Solar power prices expected to drop further this year

June 12, 2018 by  
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The price of solar energy could further fall this year, experts say. A Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) analysis published by PV Magazine predicted a 34 percent drop in the price of multicrystalline solar modules in China, an event expected to influence prices around the world. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said a price drop could open up “further space for more ambition to tackle climate change , which is crucial to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement .” The 2018 solar panel price decline could be about the same as the drop in module prices in 2016, and would be exceeded only by 2011’s 40 percent drop in prices, PV Magazine said. BNEF’s benchmark monocrystalline module price was $0.37 per watt for 2017’s fourth quarter, and could be just $0.24 per watt by 2018’s close. BNEF experts predict module prices will drop another 10 to 15 percent next year. Related: The cost of high-efficiency solar panels fell 37% in 2017 The price decline is a result of withdrawn support for China’s photovoltaic market. Since China is the biggest solar market in the world, the price fall could emanate. PV Magazine cited a BNEF note saying, “Oversupply is universal.” The note predicted a market panic initially, and developers could halt installation in the third quarter and wait for cheaper module prices and release of new quotas. India and developing countries around the world could benefit from the panel price decline, according to the UNFCCC. The UNFCCC praised the International Solar Alliance (ISA), started by India and France in 2015 to focus on investment in large-scale solar power in developing countries. UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said earlier this year, “Our globally agreed goals in the Paris Agreement and the Agenda for Sustainable Development cannot be achieved without your [ISA’s] effort to scale up solar power generation and support countries with great solar potential … This is our moment to deliver on the promise of a better future agreed in Paris.” + Bloomberg New Energy Finance Via PV Magazine and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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Solar power prices expected to drop further this year

Some of the oldest and largest baobab trees are dying

June 12, 2018 by  
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A new survey of baobab trees throughout southern Africa has shown that most of the two dozen largest and oldest trees in the region have died in the past decade or are currently very ill. While human-caused physical damage to individual trees may explain specific die-offs, researchers believe that climate change, which is occurring faster in southern Africa than many places on Earth, may be the most significant factor in the trees’ poor health. “Such a disastrous decline is very unexpected,” chemist and survey organizer Adrian Patrut told NPR . “It’s a strange feeling, because these are trees which may live for 2,000 years or more, and we see that they’re dying one after another during our lifetime. It’s statistically very unlikely.” The iconic baobab are culturally important for many communities. A common myth explains the baobab’s unique shape as a result of gods punishing the tree for its vanity in its extraordinary size, with the baobab being uprooted and flipped upside down with its “roots” facing upwards. Baobabs can be cultivated for their nutritious leaves and fruit and may prove to be a source of economic development . The trees are also ecologically significant, providing habitat and food for a wide variety of mammals, birds, insects and reptiles. Related: Can this tree provide financial security for 10 million people in Africa? Because of their unique shape and growth patterns that distort their tree rings, accurate dating of a baobab is difficult. Despite some questioning of Patrut’s methods, researchers nonetheless recognize that baobab die-offs is an unsettling trend that deserves more study. As southern Africa likely faces intense temperature increases and drought , the urgency to understand and better protect the baobabs is clear. “The decline and death of so many large baobabs in recent years is so tragic,” ecologist David Baum told NPR . “It is heartbreaking that any should die — but even worse that we might be seeing the beginning of the end of all the giant baobabs on the planet.” Via NPR Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects wins bid for carbon-neutral Solvay HQ in Brussels

