best technology in the world. At a residential level, it’s achieved some of thehighest rates of solar penetration and lowest costs in the world. Thanks to those working in the sector, families are saving money on their power bills and we have great learnings for the rest of the world on how to integrate solar at scale into the electricity supply.

Secondly, Australia must build on this success. The last government seemed determined to quash it but there are positive signals from the new prime minister that he understands the world is moving this way and we need to invest to keep up. While I have reservations as to whether the recently announced $1.1bn innovation plan can turn around Australia’s risk-averse business culture, at least it’s a start. Political signals are important – now we need some meat on the bone.

Finally, now is the time to move quickly if Australia wants to benefit from the world’s energy shift. Australia has to wake up from the illusion that fossil fuels will be its saviour. The UK has just announced that it will be done with coal by 2025, after hundreds of years of being powered by the stuff. California, the eighth largest economy in the world, is weaning itself off coal by 2020 and has laws in place demanding that 50% of its power comes from renewables by 2030. China, in its latest plan, is going to peak its coal use in 2017. The list goes on. Australia confused delegates in Paris by talking up the opportunities of the transition to renewable energy while seeking to protect the dying coal industry.

Australian solar energy entrepreneur Danny Kennedy speaking at the Global Green USA conference.
Australian solar energy entrepreneur Danny Kennedy speaking at the Global Green USA conference. Photograph: Climate Council

That is not an innovation nation – it’s an inertia nation. Why not spend the $4bn Australia wastes each year on fossil fuel subsidies on bolstering the renewable energy sector? There’s no market sense in skewing the playing field when the world’s committed to get off coal.

There is so much talent in this country. Australia keeps punching above its weight in the world, but its brightest and most innovative minds are struggling for support.

We need to lean in on our genius. Australians are legends overseas in the photovoltaic industry, for example, which will dominate energy this century. They should also be household names at home, rather than the mining moguls who are risking everything we hold dear in order to keep profiteering. South Australian business Infratech, for example, is selling floating solar systems to California, which should have been much bigger news.

Renewable energy is an enormous export opportunity for Australia. More people live on earth today without electricity than were here when Thomas Edison started spreading the stuff. Most of those people live in nations to the north of Australia. Why can’t we sell some of our solutions and systems for spreading solar and smart energy in these markets? There will be decades of work and trillions of dollars to be made in these emerging markets.

If you want an ideas boom, you need to create the infrastructure to mine the minds. Why not build a string of incubators up and down the country, tapping into the power of our people and ideas? We could provide spaces in every city and get the legal, mentoring and capital support to entrepreneurs capable of building the companies and solutions needed. We are willing to help build an energy lab in Sydney – who’s with us?

At the end of the day, the transition will not be that hard. We have the technology and the momentum is already there. It’s going to be a bit like the transition we went through from using phones and fax machines to being online. There’s a lot of good work to do, but for most of us it simply means that our electricity service and mobility will be better and cheaper.

This is a historic opportunity for ideas and entrepreneurs to arise. The world needs to come up with new combinations of existing things: more than innovation, this energy transition requires great ingenuity. So the challenge is about backing people and their creative genius. Australia has been great at that and could be again, but if you aim to go long on ingenuity, you can’t also be long on a commodity.

  • Danny Kennedy is the founder of US residential solar energy company Sungevity, and he wrote Rooftop Revolution: How Solar Power Can Save Our Economy–and Our Planet–from Dirty Energy (2012). He is currently the managing director of California Clean Energy Fund

Scientists are trialling ‘hydricity’ – a new power source that combines solar energy and hydrogen

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ScienceAlert – As ingenious and environmentally friendly as solar energy solutions are, they’re not always as efficient as we’d like them to be – and of course, they’re only generating new electricity when the Sun is out. But an international team of scientists has come up with a new type of energy system they’re calling ‘hydricity’, which combines the power of sunlight with hydrogen fuel.

There are two ways we get energy from the Sun: photovoltaic cells (the panels you see on rooftops) and solar thermal power plants, which concentrate the Sun’s rays, then use the generated heat to warm up water and drive turbines using the steam that’s produced. The latter method captures more of the Sun’s solar spectrum, but is less efficient than a standard solar panel, and can only work in direct sunlight – which is why you only find them in parts of the world that get plenty of sunshine.

