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 Related: The cost of high-efficiency solar panels fell 37% in 2017 The price decline is a result of withdrawn support for China’s photovoltaic market.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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Some of the oldest and largest baobab trees are dying

New Arval HQ uses geothermal and solar energy to achieve complete power self-sufficiency

December 26, 2017 by  
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The new headquarters for car rental company Arval uses geothermal and solar energy to achieve complete self-sufficiency and a zero-emission status. Pierattelli Architetture designed the building with huge photovoltaic steel wings lined with over 1000 flexible solar panels to maximize solar-collecting capabilities. The architects designed the headquarters , known as the Photovoltaic Bolt, as a Climate House Class A building without emissions. The complex is characterized by huge photovoltaic wings with about 1000 solar panels , realized with a steel frame. Together with the panels installed on the roof, these structures can generate enough power to activate the geothermal pumps in the subsoil and make the building completely energy self-sufficient. Related: OVG’s TNT Centre is an Energy Positive, Zero Emission Office in The Netherlands The office spaces and common areas are distributed across 3 floors and a basement, accommodating about 200 employees per floor. Spaces are articulated around a central dorsal on a north-south axis to provide an east-west direction and guarantee optimum sunlight positioning. Natural light is available throughout the complex. The architects placed ceiling lights of different dimensions to guarantee maximum diffused lighting capability. Large open spaces and colorful furniture help humanize the spaces and enhance socialization. Color coding by program makes navigation more intuitive and fun. + Pierattelli Architetture Photos by Max Lisi

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Hot electron research could open up greater efficiencies for solar energy

December 26, 2017 by  
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Hot electron research is heating up solar and renewable energy research, according to the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory . Nanoscientists there uncovered quicker ways to convert power from light to energetic or hot electrons – and their methods could allow for higher efficiencies for solar power. Argonne researchers and collaborators created hybrid nanomaterials – smaller than the width of human hair – “to harness the full energy of photons,” according to the laboratory . The result was what are called hot electrons that “carry the same amount of energy as a photon that strikes nanomaterial components” and could lead to large advances in photovoltaics and photocatalytic water splitting — where materials turn solar energy into hydrogen fuel . Related: SunPower’s new solar shingles are 15% more efficient than conventional photovoltaics Senior scientist and study co-author Gary Wiederrecht said in their statement, “In larger particles, you see very few of these energetic electrons with energies near the photon energy. So you need a smaller particle.” The team zeroed in on metals because they absorb a lot of light, key to increasing the amount of energetic electrons in a material that’s been lit up. They simulated the material to determine what conditions would create the biggest number of hot electrons, and settled on silver nanocubes and gold films divided by aluminum oxide spacers. The nanostructure can crank out hot electrons better than others, according to Argonne. Wiederrecht said, “One of the key advances is our ability to produce energetic electrons over a very broad spectral range – from the ultraviolet through the visible and into the near infrared.” The journal Nature Communications published the research online in October. Scientists from Duke University, the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, and Ohio University contributed. Via Argonne National Laboratory Images courtesy of Matthew Sykes, Argonne National Laboratory, Shutterstock/Triff and Shutterstock/siro46 and via Depositphotos

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This solar-powered floating farm combines agriculture and dining under one roof

November 17, 2017 by  
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As urban farming becomes increasingly popular, people are finding new, unexpected ways of incorporating agriculture into cities. From rooftops and community gardens, urban farming has descended to waterways and lakes – as in this solar-powered floating farm that doubles as a restaurant. Lotus is designed to grow fresh produce with a vertical hydroponic garden and then serve it in indoor and outdoor dining areas where visitors can enjoy waterside views and learn more about the production of the food. Lotus is a future-oriented farming system that aims to solve problems relating to the production, sale and distribution of crops and produce in urban areas. Its design also addresses the issue of global warming exacerbated by increased emissions of methane and carbon dioxide. Related: Could solar-powered floating farms provide enough food for the entire world? Designers Taeung Kim, Sunae Shin, Sungho An, Seungjun Lee & Mirae Park conceived the structure for client HYDROKOREA, and they were recognized by this year’s K-Design Award – an international design contest held by DESIGNSORI . Via Yanko Design

