David Kirkpatrick

August 5, 2010

Environmental Graffiti

Filed under: et.al., Media — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:22 pm

I’m doing some posting at Environmental Graffiti on solar and other alternative energy sources. You can check out my first effort here. That post was built from one appearing here a couple of days ago.

May 27, 2010

Renewable power and the US electric grid

Seems like a bit more compatible than once thought. At least for the western power grid.

From the link:

More than a third of the electricity in the western United States could come from wind and solar power without installing significant amounts of backup power. And most of this expansion of renewable energy could be done without installing new interstate transmission lines, according to a new study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, CO. But the study says increasing the amount of renewables on the grid will require smart planning and cooperation between utilities.

The NREL findings provide a strong counterargument to the idea that the existing power grid is insufficient to handle increasing amounts of renewable power. As California and other states require utilities to use renewable sources for significant fractions of their electricity, some experts have warned that measures to account for the variability of wind and solar power could be costly. At the extreme, they speculated, every megawatt of wind installed could require a megawatt of readily available conventional power in case the wind stopped blowing. But the NREL findings, like other recent studies, suggest that the costs could be minimal, especially in the West.

“The studies are showing the costs are a lot lower than what people thought they were going to be,” says Daniel Brooks, project manager for power delivery and utilization at the Electric Power Research Institute. Even if wind farms had to pay for the necessary grid upgrades and backup power themselves, they could still sell electricity at competitive rates, he says.

March 26, 2010

Nanotech and safer nuclear power

A very interesting release:

Safer nuclear reactors could result from Los Alamos research

‘Loading-unloading’ effect of grain boundaries key to repair of irradiated metal

Self-repairing materials within nuclear reactors may one day become a reality as a result of research by Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists.

In a paper appearing today in the journal Science, Los Alamos researchers report a surprising mechanism that allows nanocrystalline materials to heal themselves after suffering radiation-induced damage. Nanocrystalline materials are those created from nanosized particles, in this case copper particles. A single nanosized particle—called a grain—is the size of a virus or even smaller. Nanocrystalline materials consist of a mixture of grains and the interface between those grains, called grain boundaries.

When designing nuclear reactors or the materials that go into them, one of the key challenges is finding materials that can withstand an outrageously extreme environment. In addition to constant bombardment by radiation, reactor materials may be subjected to extremes in temperature, physical stress, and corrosive conditions. Exposure to high radiation alone produces significant damage at the nanoscale.

Radiation can cause individual atoms or groups of atoms to be jarred out of place. Each vagrant atom becomes known as an interstitial. The empty space left behind by the displaced atom is known as a vacancy. Consequently, every interstitial created also creates one vacancy. As these defects—the interstitials and vacancies—build up over time in a material, effects such as swelling, hardening or embrittlement can manifest in the material and lead to catastrophic failure.

Therefore, designing materials that can withstand radiation-induced damage is very important for improving the reliability, safety and lifespan of nuclear energy systems.

Because nanocrystalline materials contain a large fraction of grain boundaries—which are thought to act as sinks that absorb and remove defects—scientists have expected that these materials should be more radiation tolerant than their larger-grain counterparts. Nevertheless, the ability to predict the performance of nanocrystalline materials in extreme environments has been severely lacking because specific details of what occurs within solids are very complex and difficult to visualize.

Recent computer simulations by the Los Alamos researchers help explain some of those details.

In the Science paper, the researchers describe the never-before-observed phenomenon of a “loading-unloading” effect at grain boundaries in nanocrystalline materials. This loading-unloading effect allows for effective self-healing of radiation-induced defects. Using three different computer simulation methods, the researchers looked at the interaction between defects and grain boundaries on time scales ranging from picoseconds to microseconds (one-trillionth of a second to one-millionth of a second).

On the shorter timescales, radiation-damaged materials underwent a “loading” process at the grain boundaries, in which interstitial atoms became trapped—or loaded—into the grain boundary. Under these conditions, the subsequent number of accumulated vacancies in the bulk material occurred in amounts much greater than would have occurred in bulk materials in which a boundary didn’t exist. After trapping interstitials, the grain boundary later “unloaded” interstitials back into vacancies near the grain boundary. In so doing, the process annihilates both types of defects—healing the material.

This unloading process was totally unexpected because grain boundaries traditionally have been regarded as places that accumulate interstitials, but not as places that release them. Although researchers found that some energy is required for this newly-discovered recombination method to operate, the amount of energy was much lower than the energies required to operate conventional mechanisms—providing an explanation and mechanism for enhanced self-healing of radiation-induced damage.

Modeling of the “loading-unloading” role of grain boundaries helps explain previously observed counterintuitive behavior of irradiated nanocrystalline materials compared to their larger-grained counterparts. The insight provided by this work provides new avenues for further examination of the role of grain boundaries and engineered material interfaces in self-healing of radiation-induced defects. Such efforts could eventually assist or accelerate the design of highly radiation-tolerant materials for the next generation of nuclear energy applications.


The Los Alamos National Laboratory research team includes: Xian-Ming Bai, Richard G. Hoagland and Blas P. Uberuaga of the Materials Science and Technology Division; Arthur F. Voter, of the Theoretical Division; and Michael Nastasi of the Materials Physics and Applications Division.

The work was primarily sponsored by the Los Alamos Laboratory-Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program, which, at the discretion of the Laboratory Director, invests a small percentage of the Laboratory’s budget in high-risk, potentially high-payoff projects to help position the Laboratory to anticipate and prepare for emerging national security challenges. The research also received specific funding through the Center for Materials under Irradiation and Mechanical Extremes, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences.

About Los Alamos National Laboratory (www.lanl.gov)

Los Alamos National Laboratory, a multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science on behalf of national security, is operated by Los Alamos National Security, LLC, a team composed of Bechtel National, the University of California, The Babcock & Wilcox Company, and URS for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

Los Alamos enhances national security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to energy, environment, infrastructure, health, and global security concerns.

February 24, 2010

DoE makes major solar investment

Technically it’s a loan guarantee rather than a true investment, but this Department of Energy move shows just how serious the Obama administration is concerning alternate energy sources. There are a lot of exciting developments in solar power right now and government money in this amount only helps grease the wheels of innovation and private-sector investment.

From the first link:

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced a $1.37 billion conditional loan guarantee for the Ivanhoe Solar Complex in the Mojave Desert. The project, managed by Brightsource Energy, will use mirrors to concentrate sunlight, creating high temperatures that can be used to generate electricity. The complex will include three power plants that together will produce about 400 megawatts of electricity.

Basically, the guarantees would cover the loans in the case of default. The money for the loans is expected to come from the Federal Financing Bank.

One of the biggest challenges that large solar developments face is getting financing, particularly because few such solar power plants have been built. The DOE guarantees help on this front.

February 11, 2010

IBM comes up with solar breakthrough

Filed under: Business, Science — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:49 am

There’s been a lot of solar energy news to blog about lately. Nestled in this spate of announcements is a breakthrough at IBM — solar cells created from abundant materials, well a higher proportion of abundant elements, than previous cells. The practical result? Cheaper to produce cells that don’t lose anything in the efficiency department, and cost and efficiency are the two issues that will determine when solar power becomes a viable alternative energy source.

From the second link:

Researchers at IBM have increased the efficiency of a novel type of solar cell made largely from cheap and abundant materials by over 40 percent. According to an article published this week in the journal Advanced Materials, the new efficiency is 9.6 percent, up from the previous record of 6.7 percent for this type of solar cell, and near the level needed for commercial solar panels. The IBM solar cells also have the advantage of being made with an inexpensive ink-based process.

The new solar cells convert light into electricity using a semiconductor material made of copper, zinc, tin, and sulfur–all abundant elements–as well as the relatively rare element selenium (CZTS). Reaching near-commercial efficiency levels is a “breakthrough for this technology,” says Matthew Beard, a senior scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, who was not involved with the work.

Copper power: This prototype solar cell uses a copper-based material and has achieved record efficiencies for a cell of its kind.

Credit: IBM Research

Update — head below the fold for IBM’s release on the new solar cell. (more…)

February 9, 2010

A solar power game-changer?

