London Will Get Europe’s Largest Floating Solar Array

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Following the example of Japan, which has already begun constructing numerous floating solar arrays to meet it’s renewable energy goals, UK’s Thames Water has now announced plans to do the same. They are already building what will be the largest floating solar array in Europe, and they plan to install it on a reservoir in London. This project is part of Thames Water’s goal of finding solutions to generate one third of its own energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Placing a solar array onto a body of water is actually a very good idea for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is hard to obtain large areas of land where solar panels can be installed, especially in densely populated cities such as London. The second reason why placing them in water makes great sense is that the water can then be used to cool the panels, which makes them perform better and extends their lifespan. And placing them on reservoirs has the added benefit of blocking out sunlight and therefore inhibits algae growth in the water, while it also reduces loss of water through evaporation.

The floating solar array in London will be constructed on the Queen Elizabeth II Reservoir, which is located near Walton-on-Thames. It will be comprised of 23,000 solar PV panels, which will be used to cover around one-tenth of the large body of water. To put in perspective, the covered area will be roughly the size of 8 football pitches. The capacity of the array will be 6.3 MW and it is estimated to generate 5.8 million kilowatt hours of energy in the first year. This would be enough energy to power around 1,800 households for a full year. The power generated by the array will be used to partially power the water treatment plant located near the reservoir.

Shopping Mall Going Solar

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The Stockland Wendouree Shopping Centre in Victoria, Australia is using solar-concentrating thermal technology as the sole source of power for their air-conditioning system. Given that a lot of the power consumed by shopping malls, and other such large commercial structures is down to heating and cooling, this is quite a beneficial and sustainable move, and one that more business owners should consider. After all, there is only so much that individuals can do when it comes to assuring a more sustainable future.

The system used by the mall is a prototype and was developed by the CSIRO. It is also partially funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) program, which was established in an effort to increase the supply and competitiveness of renewable energy in the country. The newly developed system is basically a “closed-loop” air-conditioner in the sense that it cools and heats the air inside the building without letting in any outside air. It also features two “desiccant” (drying) wheels that function as dehumidifiers and remove the excess moisture from the air. These wheels operate at different temperatures, with the high-temperature wheel using the harvested solar energy for regeneration, while the low temperature wheel does not require any external heat to operate.

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Trough collectors are used to capture solar heat of around 302 to 392° F (150 to 200° C), which is then stored in a 528 gallon (2,000-liter) thermal oil tank. Though a heat cascading design, this heat is then used to heat the air in the center in the winter, and also to power an indirect evaporative cooler to keep the interior cool in the summer. The system is also very compact, and the entire solar air-conditioning unit is about 40 percent smaller than a standard single-stage desiccant system.

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CSIRO will spend the next 12 months monitoring and assessing the prototype to see how well it functions in a commercial environment. They are, however, confident that such a system will prove successful in reducing the electric power requirements and costs related to supplying humidity in large commercial spaces. The entire system cost just under 1.3 million USD to create and install.

Watch: First-ever solar-powered music video (and the product behind it)

Judging by the crowd at Battle of the Bands during Intersolar, the solar industry is into music. The organizers of Battle of the Bands may want to consider Minneapolis hip hop duo Atmosphere – featuring Slug and Ant, as headliners for 2016, as they have just released “the first-ever solar-powered music video” for their biggest single to date, 2007’s “Sunshine.” No, really, here it is:

(Be honest, if you attended the Battle of the Bands, the beginning of that song spoke to you.)

Atmosphere makes this claim thanks to a new product, currently in crowd-funding mode, called SunPort. SunPort is a small plug adaptor that the the creators say allows users to use solar power everywhere there go. No panels, just an adaptor for a an outlet. This “wearable tech for power cords” then measures the electricity you take from any outlet and “automatically upgrades it to solar.”

“Certified S-RECs are big chunks of solar, each one larger than a typical home’s entire monthly energy use,” the company states. “Our hack is simply breaking S-RECs down into much smaller increments called SunJoule™ microcredits.”

For more on SunPort, head to its Kickstarter page.

— Solar Builder magazine

Washington Gas Energy Systems Celebrates Completion of Solar Projects Totaling More Than 15 Megawatts in Georgia

Company Holds Ribbon Cutting Ceremonies in Donalsonville, Richland and Greenville

 DSC00292McLean, Va. – December 16, 2014 – Washington Gas Energy Systems, Inc., a subsidiary of WGL (NYSE: WGL) today announced the completion of 20 solar projects, totaling more than 15 megawatts, that will produce renewable energy for Georgia Power. The company held ribbon cutting ceremonies at their sites in Donalsonville and Richland, Ga. on Thursday, Dec. 11, and another event in Greenville, Ga. on Friday, Dec. 12.