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This solar-powered floating farm combines agriculture and dining under one roof

Sandia solar glitter can fit into and power devices of any size or shape

February 9, 2017 by  
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Small, lightweight, flexible: these attributes when applied to solar cells hint at a far-off clean-powered future to come. But Sandia National Laboratories is now one step closer to seeing the tiny bendy solar cells they’ve developed, which they call solar glitter, on the market. These energy-generating cells could easily be integrated in small gadgets like drones , satellites , or smartphones. Former Sandia scientist Murat Okandan started his own company, mPower Technology, Inc. , and recently signed a licensing agreement with Sandia for microsystems enabled photovoltaics (MEPV), the technology that makes solar glitter possible. Okandan described the moment as a key milestone, saying, “It is an extremely exciting time in the solar industry with the upcoming critical, rapid change in the worldwide energy infrastructure .” Related: Amazing Glitter-Sized Photovoltaic Cells Look Like Golden Snowflakes MEPV draws on microdesign and microfabrication techniques to create the tiny solar cells that are then are released into a solution much like printing ink. The mix is then printed onto an inexpensive material. mPower will commercialize MEPV as Dragon SCALEs, which Sandia says will “fit into and power devices or sensors of any shape or size.” Dragon SCALEs fold like paper for easy transportation, and could be utilized as portable energy generators. They could be installed more rapidly and cheaply than typical solar power systems. Okandan said Dragon SCALEs are more reliable, with lower energy costs, than the silicon photovoltaic (PV) cells common today. In a statement he said, “The key limitation to silicon is that if you bend and flex it, it will crack and shatter. Our technology makes it virtually unbreakable while keeping all the benefits of high efficiency, high reliability silicon PV. It allows us to integrate PV in ways that weren’t possible before, such as in flexible materials, and deploy it faster in lighter-weight, larger-area modules.” Via Treehugger Images via Randy Montoya/Sandia National Laboratories and Sandia National Laboratories

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Sandia solar glitter can fit into and power devices of any size or shape

Tesla to start test-building the Model 3 this month

February 9, 2017 by  
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Now that the Chevy Bolt has officially arrived, the attention is now on Tesla to see if it can meet its production deadlines for the Model 3. According to Reuters, Elon Musk’s company is now one step closer to the start of the official production as the automaker plans to test-build the Model 3 later this month. Tesla hasn’t confirmed how many Model 3 vehicles will be produced this month, but it will likely be a small number. In part this will allow the automaker test the existing assembly system, and quality test the Model 3 . It’s rumored that the pilot production will kick off on February 20, which will also give Tesla the ability to share the news and potentially reveal pre-production models two days later when it shares its four-quarter 2016 results on February 22. Related: Tesla just introduced the world’s longest range electric car Tesla is expected to shut down production at its California plant for a week later this month to prepare for the high-volume Model 3. The brief shutdown will enable Tesla to make some necessary changes to the paint shop and other maintenance upgrades, both prerequisites for kicking off production of the Model 3 later this year. If all goes as planned, this should happen in July, and Tesla hopes to ramp up production significantly by 2018. + Tesla Via Reuters All images © Tesla

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Green-roofed music center built of natural materials harmonizes with the landscape

January 13, 2017 by  
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Tranquility is at the heart of the handsome Sunbeams Music Center , where music is used as therapy to soothe the souls of the disadvantaged. Designed by Newcastle-based studio Mawson Kerr for the Sunbeams Music Trust charity, the music therapy center visually harmonizes with its bucolic lake landscape in Cumbria, England. The building is sensitively placed on the landscape and incorporates environmentally friendly design including photovoltaics , locally sourced natural materials, and passive design principles. The 600-square-meter Sunbeams Music Center caters to disabled children and adults with a variety of music therapy rooms. The building includes four such rooms as well as recording studios, an exhibition space, concert hall, and administrative offices. To minimize site impact , the architects shaped the building along the landscape’s natural contours, which resulted in a building’s horn-like shape. “The building is designed as a home and advert for the amazing work Sunbeams do working with disadvantaged members of society,” writes Mawson Kerr. “Bringing music into the building was on of the key drivers alongside harmonising the building with the natural surroundings and wider environment.” Related: Green Covered Taipei Music Center by Mario Bellini Architects The building was largely constructed from locally sourced timber and features a glue-laminated timber structure, cedar shingles, and exterior oak slats. Skylights punctuate the building’s green roof . The music center was also built with ground-source heat pumps and sheep wool insulation. + Mawson Kerr Via Dezeen