I couldn’t say with certainty, but this sure seems like it could be. This is obviously not ready for prime time (three years from serious production), but it is on the short horizon and if the claims bear out this tech completely alters the solar energy playing field.

From the link:

A startup company hopes to bring down the cost of generating power with concentrated sunlight by using microscale solar cells that can utilize twice as much light as other panels, without the need for expensive optics or cooling systems. Panels made from the tiny cells, which the Durham, NC-based company Semprius developed using a novel microprinting technology, also offer significant savings on materials costs. In late January, the company announced a joint agreement with Siemens to develop demonstration systems based on its technology. Semprius plans to begin volume production of the modules in 2013.

Microcell: The solar cells made by Semprius are 600 micrometers on each side and can be combined with high-power optics. The cell itself (the black square at center) is mounted atop a ceramic base with electrical contacts on each side.

Credit: Semprius

February 8, 2010

U.S. solar market about to explode

As solar technology continues to improve and costs continue to go down, predicting solar power in the United States is on the edge of a major boom is an easy call to make. A few of the major barriers to more widespread solar installations — particularly the efficiency of the solar panels and the physical difficulty of getting the panels installed and operating — are not the impediment they were just a couple of years ago.

From the first link:

In a few years, the United States is likely to be the world’s largest market for solar power, eclipsing Germany, which has taken the lead as a result of strong government incentives in spite of the relative paucity of sunlight in that country. A number of factors could make growth possible in the United States–especially changes in legislation that give utilities incentives to create large solar farms.

Last year, the U.S. solar industry got off to a slow start, but sales rebounded in the second half of the year, largely because of a drop in the prices of solar panels of up to 40 percent, partly caused by an oversupply due to the recession. Revenues for many solar companies were likely flat, but the megawatts of solar installed in the United States overall grew by 25 to 40 percent last year, says Roger Efird, the chairman of the Solar Energy Industry Association and the managing director of Suntech America, a branch of Suntech Power, the largest maker of crystalline silicon solar panels in the world.

This year, Efird says, solar installations could double, reaching a gigawatt of capacity. “That’s a big number,” he says. “If you are in the solar business, you were talking watts 15 years ago, you were talking kilowatts 10 years ago, and you have trouble even talking megawatts today.”

January 21, 2010

Solar power at 70 cents per watt

Filed under: Business, Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:35 pm

Via KurzweilAI.net — An impressive milestone in solar power efficiency.

Oerlikon Promises 30% Lower Solar Module Production Costs in 2010
Renewable Energy World, Jan. 20, 2009

Oerlikon Solar plans to reach production costs at grid parity by the end of this year, meaning the company is on track to offer its customers an advanced fab design capable of producing solar modules for 70 cents per watt by that time.

Oerlikon Solar said that it has driven down module costs by around 25 percent, raising efficiency and improving the productivity of its lines from 60 MW in 2008 to 100 MW in 2009 without additional equipment.

The company also said that it is on track to deliver another 30% cost reduction by end of 2010, enabling customers to offer solar electricity at grid-competitive prices in many parts of the world.
Read Original Article>>

December 1, 2009

Dye-sensitized solar cell efficiency times three

Filed under: et.al. — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:42 pm

Every step is one closer to cost-effective solar power.

The release:

Innovation puts next-generation solar cells on the horizon

In a world first, a Monash University-led international research team has developed an innovative way to boost the output of the next generation of solar cells.

Scientists at Monash University, in collaboration with colleagues from the universities of Wollongong and Ulm in Germany, have produced tandem dye-sensitised solar cells with a three-fold increase in energy conversion efficiency compared with previously reported tandem dye-sensitised solar cells.

Lead researcher Dr Udo Bach, from Monash University, said the breakthrough had the potential to increase the energy generation performance of the cells and make them a viable and competitive alternative to traditional silicon solar cells.

Dr Bach said the key was the discovery of a new, more efficient type of dye that made the operation of inverse dye-sensitised solar cells much more efficient.

When the research team combined two types of dye-sensitised solar cell – one inverse and the other classic – into a simple stack, they were able to produce for the first time a tandem solar cell that exceeded the efficiency of its individual components.

“The tandem approach – stacking many solar cells together – has been successfully used in conventional photovoltaic devices to maximise energy generation, but there have been obstacles in doing this with dye-sensitised cells because there has not been a method for creating an inverse system that would allow dye molecules to efficiently pass on positive charges to a semiconductor when illuminated with light,” Dr Bach said.

“Inverse dye-sensitised solar cells are the key to producing dye-sensitised tandem solar cells, but the challenge has been to find a way to make them perform more effectively. By creating a way of making inverse dye-sensitised solar cells operate very efficiently we have opened the way for dye-sensitised tandem solar cells to become a commercial reality.”

Although dye-sensitised solar cells have been the focus of research for a number of years because they can be fabricated with relative simplicity and cost-efficiency, their effectiveness has not been on par with high-performance silicon solar cells.

Dr Bach said the breakthrough, which is detailed in a paper published in Nature Materials, was an important milestone in the ongoing development of viable and efficient solar cell technology.

“While this new tandem technology is still in its early infancy, it represents an important first step towards the development of the next generation of solar cells that can be produced at low cost and with energy efficient production methods,” he said.

“With this innovation we are one step closer to the creation of a cost-efficient and carbon-neutral energy source.”


November 19, 2009

Cheap, efficient solar cells

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:47 pm

Via KurzweilAI.net — This sounds like good news. I’m looking forward to lower cost solar options to hit the market. There’s a lot of news in the space, but not much has translated to the real world. The general public will eventually tire of hearing about the latest and greatest solar ” breakthrough” (and I know I’m as guilty as anyone on that front) without seeing anything tangible. People can only be told the turn at the corner is coming soon so many times.

Thin-Film Solar with High Efficiency
Technology Review, Nov. 19, 2009

Solar cells made from cheap nanocrystal-based inks have the potential to be as efficient as the conventional inorganic cells currently used in solar panels, but can be printed less expensively, says Solexant, which expects to sell modules for $1 per watt, with efficiencies above 10 percent.


Read Original Article>>

October 30, 2009

Improving dye-sensitized solar cells

Efficiencies are going up and costs and holding steady or falling. All this bodes well for the future of solar power.

From the link:

Dye-sensitized solar cells are flexible and cheap to make, but they tend to be inefficient at converting light into electricity. One way to boost the performance of any solar cell is to increase the surface area available to incoming light. So a group of researchers at Georgia Tech has made dye-sensitized solar cells with a much higher effective surface area by wrapping the cells around optical fibers. These fiber solar cells are six times more efficient than a zinc oxide solar cell with the same surface area, and if they can be built using cheap polymer fibers, they shouldn’t be significantly more expensive to make.

The advantage of a fiber-optic solar-cell system over a planar one is that light bounces around inside an optical fiber as it travels along its length, providing more opportunities to interact with the solar cell on its inner surface and producing more current. “For a given real estate, the total area of the cell is higher, and increased surface area means improved light harvesting and more energy,” says Max Shtein, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Michigan who was not involved with the research.

Solar on fiber: An optical fiber (left) is covered in dye-coated zinc-oxide nanowires (closeup, right). Both images were made using a scanning electron microscope.
Credit: Angewandte Chemie

October 28, 2009


Government funded skunk works for energy.

From the link:

Its mission is to identify “revolutionary advances in fundamental sciences,” then translate these advances into “technological innovations,” particularly in areas where industry won’t do this on its own because the technology is considered too risky. In some ways ARPA-E is supposed to be for energy technologies what DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is for the military. That agency had its hand in the development of a number of revolutionary new technologies, including Arpanet, the precursor to the Internet.

The first batch of ARPA-E projects is certainly fascinating. It includes projects that could improve the performance of current energy technologies by many times, slashing the cost of solar panels and batteries, for example. If they succeed, the world could be a different place. Renewable energy could out-compete fossil fuels without the help of subsidies and long-range electric cars could become widely affordable, challenging the dominance of the internal combustion engine.


September 21, 2009

Silicon ink solar cells

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:41 pm

Created with via inkjet and fairly efficient. Looks like all the solar innovations announced over the last few years are beginning to bear real-world fruit.