June 12, 2018 by  
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Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects has won an international competition for the design of global chemical company Solvay’s new sustainable headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. Created in collaboration with local firm Modulo Architects and VK Engineers, the winning proposal beat out designs from top firms including the likes of OMA, Valode & Pistre and Henning Larsen. The green campus is expected to be certified BREEAM Excellent and will be powered with a mix of renewable energy resources, including geothermal energy and solar energy, to reach carbon-neutral status. The new headquarters represents a shift for Solvay as it transitions towards a more open and sustainable business culture. Placed in a single compact structure, the zero-carbon and near zero-energy building will prioritize collaborative spaces and the outdoors. The new campus is located on a 22-hectare site, which has housed many of Solvay’s facilities since 1953. The property will be transformed to include a new dedicated forest, a reintroduced 18th-century stream connected to the Senne, and an open-air amphitheater. Rainwater across the campus will be harvested and reused wherever possible. “In the earliest stages, it became clear that one compact building with one common entrance into a sweeping atrium would allow everyone who passes through the headquarters to share the same unique experience of the building, and create a strong sense of belonging,” said Tiago Pereira, Partner at Schmidt Hammer Lassen. “We translated Solvay’s desire for a welcoming, innovative, sustainable headquarters into an architecturally bold statement that reflects its core values and creates a new identity.” Related: Henning Larsen to revitalize Brussels region with rooftop farming and co-housing The light-filled building will be wrapped in glazing and punctuated with a large atrium with a social staircase that visually connects the various floors and departments. The two lower levels will consist of laboratories and workshops, while the upper floors house offices. In between those floors will be the Meeting Center, which includes relaxing gathering spaces and terraces with panoramic views of the campus green. Geothermal and solar energy will power the Solvay headquarters. + Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects Images via Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

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These magenta greenhouses grow plants faster while generating clean energy

November 8, 2017 by  
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Could a new rose-colored glass change the world of greenhouse design? A UC Santa Cruz spinoff called Soliculture has discovered that covering greenhouses in magenta solar panels allows plants to grow better while generating electricity more efficiently and at less cost than with traditional photovoltaic systems. The pinkish panels are a new technology called Wavelength-Selective Photovoltaic Systems (WSPVs). A bright magenta luminescent dye is embedded into the panel glass. The dark color absorbs blue and green wavelengths of light and transfers the energy to the photovoltaic strips, where electricity is generated and used to power the greenhouse’s fans, heaters, watering systems, etc. The idea behind the technology is to convert greenhouses into ultra-efficient food production systems that can operate completely off-grid . Related: Solar-powered aquaponic greenhouses grow up to 880 lbs of produce each year The team behind Soliculture conducted a study to compare the growing conditions of traditional, transparent greenhouses with the new magenta-clad buildings. Using a variety of plants, including 20 varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, lemons, limes, peppers, strawberries and basil, the researchers monitored both photosynthesis and fruit production in both structures. The results of the study showed that 80 percent of the plants weren’t affected by the magenta light, and 20 percent of the inventory actually grew better. Even better, the tomato plants grown in the WSPV houses required 5 percent less water. According to Soliculture co-founder Prof. Michael Loik, the colored panels were a bit of an experiment,”I thought the plants would grow more slowly, because it’s darker under these pink panels,” says Loik. “Plants are sensitive not just to the intensity of light but also to color. But it turns out the plants grow just as well.” + Soliculture Via New Atlas Images via Soliculture and Elena Zhukova/UC Santa Cruz

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Saturn’s biggest moon has enough energy to power a US-sized space colony

July 13, 2017 by  
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Feeling like you’ve had enough of this planet? Saturn’s biggest moon , Titan, is an attractive option for a space colony, according to new research. Amanda Hendrix of the Planetary Science Institute and Yuk Yung of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) say the moon has enough energy sources to power a settlement the size of the United States. Saturn is home to 53 moons. But Titan, the largest, possesses its own atmosphere , which according to NASA is rare for a moon. It turns out Titan could also have an abundance of energy sources, according to Hendrix and Yung. They say there are options for solar power , wind power , hydropower , and nuclear power on the moon. They drew on the information we know about Titan and mathematics based on technologies we currently have on Earth. Related: Scientists Discover an Ocean of Water and Potential for Life on Saturn’s Moon The scientists said, “Once propulsion challenges are overcome, allowing humans to travel great distances quickly without incurring significant radiation damage, Saturn’s moon Titan is the optimal location in the solar system for an off-Earth human settlement.” Researchers know there are oceans of methane on Titan, which could offer a source of power or rocket fuel. Tidal power could also potentially energize some of the colony as experts have observed strong tides on the moon. In particular, an area called the Throat of Kraken, which John Hopkins University planetary scientist Ralph Lorenz likened to the Strait of Gibraltar, could be the perfect location for a settlement. Lorenz, who was not involved with the research, told New Scientist, “We’re pretty sure there’s a very strong flow of liquid back and forth every Titan day. If you want reliable power that you know is going to be accessible, that’s where I would go.” Hendrix and Yung did say they overlooked some details, because there’s still a lot we don’t know about Titan, but view their research as a first step. Their study was published in the Journal of Astrobiology and Outreach this week. Via ScienceAlert Images via Wikimedia Commons and NASA/JPL-Caltech/USGS