This is where hydricity comes in. By combining solar thermal power plants with hydrogen fuel production facilities, the researchers say, efficiencies in both types of power can be improved. An integrated system would produce both steam for generating electricity immediately, and hydrogen for storing it for later use – a crucial consideration as the countries of the world become more dependent on renewable energy.

The team, from Purdue University and Switzerland’s Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne, says it can produce hydrogen at an efficiency of 50 percent and electricity at an unprecedented 46 percent efficiency, thanks to the way the high-pressure turbines can be used to run in succession of the lower-pressure ones.

Over the course of an average 24-hour cycle, it’s claimed that hydricity could reach a Sun-to-electricity efficiency of 35 percent, which is as good as the best multijunction photovoltaic cells combined with battery power.

The hydrogen fuel produced alongside the electricity is important: not only could it find uses in transportation, chemical production and other industries, it doesn’t discharge when stored or degrade with repeated use. When the Sun goes down, the stored hydrogen power could kick in, and that means turbines don’t need to be stopped or restarted.

“The concept provides an exciting opportunity to envision and create a sustainable economy to meet all the human needs including food, chemicals, transportation, heating and electricity,” said one of the researchers, Rakesh Agrawal from Purdue. “Traditionally, electricity production and hydrogen production have been studied in isolation, and what we have done is synergistically integrate these processes while also improving them.”

So far, the scientists have only produced simulated models of the process – the next step is real-world experiments. The group’s work has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

US town rejects solar panels amid fears they ‘suck up all the energy from the sun’

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http://www.independent.co.uk/ – A retired science teacher said she was concerned the panels would prevent plants in the area from growing.

A US town has rejected a proposal for a solar farm following public concerns.

Members of the public in Woodland, North Carolina, expressed their fear and mistrust at the proposal to allow Strata Solar Company to build a solar farm off Highway 258.

During the Woodland Town Council meeting, one local man, Bobby Mann, said solar farms would suck up all the energy from the sun and businesses would not go to Woodland, the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald reported.

Jane Mann, a retired science teacher, said she was concerned the panels would prevent plants in the area from photosynthesizing, stopping them from growing.

Ms Mann said she had seen areas near solar panels where plants are brown and dead because they did not get enough sunlight.

She also questioned the high number of cancer deaths in the area, saying no one could tell her solar panels didn’t cause cancer.

The area around Woodland is a popular choice because it has an electrical substation allowing the panels to be hooked up to the national grid.

A spokesperson for Strata told the meeting: “There are no negative impacts. A solar farm is a wonderful use for a property like this.”

They added: “The panels don’t draw additional sunlight.”

The council voted three to one against rezoning the land and later voted for a moratorium on future solar farms.

Speaking after the COP-21 summit on climate change in Paris pledged to limit global warming below the threshold of 2°c, Pope Francis said the plan will require “a concerted and generous commitment” from everyone.

Experts said a move towards renewable power, with investment in wind and solar energy, will be required to cut down on emissions.

EU Extends Restrictions On Chinese Solar Panel Manufacturers

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International Business Times – The European Commission (EC) has agreed to demands from local solar panel manufacturers to extend curbs on Chinese imports by a year. The restrictions set a minimum sale price and cap the number of Chinese-made solar panels sold in the European Union.

The restrictions, including two tariffs, were originally introduced in 2013 following a trade dispute over alleged below-cost imports of solar panels from China. The anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties were due to expire Dec. 7 but will now stay in place for at least a year, according to Bloomberg.

“The request is based on the grounds that the expiry of the measures would be likely to result in continuation of dumping and recurrence of injury to the (EU) industry,” the commission said, adding that it had decided to keep the curbs in place after EU ProSun, an association of solar panel producers, lobbied to extend them.

European manufacturers have long accused China of using soft loans and export credits to corner the EU market for solar panels, according to the Financial Times.

“As long as Chinese manufacturers fail to comply with basic international trade and competition rules, the EU must maintain the measures in full force and effect,” EU ProSun reportedly said, in a statement, following the ruling.