From the link:

A California company is using silicon ink patterned on top of silicon wafers to boost the efficiency of solar cells. The Sunnyvale, CA, firm Innovalight says that the inkjet process is a cheaper route to more-efficient solar power. Using this process, the company has made cells with an efficiency of 18 percent.

Inkjet solar: The inkjet printing process allows Innovalight to make silicon wafers that are thin enough to bend.
Credit: Innovalight

Innovalight has partnered with solar-cell manufacturerJA Solar, headquartered in Shanghai, which plans to integrate the inkjet printing technology into its manufacturing lines. The resulting solar cells should be on the market by next year.

It’s possible to increase the efficiency of solar cells by patterning silicon in a way that improves the absorption of high-energy, short-wavelength light. But this usually requires adding several etching steps to the manufacturing process, and this type of cell architecture “costs a lot of money to make using standard procedures,” says Homer Antoniadis, chief technology officer at Innovalight.

August 27, 2009

Solar power costs coming down

Filed under: Business, Science — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:45 am

This NYT story isn’t news for anyone who’s been following solar power and the technical breakthroughs and real-world suppliers (many in China as the article points out) the industry has seen the last few years. 

It is an interesting read and lays out a lot considerations for going solar — particularly for residential structures.

From the first link:

But the cost of solar panels has plunged lately, changing the economics for many homeowners. Mr. Hare ended up paying $77,000 for a large solar setup that he figures might have cost him $100,000 a year ago.

“I just thought, ‘Wow, this is an opportunity to do the most for the least,’ ” Mr. Hare said.

For solar shoppers these days, the price is right. Panel prices have fallen about 40 percent since the middle of last year, driven down partly by an increase in the supply of a crucial ingredient for panels, according to analysts at the investment bank Piper Jaffray.

The price drops — coupled with recently expanded federal incentives — could shrink the time it takes solar panels to pay for themselves to 16 years, from 22 years, in places with high electricity costs, according to Glenn Harris, chief executive of SunCentric, a solar consulting group. That calculation does not include state rebates, which can sometimes improve the economics considerably.

American consumers have the rest of the world to thank for the big solar price break.

Until recently, panel makers had been constrained by limited production of polysilicon, which goes into most types of panels. But more factories making the material have opened, as have more plants churning out the panels themselves — especially in China.

August 6, 2009

Practical solar power

This release is really more of an article on making solar power practical than it is an announcement of news. It’s an interesting read on solar.

The release:

Bringing solar power to the masses

On a 104-degree Friday in July when sunlight bathed The University of Arizona campus, doctoral student Dio Placencia sat before a noisy vacuum chamber in the Chemical Sciences Building trying to advance the renewable energy revolution.

As a member of UA professor Neal R. Armstrong’s research group, Placencia conducts research aimed at creating a thin, flexible organic solar cell that could power a tent or keep a car charged between trips to work and back home again.

He’s passionate about renewable energy and says it’s a waste that so little solar has been incorporated into society. “I have a little flat panel that I walk around with,” Placencia said. “I usually put that on my backpack, and I charge my cell phone when I’m walking to school.”

The sun is clean and free. “Here it is,” he said. “Why not use it?”

Across the University, professors, researchers, students and others involved in policy planning and economic analysis are working to make that question moot. In a region noted for abundant sunlight, they are chipping away at problems like how to employ solar at the utility-generating plant level, how to harness it to charge the newly indispensable products of the day – cell phones, MP3 players, laptops – what to do at night and when clouds halt the energy giveaway from the sky.

The research proceeds in labs amid state-of-the-art equipment funded by multimillion-dollar federal grants. It’s the product of students’ hunches and long careers spent unlocking the mysteries of science. Along the way, students are being immersed in a nascent industry that many hope will be the economic engine of the next decade.

“Looking at renewable energy is a perfect place to emphasize that we don’t know where the next breakthrough is going to be,” said Leslie P. Tolbert, UA vice president for research, graduate studies and economic development. “Somewhere in a lab someplace, there’s somebody figuring out a whole new way to capture sunlight. In fact, there are many people doing that. And even they are depending on knowing that there is, behind them, a cadre of basic science researchers producing new information that will feed their thoughts.”

Armstrong, a professor of chemistry and optical sciences at the UA, occasionally teaches freshman chemistry. He decided one day near the end of the semester to try to make the material even more relevant. “I said to myself, well, lithium ion batteries in my cell phone, in my iPod,” – his daughter had given him one – “I wonder how much coal we burn to charge those guys up at the end of the day. Because that’s one of the big drivers for portable power, to get all this stuff off the grid.” After making some very conservative calculations, he arrived at an answer, which he shared with the class: “You burn about a quarter of a pound of coal per charge of your lithium ion battery, and you generate about half a pound of CO2 per charge, per battery, per day …. The room got really quiet.”

The next time, he intends to calculate how much coal is burned per Twitter tweet.

“It really is chilling,” Armstrong said. “You start doing the math and thinking about the number of consumer electronic devices that you and I have added to our lives in the last decade that I charge up typically once every night – my laptop computer and my cell phone. Then you start thinking about, ‘What if I do buy an electric car, and I come home at night and plug that sucker in,’ and you do the same thing. We’ll shut this grid down in no time.”

In April, the U.S. Department of Energy announced it was funding Armstrong’s Center for Interface Science as one of 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers. The mission of these centers, which will receive $2 million to $5 million a year for five years, is “to address current fundamental scientific roadblocks to clean energy and energy security,” according to the DOE.

Ever since Armstrong was a graduate student during the first Arab oil embargo in 1973, he’s experienced a succession of government distress calls over energy. One such emergency led him to discover the work of Heinz Gerischer and Frank Willig in Germany. They had figured out how to adsorb dye molecules to the surface of oxides and split water with light from the sun. “I thought, ‘That’s it. That’s what I’m going to do my career on.'”

He moved to the UA in 1978, attracted by a program in photo-thermal solar energy conversion. In the 1980s, with gas cheap and plentiful again, solar went back on the back burner.

The next call came about four years ago. “DOE was beginning to sense that the tides were about to shift again, big-time,” Armstrong said. “And they were really concerned that they didn’t know what to do – how to present this to Congress in a way that would lead to new funding and which would have a rationale associated with it so that by the middle of this century we had someplace to go.”

Armstrong realized it was time to come back to the problem that he wanted to work on 30 years before. “This time, we were really well-equipped,” he said. “We’ve learned how to image molecules at the molecular level, we’ve learned how to measure energies of incredibly thin films, we’ve learned how to make devices, we’ve collaborated with physicists and material sciences and that sort of thing, we’ve done a lot of interesting other stuff and I suddenly realized I could bring it all back together here.”

In his office, he displays a sample of his work: a 1-inch square of glass on which is deposited a thin film of indium tin oxide, a conducting transparent oxide commonly found in display technologies like computer screens. On top of that is a thin film of organic dyes. The last layer is an aluminum electrode.

“You’d have a roll of plastic with these cells laid out on it,” he explained. “The idea is for you to go to Target or something like that and buy this roll of plastic and roll it out. It’s got two wires connected to it, and you plug in your battery or your laptop and charge it up.”

“The grand total in terms of the thickness is about 400 nanometers, which is one ten-thousandth the thickness of a human hair. And yet, shine a light on it and you get electricity out of it. Now we’d like it to be a bit thicker. We have to keep them thin in order to get all of the electrical charge out of the device. But if you think about this as a sandwich structure, we’ve made this incredibly thin sandwich and then each of the layers in contact with each other have to be just right in terms of the chemical composition, the orientation of the molecules, how well they adhere to each of the underlying surfaces. And if I go in and change just one molecule layer, the composition – that’s at the level of 1 nanometer in thickness – I can take a good device and turn it into a bad device; I can take a bad device and turn it into a good device. That’s the kind of level of control that we need. And we don’t fully understand it.”

But the equipment available now – optical microscopes capable of imaging individual molecules and revealing their electrical properties and spatial orientation – are helping his team understand. His goal is to figure out how to have the molecules arrange themselves – every time – in a way to produce lots of electricity. “They have to all line up like little soldiers,” he said.