“These projects significantly increase renewable energy capacity in the state through the Georgia Power Advanced Solar Initiative,” said Sanjiv Mahan, chief operating officer of Washington Gas Energy Systems. “We commend this program for spurring economic growth in the solar energy industry while reducing the carbon impact of Georgia Power customers, and look forward to completing more projects through this partnership with our diversified offerings across the energy eco-system.”

All of the solar arrays will be owned and operated by Washington Gas Energy Systems under 20-year Power Purchasing Agreements (PPAs) with Georgia Power. The project in Donalsonville is a 2-megawatt ground-mounted system composed of more than 6,000 solar panels, and is expected to produce more than 3,000-MW hours of electricity annually. The project was developed by Office of Solar Development and all engineering, procurement and construction was performed by Cantsink Manufacturing.

The Greenville project is a 1-megawatt ground-mounted solar away at the Meriwether County Industrial Development Authority. It is composed of more than 3,000 solar panels and expected to produce more than 1,500-MW hours of electricity per year. Engineering, procurement and construction was managed by Hannah Solar.

In Richland, the 1-megawatt solar project consists of more than 7,000 solar panels and is expected to produce more than 1,500 megawatt hours of electricity per year. The project was developed by Inman Solar in collaboration with the City of Richland and the Richland Development Authority.

Other Washington Gas Energy Systems projects under construction in Georgia include sites located in Montezuma and Homer, each sized at 1-megawatt.  All projects are expected to be completed by February 2015.

— Solar Builder magazine

Solar Dominates Energy Generation

KDC Solar Panel SystemFor the ninth time in the past 11 months, solar and wind energy dominated the new U.S. electrical generating capacity.

In it’s latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report (with data through Nov. 30, 2014), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Energy Projects, states that wind energy and solar power combined provided more than 70 percent of the 873 megawatts (MW) of new U.S. electrical generating capacity placed into service in November 2014.

Fourteen new “units” of solar came on line for a total of 294-MW of capacity, led by MidAmerican Renewables LLC’s 250-MW Topaz Solar Farms expansion in California.

Also, three wind farms came on line last month, accounting for 333-MW of new generation in service. These included Stella Wind Farm’s 182-MW Panhandle Wind Farm Phase II expansion in Texas and the 150-MW Origin Wind Energy project in Oklahoma. New wind generating capacity this year thus far has more than doubled that for the same period in 2013 (2,525-MW vs. 1,112-MW).

“With only one month left in 2014, it has become a horse race between natural gas and renewable energy as to which will dominate new electrical generation for the year,” noted Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Regardless of the winner, it is apparent that coal, oil, and nuclear will be left behind in the dust.”

Just a single new unit of natural gas came on-line last month — Wisconsin Electric Power Co’s 140-MW Valley Power Plant Unit 1 Repowering Project, as well as the first and only coal plant to come into service so far in 2014 — Great River Energy’s 106-MW lignite-fueled Spiritwood Station project in North Dakota.

For the ninth time in the past eleven months, renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) accounted for the majority of new U.S. electrical generation brought into service. Natural gas took the lead in April and August.

Renewable energy sources now account for 16.44 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.: water – 8.43 percent, wind – 5.42 percent, biomass – 1.38 percent, solar – 0.88 percent, and geothermal steam – 0.33 percent. Renewable energy capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.22 percent) and oil (3.97 percent) combined. (See footnote at end)
Of the 10,926-MW of new generating capacity from all sources installed since Jan. 1, 2014, 39 units of wind accounted for 2,525-MW (23.11 percent), followed by 235 units of solar – 2,203-MW (20.16 percent), 49 units of biomass – 282-MW (2.58 percent), 7 units of hydropower – 141-MW (1.29 percent), and 5 units of geothermal – 32-MW (0.29 percent). In total, renewables have provided 47.43 percent of new U.S. electrical generating capacity thus far in 2014.

The balance came from 46 units of natural gas – 5,513-MW (50.46 percent), 1 unit of coal – 106-MW(0.97 percent), 1 unit of nuclear – 71-MW (0.65 percent), 15 units of oil – 47-MW (0.43 percent), and 6 units of “other” – 7-MW (0.06 percent). Thus, new capacity from renewable energy sources in 2014 is 49 times that from coal, 73 times that from nuclear, and 110 times that from oil.

Note: Generating capacity is not the same as actual generation. Generation per MW of capacity (i.e., capacity factor) for renewables is often lower than that for fossil fuels and nuclear power. According to the most recent data (as of September 2014) provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, actual net electrical generation from renewable energy sources now totals a bit more than 13 percent of total U.S. electrical production; however, this figure almost certainly understates renewables’ actual contribution significantly because EIA does not fully account for all electricity generated by distributed renewable energy sources (e.g., rooftop solar).

— Solar Builder magazine