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Green-roofed music center built of natural materials harmonizes with the landscape

Skylights stream light into tiny cantilevering home in German forest

January 13, 2017 by  
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We could all use more light in our lives, and good design provides. Dusseldorf-based architects Falkenberg Innenarchitektur have transformed a compact 1950s home in Germany into a stunning minimalist retreat . Tucked into an idyllic forest surrounded by the River Nethe, the renovated Haus Rheder II features three main essentials: light, air, and tranquility, lending a subtle sophistication to the arboreal design. From the start, the architects wanted to preserve the original character of the 65-year-old structure. Thankfully, the designers managed to keep the existing floor slab and terrace space that cantilevers over the river. To take advantage of the idyllic location, floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors were installed that open up to the timber deck , offering amazing views of the surrounding Rheder country park. Related: Sophisticated minimalist house in Denmark lets you enjoy the outdoors even in the winter The interior space is 90 square meters of open space with scant furniture and virtually zero clutter. The heart of the home is the fireplace that sits in the middle of the living space. A ceiling-height partition separates the living room from the bedrooms and a small bathroom, all of which count on skylights for optimal natural light . Also on the interior is a technical room that acts as a control center for the home’s technology, all controlled by an app. The large windows and wooden deck help bring nature into the manmade space, but is further enhanced by the home’s reflecting pool on the southeastern side of the home. Sunlight streams into the living space during the day, further creating a seamless connection between the interior and the exterior. According to the architects, leaving the interior space open was essential to the renovation process, “The new, great task of our time is to leave the unimportant and to give more space to the essential. To feel connected with nature is an integral and essential part of our lives. It gives us peace and structure, space for thought and grounding in the hectic of our age.” + Falkenberg Innenarchitektur Via Archdaily Photographs by Thomas Mayer  

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Skylights stream light into tiny cantilevering home in German forest

New photovoltaic solar technology boosts efficiency to 50%

November 23, 2016 by  
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Researchers at Technion Israel Institute of Technology recently made a breakthrough in solar cell technology that could boost efficiency of existing photovoltaics by 70 percent or more. The amount of sunlight solar cells can convert into usable energy is typically limited to around 30 percent, with many existing solar panels falling short of that due to less than optimal conditions. The Technion team developed new thermodynamic tools that work to capture energy currently lost, and convert it to electricity, thereby increasing a solar cell’s efficiency to as much as 50 percent . The university research team , based in Haifa, Israel, has been working to improve solar cell efficiency as a means to increase the benefits of clean, renewable sources of energy. They created a photoluminescence material that absorbs radiation from the sun, and converts the heat and light from the sun into an “ideal” radiation. That illuminates the photovoltaic cell and enables a higher conversion efficiency. The net result is a big boost: a conventional solar cell’s 30 percent efficiency rate is increased to 50 percent. Related: Masdar/MIT solar cell makes a grab for world record with 35% efficiency and lower cost “Solar radiation, on its way to the photovoltaic cells, hits a dedicated material that we developed for this purpose, the material is heated by the unused part of the spectrum,” said graduate student Assaf Manor, who led the study as part of his PhD work. “In addition, the solar radiation in the optimal spectrum is absorbed and re-emitted at a blue-shifted spectrum. This radiation is then harvested by the solar cell. This way both the heat and the light are converted to electricity.” The team continues to work on their innovation, and is targeting a commercial product release within the next five years. The results of the study were recently published in the journal Nature Communications. Via 3tags Images via Technion and Shutterstock

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