“We have to give you a technology that is going to look like an ink, like a blue ink, that you can spray down on one of these surfaces and the molecules at the nanometer level are going to say, ‘OK, we’re going to get organized this way,’ and in doing so, when I put that top electrode on and shine a light, I’ll get lots and lots of electricity out of there,” Armstrong said.

A high vacuum photoelectron spectrometer allows them to build each molecular layer, moving it within the vacuum to study it, and then continue with another molecular layer. Other tools, like a silicon microtip, which looks like a tiny phonograph needle, can be positioned to +/- 0.01 nanometers. “Well inside the diameter of a molecule,” he said. Bouncing a laser off the back of the tip yields an image. Passing current through the tip, they can map the electrical properties of molecules. All this can help them build a template to create the ideal array of the molecule assemblies.

Erin Ratcliff joined the team as a postdoctoral electrochemist with a doctorate from Iowa State. “My background wasn’t in solar cells at all,” she said. “I had to come here and had to learn everything, where grad students get it from Day One at the UA.”

She spoke of the business school curve, resembling a hockey stick, when progress begins to accelerate rapidly. “We’re right at the magic moment when the hockey stick starts to take off, when you go from flat to hockey stick. We’re right there. It’s exciting to read the literature and hope that, yes, we will take off. It will be exciting to look back and say ‘I was there for that.'”



July 8, 2009

CIGS-based solar cells ready for prime time

If CIGS-based solar cells are ready for commercial production this could be a major solar power breakthrough.

The release:

Low-cost solution processing method developed for CIGS-based solar cells

The method could provide an answer to a manufacturing issue

Though the solar industry today predominately produces solar panels made from crystalline silicon, they remain relatively expensive to make. New players in the solar industry have instead been looking at panels that can harvest energy with CIGS (copper-indium-gallium-selenide) or CIGS-related materials. CIGS panels have a high efficiency potential, may be cheaper to produce and would use less raw materials than silicon solar panels. But unfortunately, manufacturing of CIGS panels on a commercial scale has thus far proven to be difficult.

Recently researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have developed a low-cost solution processing method for CIGS-based solar cells that could provide an answer to the manufacturing issue. In a new study to be published in the journal Thin Solid Films on July 7, Yang Yang, a professor in the school’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and his research team show how they have developed a low-cost solution processing method for their copper-indium-diselenide solar cells which have the potential to be produced on a large scale.

“This CIGS-based material can demonstrate very high efficiency,” said William Hou, a graduate student on Yang’s team and first author of the study. “People have already demonstrated efficiency levels of up to 20 percent, but the current processing method is costly. Ultimately the cost of fabricating the product makes it difficult to be competitive with current grid prices. However, with the solution process that we recently developed, we can inherently reach the same efficiency levels and bring the cost of manufacturing down quite significantly.”

The copper-indium-diselenide thin-film solar cell developed by Yang’s team achieved 7.5 percent efficiency in the published study but has in a short amount of time already improved to 9.13 percent in the lab.

“We started this process 16 months ago from ground zero. We spent three to four months getting the material to reach 1 percent and today it’s around 9 percent. That is about an average increase of 1 percent every two months,” said Yang, also a member of the California NanoSystems Institute, where some of the work is being done.

Currently, most CIGS solar cells are produced using vacuum evaporation techniques called co-evaporation, which can be costly and time-consuming. The active elements — copper, indium, gallium and selenide — are heated and deposited onto a surface in a vacuum. Using vacuum processing to create CIGS films with uniform composition on a large scale has also been challenging.

The copper-indium-diselenide material created by Yang’s team does not need to go through the vacuum evaporation process. Their material is simply dissolved into a liquid, applied and baked. To prepare the solution, Yang’s team used hydrazine as the solvent to dissolve copper sulfide and indium selenide in order to form the constituents for the copper-indium-diselenide material. In solar cells, the “absorber layer” (either copper-indium-diselenide or CIGS) itself is the most critical to performance and the most difficult to control. Their copper-indium-diselenide layer, which is in solution form, can be easily painted or coated evenly onto a surface and baked.

“In our method, material utilization is one advantage. Another advantage is our solution technology has the potential to be fabricated in a continuous roll-to-roll process. Both are important breakthroughs in terms of cost,” said Hou.

The team’s goal is to reach an efficiency level of 15 to 20 percent. Yang predicts three to four years before commercialization.

“As we continue to work on enhancing the performance and efficiency of the solar cells, we also look forward to opportunities to collaborate with industry in order to develop this technology further. We hope this technology will lead to a new green energy company in the U.S., especially here in California so that it may also bring job opportunities to many who need it,” said Yang.




The study was funded in part by the NSF Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship-Materials Creation Training Program.

The Department of Materials Science and Engineering is part of the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, established in 1945, offers 28 academic and professional degree programs, including an interdepartmental graduate degree program in biomedical engineering. Ranked among the top 10 engineering schools at public universities nationwide, the school is home to five multimillion-dollar interdisciplinary research centers in wireless sensor systems, nanotechnology, nanomanufacturing and nanoelectronics, all funded by federal and private agencies.

May 30, 2009

Solar cells and lasers

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:15 pm

Here’s the latest news in solar — using lasers to improve solar cells.

The release:

Lasers are making solar cells competitive

Solar electricity has a future: It is renewable and available in unlimited quantities, and it does not produce any gases detrimental to the climate. Its only drawback right now is the price: the electric power currently being produced by solar cells in northern Europe must be subsidized if it is to compete against the household electricity generated by traditional power plants. At “Laser 2009” in Munich, June 15 to 18, Fraunhofer researchers will be demonstrating how laser technology can contribute to optimizing the manufacturing costs and efficiency of solar cells. 

Cell phones, computers, MP3 players, kitchen stoves, and irons all have one thing in common: They need electricity. And in the future, more and more cars will also be fuelled by electric power. If the latest forecast from the World Energy Council WEC can be believed, global electricity requirements will double in the next 40 years. At the same time, prices for the dwindling resources of petroleum and natural gas are climbing.

“Rising energy prices are making alternative energy sources increasingly cost-effective. Sometime in the coming years, renewable energy sources, such as solar energy, will be competitive, even without subsidization,” explains Dr. Arnold Gillner, head of the microtechnology department at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology in Aachen, Germany. “Experts predict that grid parity will be achieved in a few years. This means that the costs and opportunities in the grid will be equal for solar electricity and conventionally generated household electricity.” Together with his team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, this researcher is developing technologies now that will allow faster, better, and cheaper production of solar cells in the future. “Lasers work quickly, precisely, and without contact. In other words, they are an ideal tool for manufacturing fragile solar cells. In fact, lasers are already being used in production today, but there is still considerable room for process optimization.” In addition to gradually improving the manufacturing technology, the physicists and engineers in Aachen are working with solar cell developers – for example, at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Freiburg – on new engineering and design alternatives.

New production technologies allow new design alternatives

At “Laser 2009” in Munich, the researchers will be demonstrating how lasers can drill holes into silicon cells at breathtaking speed: The ILT laser system drills more than 3,000 holes within one second. Because it is not possible to move the laser source at this speed, the experts have developed optimized manufacturing systems which guide and focuses the light beam at the required points. “We are currently experimenting with various laser sources and optical systems,” Gillner explains. “Our goal is to increase the performance to 10,000 holes a second. This is the speed that must be reached in order to drill 10,000 to 20,000 holes into a wafer within the cycle time of the production machines.”

The tiny holes in the wafer – their diameter is only 50 micrometers – open up undreamt-of possibilities for the solar cell developers.  “Previously, the electrical contacts were arranged on the top of the cells. The holes make it possible to move the contacts to the back, with the advantage that the electrodes, which currently act as a dark grid to absorb light, disappear. And so the energy yield increases. The goal is a degree of efficiency of 20 percent% in industrially-produced emitter wrap-through (EWT) cells, with a yield of one-third more than classic silicon cells,” Gillner explains. The design principle itself remains unchanged: In the semi-conductor layer, light particles, or photons, produce negative electrons and positive holes, each of which then wanders to the oppositely poled electrodes. The contacts for anodes and cathodes in the EWT cells are all on the back, there is no shading caused by the electrodes, and the degree of efficiency increases. With this technique, it may one day be possible to use unpurified “dirty” silicon to manufacture solar cells that have poorer electrical properties, but that are cheaper. 