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Teslas highly-anticipated solar roofs go up for pre-order today

May 10, 2017 by  
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Good news! Tesla’s solar roof tiles will finally be open for pre-orders today. Earlier this morning, CEO of the company Elon Musk tweeted that orders for the highly anticipated tiles will begin this afternoon. He wrote, “Tesla solar glass roof orders open this afternoon. I think it will be great. More in about 10 hours …” Only two of the four possible tile styles are being made publicly available. According to a response Musk made to a question on Twitter, the tiles that can be pre-ordered are the black glass smooth and textured versions. The Tuscan and French slate versions will be available to order “in about six months,” he added. Tesla solar glass roof orders open this afternoon. I think it will be great. More in about 10 hours … — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 10, 2017 Tesla enthusiasts around the world can get excited, for the product can be ordered “for almost any country,” according to the company’s CEO. Deployment (i.e. delivery and installation) has also been confirmed for this year in the U.S. and in 2018 for overseas orders. No official price has yet been confirmed for the sought-after Tesla tiles. According to previous hints from the American automaker, however, the cost of its solar tiles is likely to be the same as the cost of an ordinary roof, in addition to the cost of electricity . Undoubtedly, this will be the biggest hurdle for many who seek to invest in the eco-friendly technology. More will be known in a few hours. Why all the excitement? The solar roof tiles are capable of generating enough energy to fully power a household. Any excess power generated could be stored in Tesla’s Powerwall 2.0 battery units , ensuring a household has a backup energy source in case of demand spikes. Related: Tesla just chopped $5000 off the cheapest Model S One of the tiles consumers are looking forward to is the quartz solar roof tile, which was announced by Musk last fall. According to a series of tweets he made, the tiles are transparent to allow sunlight to penetrate the cells from above but appear opaque when viewed from a certain angle. Additionally, they have roughly equivalent efficiency of traditional solar power gathering cells. They are likely to become most popular because of their more traditional roofing aesthetic. Musk has said of the tiles, “The solar roof consists of uniquely designed glass tiles that complement the aesthetics of any home, embedded with the highest efficiency photovoltaic cells. It is infinitely customizable for a variety of different home styles, each uniquely engineered so that the photovoltaic cells are invisible. He added, “We expect this to have two or three times the longevity of asphalt. It’s really never going to wear out. It’s got a quasi-infinite lifetime. It’s made of quartz ”. + Tesla Via  Electrek

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China is now the largest producer of solar power in the world

February 6, 2017 by  
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One way China is working to battle climate change -causing carbon emissions is by developing a vast army of renewable energy projects. Even as the country struggles with pollution , it has made great strides on clean energy . They’re now the largest producer of solar energy by capacity in the world, adding 34.54 gigawatts of the country’s installed capacity of 77.42 gigawatts last year alone. The country’s National Energy Administration (NEA) announced over the weekend that in 2016, installed photovoltaic capacity in China more than doubled. Their data revealed the jump to 77.42 gigawatts after the country added 34.54 gigawatts. The provinces in which capacity increased most include Shandong, Henan, and Xinjiang, which is also one of the provinces with the largest overall capacity. Gansu, Inner Mongolia, and Qinghai join Xinjiang in that latter category. Related: China to spend $361 billion on renewable energy projects by 2020 And China’s not stopping here. Based on the NEA’s solar energy development strategy, between 2016 and 2020, they aim to add over 110 gigawatts of capacity. Solar power plants in China generated 66.2 billion kilowatt-hours in 2016, amounting to one percent of total power generation in the country, according to NEA. Currently 11 percent of generated power in the country originates from non-fossil fuel sources, but China hopes to bump that number up to 20 percent by 2030. To help attain that goal, they plan to pour over $360 billion into renewable energy projects, including solar, wind, nuclear, and hydropower. As the country still relies heavily on air-polluting coal , such an investment could help China work towards cleaner skies again. It will boost the economy too, creating more than 13 million jobs, according to the NEA. Engadget notes there are a few countries that edge China out in terms of solar energy relative to population size, such as the United States, Germany, and Japan. But with regards to capacity, China claims the prize. Via Reuters and Engadget Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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Electric cars and solar power could freeze fossil fuel growth by 2020