Drilling holes into silicon cells is only one of many laser applications in solar cell manufacturing. In the EU project Solasys – Next Generation Solar Cell and Module Laser Processing Systems – an international research team is currently developing new technologies that will allow production to be optimized in the future. ILT in Aachen is coordinating the six million euro project. “We are working on new methods that make the doping of semiconductors, the drilling and the surface structuring of silicon, the edge isolation of the cells, and the soldering of the modules more economical,” project coordinator Gillner explains. For example, “selective laser soldering” makes it possible to improve the rejection rates and quality of the contacting, and so reduce manufacturing costs. Until now, the electrodes were mechanically pressed onto the cells, and then heated in an oven. “But silicon cells often break during this process,” Gillner knows. “Breakage is a primary cost factor in production.” On the other hand, however, with “selective laser soldering” the contacts are pressed on to the cells with compressed air and then soldered with the laser. The mechanical stress approaches zero and the temperature can be precisely regulated. The result: Optimal contacts and almost no rejects.

Laser technology means more efficient thin film cells

Laser technology is also helping to optimize the manufacture of thin film solar cells. The extremely thin film packages made of semiconducting oxide, amorphous silicon, and metal that are deposited onto the glass panels still have a market share of only ten percent. But as Gillner knows, “This could be higher, because thin film solar cells can be used anywhere that non-transparent glass panels can be mounted, for example, on house facades or sound-insulating walls. But the degrees of efficiency are comparable low at five to eight percent, and the production costs are comparatively high.” The laser researchers are working to improve these costs. Until now, the manufacturers have used mechanical methods or solid-state lasers in the nanosecond range in order to structure the active layers on the glass panels. In order to produce electric connections between the semiconductor and the metal, grooves only a few micrometers wide must be created. At the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft booth at “Laser 2009” the ILT researchers will be demonstrating a 400-watt ultrashort pulse laser that processes thin-film solar modules ten times faster than conventional diode-pumped solid-state lasers. “The ultrashort pulse laser is an ideal tool for ablating thin layers: It works very precisely, does not heat the material and, working with a pulse frequency of 80 MHz, can process a 2-by-3 meter glass panel in under two minutes,” Gillner reports. “The technology is still very new, and high-performance scanning systems and optical systems adapted to the process must be developed first. In the medium term, however, this technology will be able to reduce production costs.”

The rise of laser technology in solar technology is just taking off, and it still has a long way to go. “Lasers simplify and optimize the manufacture of classic silicon and thin-film cells, and they allow the development of new design alternatives,” Gillner continues. “And so laser technology is making an important contribution towards allowing renewable energy sources to penetrate further into the energy market.”

May 22, 2009

Sanyo sets solar conversion record

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:01 pm

Via KurzweilAI.net — Sanyo broke its own record for solar cell energy conversion efficiency.

SANYO Breaks Solar Cell Record
Azonanotechnology, May 21, 2009

SANYO Electric has broken its own record for the world’s highest energy conversion efficiency in practical size (100 cm2 or more) crystalline silicon-type solar cells, achieving a efficiency of 23.0% (until now 22.3%) at a research level for its proprietary HIT solar photovoltaic cells.

Read Original Article>>

April 22, 2009

Bank of New York Mellon goes solar in Mass

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:23 pm

News release from this morning:

New 76 Kilowatt Solar Panel Array Goes On-line at BNY Mellon Complex in Everett

Will reduce CO2 emissions by 50 tons a year; generate electricity to power 3,300 homes for a day

BOSTON, April 22 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — A newly installed 76 kilowatt photovoltaic (solar powered) system has come on-line and begun supplying electric power to The Bank of New York Mellon’s (NYSE:BK) office complex in Everett, Mass. The system is one of the largest of its kind in greater Boston and among the top 25 solar-electric generating projects in the Commonwealth.

Building on BNY Mellon’s commitment to environmental sustainability, the 5,762 sq ft array is a “direct tie” system that will offset the company’s daily power consumption. Electricity generated by the system’s 364 solar modules flows directly into the building’s power lines, effectively reducing power needs from the utility in direct proportion to system output. BNY Mellon estimates annual output to be around 103,000 kilowatt-hours, which is expected to generate cost savings of up to $15,000 a year.

103,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity is equivalent to the energy used to power 3,300 local homes for one day. That much electricity derived from non-polluting sources such as solar also prevents the release of key pollutants, specifically:

  —  50 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) — equivalent to the CO2 absorbed each
      year by 42 acres of forest. Carbon dioxide is the main gas responsible
      for climate change.

  —  425 pounds of sulphur dioxide (SO2) — enough to fill more than 14,000
      basketballs. Sulphur dioxide is the main cause of acid rain and
      visibility problems.

The project received funding from the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust and is part of National Grid’s Everett Congestion Relief Pilot program, which includes solar power as one of several methods to limit peak demand for electricity. Installation of the system was coordinated by BNY Mellon’s property manager in Everett, Jones Lang LaSalle.

“The Bank of New York Mellon has a long tradition of operating in ways that make sense both for the environment and our business,” said Chip Logan, general services and corporate real estate division manager at BNY Mellon. “Together with our partners at Jones Lang LaSalle, Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust and National Grid, this solar installation supports our corporate-wide commitment to sustainability while easing energy demand on the local grid.”

“Projects like this are crucial stepping stones as the Commonwealth forges ahead toward the Patrick-Murray Administration’s goal of 250 megawatts of installed solar power in Massachusetts by 2020,” said Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Philip Giudice. “Through the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust, the Commonwealth is proud to partner with The Bank of New York Mellon and we congratulate the company on its clean energy leadership.”

“We applaud The Bank of New York Mellon for its vision and leadership as a ‘green’ corporate citizen. Three years ago it made a bold commitment to this project and to the value of renewable energy, helping to mitigate the effects of climate change,” said Tim Roughan, director, distributed resources for National Grid. “BNY Mellon’s highly visible photovoltaic system is the largest renewable energy installation completed to date under our congestion relief pilot. We hope it will create excitement while serving as an example of what we at National Grid call the ‘power of action’ — many individuals making changes that collectively have a positive impact on our environment.”

“Bank of New York Mellon recognizes that a sustainable, resource-efficient building meets the dual goals of being both economically and environmentally responsible,” said Mike Cook, vice president and general manager for Jones Lang LaSalle in Everett. “Adding a solar powered electricity system is an innovative and financially sound investment to make a building more sustainable.”

BNY Mellon received various tax incentives for its solar electric project, including state and federal tax credits. Combined, the incentives cover about two-thirds of the cost of the system, which will pay for itself in less than five years.

A direct-tie solar array is a popular and efficient choice, because there are no batteries to replace and it costs less than its battery-equipment counterpart. BNY Mellon’s system essentially wakes up in the morning and shuts down at night.

Opened in 1999 after extensive renovations to a former Textron manufacturing plant, BNY Mellon’s 385,000 sq ft office complex in Everett is home to more than 1,000 employees and an operations center for the company’s securities servicing and payments processing businesses. The facility also has earned the EPA “Energy Star” award seven years running.

The Bank of New York Mellon has about 3,000 employees in greater Boston, most of them working in its locally headquartered securities servicing, asset management, and wealth management businesses.

About National Grid

National Grid is one of the largest investor-owned energy companies in the world. Our talented, diverse workforce is committed to tackling climate change and safeguarding our global environment for future generations, and we believe this can best be accomplished by engaging our customers, communities, governments, employees and others to join us in using the power of action to achieve significant results together. In the U.S., National Grid delivers electricity to approximately 3.3 million customers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island, and manages the electricity network on Long Island under an agreement with the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA). It is the largest distributor of natural gas in the northeastern U.S., serving approximately 3.4 million customers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island.

About Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust

The Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust supports renewable energy projects throughout Massachusetts. Working in partnership with the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the Trust is maximizing the environmental and economic benefits of renewable energy for the citizens, businesses, and communities of the Commonwealth. The Trust has supported more than 1,400 projects in more than 275 communities. Visit www.masstech.org/renewableenergy to learn more.