February 3, 2017 by  
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Fossil fuels could officially be a thing of the past as early as 2020, according to a new report. The report shows the declining costs of electric vehicles and solar energy could put a stop to the growth in worldwide demand for oil and coal in less than three years time. According to the Guardian , a report by the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London and the Carbon Tracker Initiative entitled “ Expect the Unexpected: The disruptive power of low-carbon technology,” polluting fuels could lost 10 percent of their market share to solar power and “clean cars” within a decade. To put it in perspective, a 10 percent market share loss was enough to cause the recent collapse in the U.S. coal industry , while the five major utilities in Europe collectively lost about $100 billion between 2008 and 2013 because they didn’t ready themselves for the 8 percent growth in renewable energy . Related: Ireland votes to be the world’s first country to fully divest from fossil fuels According to the study , “Big energy companies are seriously underestimating the low-carbon transition by sticking to their “business as usual” scenarios which expect continued growth of fossil fuels, and could see their assets “stranded.” The study also notes that solar photovoltaic power could supply 23 percent of global power generation by 2040, and as much as 29 percent by 2050. That’s enough to entirely phase out coal and leave natural gas with just a 1 percent market share. At the same time Exxon is predicting renewables will supply just 11 percent by 2040. The researchers also see electric vehicles making up about 35 percent of the road transport market by 2015, and as much as 67 percent by 2050. That growth trajectory will see EVs displace about two million barrels of oil per day in 2025, and grow to 25 million barrels per day by 2050. Via Guardian and Carbon Tracker Images via USAF and Ride_and_Drive , Wikimedia Commons

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"Invisible Dyaqua solar cells look just like stone, concrete, and wood

October 17, 2016 by  
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These familiar styles help designers avoid what the company calls “visual damage” typically associated with clunky solar panels . Buildings can be updated to include renewable energy generation without losing their historic charm. Each fixture is made from recyclable and non-toxic materials and can withstand the elements, whether affixed to a roof or patterned into a walkway. The unique assembly includes a top layer which is opaque to the eye, but allows solar rays through to the hidden photovoltaic cells inside. Related: Trailblazing slate tiles with hidden solar thermal reduce energy use by 85% Invisible Solar has already started production on its Rooftile, which is made to resemble classic clay tiles. They recently launched an Indiegogo campaign to fund their new designs, which will allow backers to gain early access to the brilliant new fixtures. Samples of each style will be sent out to each backer stamped as special edition and featuring a connection to an LED source to demonstrate the product’s power. + Dyaqua Invisible Solar Images via Dyaqua Invisible Solar

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"Invisible Dyaqua solar cells look just like stone, concrete, and wood

Zero-carbon Nanjing Green Lighthouse is a beacon for sustainable design in China

July 27, 2016 by  
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The 5,500-square-meter Nanjing Green Lighthouse takes on a spiral form and is centered on a light-filled atrium that funnels natural light and fresh air to all floors. “We would all like to produce more ‘green’ buildings with lower energy consumption or low carbon emission,” says Archiland International. “The challenge is at the same time to make this necessary new buildings even more attractive than buildings of today and not just making engineering technology driven machines. With this lighthouse we aim for no less than this.” Related: China’s Green-Roofed Samaranch Memorial Museum Was Inspired by the Olympic Rings According to the design firm, the Nanjing Green Lighthouse is one of the first zero carbon buildings completed in China. The circular facade was optimized and carefully engineered with operable openings and daylight horizontal reflectors that minimize exposure to the sun’s direct heat while maximizing access to soft natural light . The building achieves 200 LUX natural daylight level for all working areas. The interior is dominated by white surfaces that reflect light to make the workspaces free bright and airy. Colorful furnishings and lush plantings, which include full-height green walls and hanging plants, punctuate the interior. + Archiland International Via ArchDaily Images via Archiland International

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