About Jones Lang LaSalle

Jones Lang LaSalle (NYSE:JLL) is a financial and professional services firm specializing in real estate. The firm offers integrated services delivered by expert teams worldwide to clients seeking increased value by owning, occupying or investing in real estate. With 2008 global revenue of $2.7 billion, Jones Lang LaSalle serves clients in 60 countries from 750 locations worldwide, including 180 corporate offices. The firm is an industry leader in property and corporate facility management services, with a portfolio of approximately 1.4 billion square feet worldwide. For further information, please visit our Web site, www.joneslanglasalle.com.

About The Bank of New York Mellon

The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation is a global financial services company focused on helping clients manage and service their financial assets, operating in 34 countries and serving more than 100 markets. The company is a leading provider of financial services for institutions, corporations and high-net-worth individuals, providing superior asset management and wealth management, asset servicing, issuer services, clearing services and treasury services through a worldwide client-focused team. It has $19.5 trillion in assets under custody and administration, $881 billion in assets under management, services more than $11 trillion in outstanding debt, and processes global payments averaging $1.8 trillion per day. Additional information is available at www.bnymellon.com.

Source: The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation

Web Site:  http://www.bnymellon.com/

February 15, 2009

Solar shingles

Now we’re talking. I’d love to have something like this new tech on my sun-drenched house selling power back to the grid. Dow Chemical may have a winner here if this solar energy application actually works.

From the link:

Solar shingles is not a new disease, but Dow Chemical Co. hopes they spread like gangrene.

During the past year, engineers, scientists and others at Dow Solar Solutions — a $50 million investment — have worked at a photovoltaic facility, a retrofitted former research and development building in the company’s sprawling 1,900-acre complex here.

Their goal is to produce thermoplastic solar roof shingles for sale throughout North America. With President Barack Obama’s insistence on renewable energy and conservation, the time is ripe for such an enterprise, said Robert J. Cleereman, senior director of solar development for Dow.

Using thin film photovoltaic technology, Dow intergrates solar cells with shingles. By 2011, officials expect to begin selling the product with its partners — home builders Lennar Corp. of Miami, Pulte Homes Inc. of Bloomfield Hills and Jefferson City, Mo.-based Prost Builders Inc., and Global Solar Energy, a maker of flexible materials.

(Hat tip — Steve P.)

February 12, 2009

Major Mojave Desert solar project

From KurzweilAI.net — Looks like Southern California Edison is going solar in a big way with this Mojave Desert installation.

California Utility Looks to Mojave Desert Project for Solar Power
New York Times, Feb. 11, 2009

Southern California Edison, the largest utility in California, has signed a deal to buy 1,300 megawatts of electricity (enough to power about 845,000 homes) starting in 2013, using solar power from seven immense arrays of mirrors, towers and turbines to be installed in the Mojave Desert.

Read Original Article>>

February 11, 2009

Oil and gas windfall profit taxes might backfire

This study commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute sees problems with the idea of a windfall tax on the oil and gas industry. I’m all for seeking out and implementing alternative sources of energy.

I blog often on solar, wind and other alternative power breakthroughs, but at the same time I’m realistic. We need a strong domestic petroleum industry for many reasons. Not the least of which that is the way our nation is powered for the time being and no single alternative energy innovation, or wishful thinking, is going to change the fact.

Realistic thinking, many innovations and a nation running on all cylinders, so to speak, will make a difference in the long run. And like it or not, the oil and gas industry is integral to the effort.

From the link:

The imposition of new taxes on the oil and natural gas industry likely could kill hundreds of thousands of jobs, slow economic growth and make Americans more dependent on foreign sources of energy, according to a study released today.

The CRA International study, commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute, underscores how ill-advised tax policy would likely result in less domestic oil and natural gas production – which would likely undermine both the nation’s economic and energy security. While there is no specific windfall profits tax proposal being considered by the Congress, the CRA analysis focuses on the windfall profits tax to illustrate that a similar tax or combination of taxes could have negative consequences for the U.S. economy.

“U.S. dependence on foreign oil could be magnified over the next 20 years if the oil and gas companies face the prospect of higher taxes that reduce returns on new investments,” said W. David Montgomery, a vice president at CRA, who conducted the study. “Although this study has specifically assessed the impact of a proposed windfall profits tax, similar forms of increased taxation or other policies that reduce incentives for new investment would be expected to have similar negative consequences.”

The study also found that a windfall profits tax likely would:

  • Cause a net loss of up to 490,000 U.S. jobs by 2030. 

  • Reduce U.S. gross domestic product by roughly 1 percent, or $240 billion by 2030.  

  • Increase U.S. imports of crude oil by up to 18 percent in 2030 and reduce U.S. domestic production of crude oil by up to 26 percent in the same year. 




Update 2/17/09 — Here’s my EnerMax post on the study.

January 6, 2009

Hydrogen from ethanol

I’ll have to admit this sounds a little pie-in-the-sky. I’ve read way too much on various hydrogen schemes to give this any market relevance before I see/read about a whole lot more in terms of real costs, drawbacks and applications.

At the same time it’s good to see ongoing research into alternative energy sources. I have no problem with petroleum use, but it is a limited resource as things currently stand. And mankind’s power needs are only increasing at a phenomenal rate.

From the link:

Scientists have created an entirely natural and renewable method for producing hydrogen to generate electricity which could drastically reduce the dependency on fossil fuels in the future.

The breakthrough means ethanol which comes from the fermentation of crops can be completely converted to hydrogen and carbon dioxide for the first time.

The hydrogen generated would be used to power fuel cells – devices which convert fuels into electricity directly without the need for combustion.

The new method – which has the potential to be used to power homes, buildings and cars in the future – is the result of a 10 year collaboration project between scientists from the University of Aberdeen alongside international partner laboratories.

Over 90% of the hydrogen currently generated across the globe is made using natural gas found in fossils fuels.

The main concern with this method is the generation of large amounts of carbon dioxide increasing the risk of global warming.

This new production method uses ethanol which is produced by the fermentation of crops and is therefore carbon neutral meaning any carbon dioxide produced is assimilated back into the environment and used by plants to grow.

Professor Hicham Idriss, Energy Futures Chair at the University of Aberdeen who has led the study said: “We have successfully created the first stable catalyst which can generate hydrogen using ethanol produced from crop fermentation at realistic conditions.

December 18, 2008

Obama to name John Holdren as his science advisor

Updating this post of mine, Obama is expected to name John Holdren as his science advisor.

From the second link:

Eli Kintisch is reportingat the ScienceInsider blog that John Holdren, who is a Professor of Environmental Policy and Director of Program in Science, Technology, and Public Policy at Havard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government will be tapped as science advisor by President-elect Barack Obama.

In his salad days, Holdren was a paid-up member of The Limits to Growth club. For example, in his 1971 Sierra Club book, Energy: A Crisis in Power, Holdren declared that “it is fair to conclude that under almost any assumptions, the supplies of crude petroleum and natural gas are severely limited. The bulk of energy likely to flow from these sources may have been tapped within the lifetime of many of the present population.” More recently, Holdren has declared that the world is not running out energy and that even “peak oil” is debatable. 

I think it’s easy to divine the direction Obama’s energy policy will take. No surprises, there. He campaigned on the need to explore alternative energy sources immediately.

December 17, 2008

Video press release from Ericsson on green power

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:56 am

The release:

Video: Green Power to Bring Mobile Telephony to Billions of People

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Dec. 15 /PRNewswire/ — (NASDAQ:ERIC) By 2013, Ericsson, the world’s leading provider of telecommunications equipment and services, anticipates that there will be some 6.5 billion mobile phone subscriptions in the world, compared to today’s 3.7 billion. About 90 percent of growth is expected to come from developing markets where more than half of the population lives outside city limits. To build mobile networks in rural areas with no or unreliable power grid means that the power challenge must be solved.

To view the Multimedia News Release, go to: http://www.prnewswire.com/mnr/ericsson/35990/

As mobile telephony reaches billions of new subscribers, areas in the world that have never had access to communication services will soon be part of the connected society. Having reliable access to cost-effective energy supplies has long been a stumbling block for telecom operators seeking to offer services outside major population centers. Building out electricity grids has not only been prohibitive from a cost perspective, but often impossible due to geographic and environmental constraints.

Ericsson, whose technology has already provided billions of people with mobile telephony, is meeting this challenge with a combination of energy-efficient products and emphasis on network energy optimization. This supports telecom operators to develop and deliver affordable and sustainable communications services to the emerging markets in a way that makes business profitable for the operators.

Wind power is one example of an alternative energy resource for powering mobile networks located beyond the electricity grid. In 2007, Ericsson implemented biofuel as an alternative energy resource, and in 2000 Ericsson was the first telecom player to deploy a solar solution to power a Moroccan operator’s mobile network.

“Being at the forefront of innovation is crucial for Ericsson to stay in its leading market position,” says Ulf Ewaldsson, Vice President and Head of Product Area Radio at Ericsson. “I am, of course, proud to be part of a company that is behind technologies like Bluetooth, setting the standard for mobile technology GSM that half of the world’s population are using to make phone calls, as well as leading the development of the fourth generation of mobile communication. But one must also have in mind how to run mobile networks so that all of us can have access to communication services, no matter whether you live in a big developed city or in a remote village in a country with poor infrastructure.”

As energy-related expenditures, including cost for diesel, can be as high as 50 percent of total network operating costs in some markets, the next step after getting infrastructure in place is to ensure cost-efficient day-to-day operations.

“One example of what we have done to be able to offer mobile telephony to the billions of people living outside city limits, is the introduction of a unique hybrid solution where we use submarine batteries that can be recharged over and over again to power a mobile network,” Ewaldsson says. “This solution saves approximately 10 000 liters of diesel per radio site per year, which is 40 to 50 percent of the diesel needed. This adds up to large quantities of fuel that can be saved in a mobile network with hundreds or thousands of diesel powered radio sites.”

Developing green solutions to build and power mobile networks holds the key to reaching billions of people that have never had access to communication services. And the benefits of green solutions are twofold – not only does this mean telecom operators can build and operate mobile networks cost efficiently, the environment is also a winner as less fossil fuel is needed to run the mobile networks.

  Notes to editors:
  Still photos on alternative energy sources:

  Ericsson’s standard multimedia content is available at the broadcast room:

Ericsson is the world’s leading provider of technology and services to telecom operators. The market leader in 2G and 3G mobile technologies, Ericsson supplies communications services and manages networks that serve more than 195 million subscribers. The company’s portfolio comprises mobile and fixed network infrastructure, and broadband and multimedia solutions for operators, enterprises and developers. The Sony Ericsson joint venture provides consumers with feature-rich personal mobile devices.

Ericsson is advancing its vision of ‘communication for all’ through innovation, technology, and sustainable business solutions. Working in 175 countries, more than 70,000 employees generated revenue of USD 27.9 billion (SEK 188 billion) in 2007. Founded in 1876 and headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, Ericsson is listed on OMX Nordic Exchange Stockholm and NASDAQ.

For more information, visit www.ericsson.com or www.ericsson.mobi.

Video:  http://www.prnewswire.com/mnr/ericsson/35990
Source: Ericsson

Web Site:  http://www.ericsson.com/

December 11, 2008

Wal-Mart announces new solar power system

Filed under: Business, Science — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:01 pm

The release from minutes ago:

The Light Shines on: Wal-Mart and SunPower Announce Solar Power on Central Valley Store

Solar Power Pilot Project Complete at Hanford Wal-Mart

HANFORD, Calif., Dec. 11 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) and SunPower Corporation (NASDAQ:SPWRA)(NASDAQ:SPWRB) today announced completion of a 554-kilowatt solar power system at the Wal-Mart store in Hanford, California.  The system is estimated to generate approximately 15 percent of the store’s electricity.

This Hanford store is part of a Wal-Mart pilot project to purchase solar power systems from SunPower and other solar providers for up to 22 Wal-Mart stores, Sam’s Club locations and distribution centers in California and Hawaii.

It is expected these solar power systems at Wal-Mart’s facilities will replace 7,000 to 8,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year.  The systems help move Wal-Mart towards its long-term goal to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy, and will provide immediate cost savings over current utility rates.

“This project helps move Wal-Mart forward in our commitment to conserve energy, reduce energy costs and lower greenhouse gas emissions,” said Kim Saylors-Laster, vice president of energy for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.  “We are very pleased with SunPower’s work on the Hanford solar project and on all of our facilities on which they are building solar power systems.”

The Hanford Wal-Mart store, as well as the nearby Wal-Mart distribution center in Porterville, are two of eight Wal-Mart facilities in California to receive SunPower solar power systems, totaling 4.2 megawatts, by the end of this year.  The other six Wal-Mart facilities included in the SunPower contract are located in Chino, Simi Valley, Brea, Orange and Lakewood and Palmdale.

“Companies like Wal-Mart are turning to solar power because it makes good business sense and supports their environmental initiatives,” said Tom Werner, chief executive officer of SunPower Corp.  “Companies turn to SunPower because we have the most efficient solar technology in the world, and unparalleled experience in delivering high quality solar power installations anywhere and at any scale, from rooftops to parking structures to power plants.”

Wal-Mart plans to use the results of the solar power pilot project to explore additional ways to achieve its renewable energy goals and to determine how to move forward with solar power generation at additional Wal-Mart locations.

About Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. operates Wal-Mart discount stores, supercenters, Neighborhood Markets and Sam’s Club locations in the United States.  The Company operates in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom and, through a joint venture, in India.  The Company’s securities are listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol WMT.  More information about Wal-Mart can be found by visiting http://www.walmartstores.com/.  Online merchandise sales are available at http://www.walmart.com/ and http://www.samsclub.com/.

About SunPower

SunPower Corporation (NASDAQ:SPWRA)(NASDAQ:SPWRB) designs, manufactures and delivers high-performance solar electric systems worldwide for residential, commercial and utility-scale power plant customers.  SunPower high-efficiency solar cells and solar panels generate up to 50 percent more power than conventional solar technologies and have a uniquely attractive, all-black appearance.  With headquarters in San Jose, California, SunPower has offices in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia.  For more information, visit http://www.sunpowercorp.com/.

Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Forward-looking statements are statements that do not represent historical facts.  The companies use words and phrases such as “will,” “is expected,” “plans,” and similar expressions to identify forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements in this press release include, but are not limited to, the companies plans and expectations regarding: (a) the system generating approximately 15 percent of the store’s electricity; (b) the systems replacing 7,000 to 8,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year; (c) the systems helping Wal-Mart achieve its long-term goal to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy and provide immediate cost savings over current utility rates; (d) Wal-Mart using the results of the solar power pilot project to explore additional ways to achieve its renewable energy goals and to determine how to move forward with solar power generation at additional Wal-Mart locations.  These forward-looking statements are based on information available to the companies as of the date of this release and management’s current expectations, forecasts and assumptions, and involve a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those anticipated by these forward-looking statements.  Such risks and uncertainties include a variety of factors, some of which are beyond the companies’ control.  In particular, risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ include: (i) actual electricity generation; (ii) the actual energy consumption rate; (iii) unexpected changes in utility service rates; (iv) variations in carbon dioxide emissions reductions; and (v) other risks described in SunPower’s Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended September 28, 2008, and other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.  These forward-looking statements should not be relied upon as representing the companies’ views as of any subsequent date, and the companies are under no obligation to, and expressly disclaim any responsibility to, update or alter their forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

SunPower is a registered trademark of SunPower Corp.  All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Source: SunPower Corporation
Web site:  http://www.sunpowercorp.com/

December 9, 2008

Giant frickin’ laser!

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:35 pm

Okay, that was a flippant header for a serious press release. I couldn’t resist.

JDSU announces a high-powered laser that improves solar cell production. Pretty frickin’ cool.

The release:

JDSU Introduces New High Powered Ultra Violet Laser

Latest Q Series Laser Designed to Increase Manufacturing Productivity of OEMs for Precision Micromachining and Solar Cell Processing

MILPITAS, Calif., Dec. 9 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — JDSU (Nasdaq: JDSU; TSX: JDU) today announced availability of a new high power ultraviolet (UV) laser called the Q304-HD laser.  Based upon the widely adopted Q Series UV laser platform from JDSU, the new laser provides 50 percent more power and is designed to increase throughput, or the rate at which it can conduct micromachining functions such as hole drilling, wafer cutting or singulation, and solar cell processing. Higher throughput from the laser allows manufacturers to increase productivity during the manufacturing of products, saving valuable time and costs.

In addition, the new laser operates at a higher power level without using additional electrical consumption due to enhancements in the new laser design. This also ensures a longer laser lifespan.

“Manufacturers are under pressure to reduce costs while increasing productivity by adopting aggressive manufacturing processes,” said Victor David, product line manager for Q Series lasers in the Communications and Commercial Optical Products business segment at JDSU.  “We’ve received positive responses from customers about the new JDSU Q304-HD laser because it allows them to produce more products in less time. It also provides the same high reliability and precision as previous offerings based on the Q Series platform.”

  JDSU Q304-HD Laser Performance Advantages
  —  50 percent more power: >11W at 355 nanometers.
  —  Longer laser lifespan.
  —  Best-in-class beam quality at M2 <1.2.
  —  Unmatched pulse energy stability for repeatability.
  —  Near instantaneous power control.
  —  Superior process control and flexibility for a wide range materials
      and machine integration conditions.

  About JDSU

JDSU (NASDAQ: JDSU; and TSX: JDU) enables broadband and optical innovation in the communications, commercial and consumer markets. JDSU is the leading provider of communications test and measurement solutions and optical products for telecommunications service providers, cable operators, and network equipment manufacturers. JDSU is also a leading provider of innovative optical solutions for medical/environmental instrumentation, semiconductor processing, display, brand authentication, aerospace and defense, and decorative applications. More information is available at http://www.jdsu.com/.

 Photo:  NewsCom: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20050913/SFTU125LOGO
AP Archive:  http://photoarchive.ap.org/
PRN Photo Desk, photodesk@prnewswire.com
Source: JDSU
Web site:  http://www.jdsu.com/

November 19, 2008

Obama may find new energy initiatives difficult …

Filed under: Business, Politics, Science — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:33 pm

… according to this year’s Energy Pulse study.

The release:

Obama White House to Face Long-Held Consumer Denial and Awareness Hurdles in Realizing New Energy Solutions

Consumers Blame Government, Assume Little Self-Responsibility

KNOXVILLE, Tenn., Nov. 19 /PRNewswire/ — As President-Elect Barack Obama prepares to address energy as one of the top issues on the U.S. agenda, his administration will face long-held U.S. consumer denial about personal responsibility in driving energy demand and resulting prices – as well as consumers’ “tailpipe-driven” understanding of energy use and environmental impact.

(Logo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081119/CLW024LOGO )

Despite government reports documenting that consumers now use more electricity than five years ago, Shelton Group’s fourth annual Energy Pulse study reports in a recent survey that 61 percent of consumers deny using more.

Meanwhile, Energy Pulse also reflects widespread economic concern tied to energy use, with 62 percent of Americans indicating they have experienced home utility cost increases of 10-30 percent or more.

“For the first time in four years, we increasingly see economic concerns driving consumer interest in conserving energy,” said Suzanne Shelton, CEO of Shelton Group, an advertising agency that independently sponsors the study.

“However, one thing hasn’t changed since 2005: most Americans don’t view their own consumption behaviors or energy-use demand as having much to do with energy costs,” Shelton said.  In fact, Energy Pulse 2008 finds that less than one-fourth of consumers mention U.S. consumer demand as most to blame for rising energy prices.

“The Obama Administration will be especially challenged in effecting change if the electorate never understands how energy use – and not just tailpipes – impacts the environment and how consumers’ own behaviors are critical,” Shelton said.

While more consumers are becoming knowledgeable about renewable energy, one-third erroneously think cars and trucks are the No. 1 cause of global warming, while only four percent cite the actual primary culprit of greenhouse emissions: coal-fired electric plants, today’s most prominent source to heat, cool and power buildings – largely homes.

For three previous years (2005-2007), Energy Pulse has found that Americans primarily blame the U.S. government for high energy prices.  In response to this finding, Shelton Group expanded this area of the Energy Pulse 2008 study by dividing this query into two different questions: “Who is most to blame for home energy costs?” and “Who is most to blame for rising gasoline costs?”

These dual questions resulted in very different answers.  Americans still primarily blame the U.S. government for high home energy costs (27 percent), followed by U.S. consumer demand (22 percent).  Interestingly, utilities registered far down the list, at 5 percent.

Also of note: most consumers either blamed kids in the home for increased electricity usage or said they did not think they used more electricity because they now had no kids in the home.

Oil companies were thought to be the primary culprits for rising gasoline costs (27 percent). Even so, the U.S. government was the second most common answer, at 24 percent.

Energy Pulse further asked, “Should the government be doing more to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels?”  The overwhelming answer – by 90 percent – was “yes.”

Those who responded affirmatively were then asked “What should the government be doing?”  The top answers were “should invest more in research to find alternatives” (29 percent), “should be more proactive and develop a plan” (16 percent), and “should allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and / or off the U.S. coast” (13 percent).

When asked the primary reason to participate in energy conservation activities or purchases, the top three answers were the same as in 2007 but shifted in order, with saving money No. 1 – again, reflecting more tough economic times:

1.) To save money (ranked No. 3 in 2007)

2.) To protect our environment and save natural resources (remained No. 2 from 2007)

3.) To preserve the quality of life for future generations (ranked No. 1 in 2007)

Energy Pulse 2008(R), by Shelton Group, was fielded to 504 respondents by telephone in September 2008 and has a +/- 4.37 percent margin of error, based on the total number of U.S. households.

Based in Knoxville, Tenn., Shelton Group is an advertising agency entirely focused on energy, energy efficiency and sustainability.  Founded more than 17 years ago by CEO Suzanne Shelton, Shelton Group uniquely understands the consumer mindset as it relates to energy, energy efficiency, conservation and green marketing – based on its portfolio that includes a multi-year range of original consumer research (Energy Pulse, Eco Pulse) and client work for such accounts as BP Solar, Andersen Windows, Vectren Energy, Knauf Insulation and the American Institute of Architects.  Energy Pulse 2008 methodology and other details available upon request.

Photo:  http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20081119/CLW024LOGO
PRN Photo Desk, photodesk@prnewswire.com
Source: Shelton Group

August 28, 2008

Alternative energy meets gridlock

From KurzweilAI.net — The limits of the electricity grid are running into alternative energy goals, such as this case involving wind power.

Wind Energy Bumps Into Power Grid’s Limits
New York Times, Aug. 26, 2008

Expansive dreams about renewable energy from wind power and other sources are bumping up against the reality of a power grid that cannot handle the new demands.

An EnergyDepartment plan to source 20 percent of the nation’s electricity from wind calls for a high-voltage backbone spanning the country, but it would cost $60 billion or more and would be contrained by multistate regulatory restrictions.

Read Original Article>>

August 18, 2008

Day4 Energy offers more efficient solar cells

Filed under: Business, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:58 pm

Solar news is coming fast and furious these days. Here’s the latest — Day4 Energy says they’ve increased their cells efficiency.

From the Technology Review link:

By changing the way that conventional silicon solar panels are made, Day4 Energy, a startup based in Burnaby, British Columbia, has found a way to cut the cost of solar power by 25 percent, says George Rubin, the company’s president.

The company has developed a new electrode that, together with a redesigned solar-cell structure, allows solar panels to absorb more light and operate at a higher voltage. This increases the efficiency of multicrystalline silicon solar panels from an industry standard of about 14 percent to nearly 17 percent. Because of this higher efficiency, Day4’s solar panels generate more power than conventional panels do, yet they will cost the same, Rubin says. He estimates the cost per watt of solar power would be about $3, compared with $4 for conventional solar cells. That will translate into electricity prices of about 20 cents per kilowatt-hour in sunny areas, down from about 25 cents per kilowatt-hour, he says.

Other experimental solar technologies could lead to much lower prices–indeed, they promise to compete with the average cost of electricity in the United States, which is about 10 cents per kilowatt-hour. But such technologies, including advanced solar concentrators and some thin-film semiconductor solar cells, probably won’t be available for years. Day4’s technology could be for sale within 18 months, the company says.

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