A new report is forecasting that 2015 will turn out to be a banner year for solar power in the United States, with the last 3 months of the year showing a large spike. While the 6.2 gigawatts of solar capacity installed last year were impressive, and the 1,361 MW of PV installed in the third quarter of this year weren’t bad either, GTM Research predicts that the fourth quarter of 2015 alone will see over 3 gigawatts of new capacity installed, bringing 2015 to a close around 7.4 GW. That’s 19% year-on-year growth! And with the big increase that is also predicted for 2016, the US should end up with about 41 GW of solar capacity, almost double what it had not so long ago, as you can see in the graph below:
In the past few years – ever since Tim Cook became CEO, really – Apple has been cleaning up its act on the environmental front. They’ve eliminated many toxins from their products, made them more recyclable, and have invested big bucks into clean energy and conservation. They have multiple solar installations, with more under construction, and have bought a forest the size of San Francisco in the US and will protect 1 million acres in China. They are also the big tech company that is furthest along in converting to 100% clean energy. Even Greenpeace is praising their “environmental leadership”.
There’s a lot to see at the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems in a rehabbed old building in Boston. Fraunhofer is a big German research and development non-profit organization, with a couple of branches in the USA. They have been working with solar power for years, and last year held the record for making the world’s most efficient solar cell. Now they are looking to reinvent the way solar panels are installed.Christian Hoepfner, the director of the center, explains that much of the cost of installing photovoltaics is in the frame they are mounted on, and in the connections, the wiring of it all together. This needs about 26 hours of a qualified electrician and a lot of work by the roofer, and presently totals about $ 4.90 per watt installed.
With its sleek, bladeless design and capacity to produce nearly 2000 kilowatt hours per year, the Windspire might just inspire some YIMBYism — that’s Yes, In My BackYard — about wind power. At 30 feet tall and 2 feet wide, the propeller-less design is bird-safe, relatively quiet — it produces about 25 decibels of noise at five feet, roughly equivalent to the average noise of a residential neighborhood at night — and doesn’t take much breeze to get it spinning; it fires up at 8 mph, and is rated to survive 100 mph gusts. It comes with a wireless modem that connects to your computer, so you can sit back and watch the energy in action at any time.At about $4,000, it ain’t exactly cheap — at 10 cents a kilowatt, it’ll take about 20 years to get any return on your investment — but it sure is cool and sure beats getting your energy from coal-fired power plants, which pretty much suck. Learn more about Windspire — performance & installation specs, maintenance required (not much), test data, etc. — over at Mariah Power’s website. ::Windspire via ::Materialicious
When people hear “floating wind turbines,” they often think of the large-scale offshore wind farms that are already commonplace in some parts of the world.But there’s an important distinction.While conventional offshore wind—in which the turbines are mounted in relatively shallow water and fixed to the sea floor—has scaled up considerably over the last few years, floating wind turbines—which are anchored using cables but do not have a fixed foundation on the sea floor—have so far only been deployed in small-scale trials.That may be beginning to change. Given their potential to both drive down the cost of wind energy and increase the geographical range of feasible sites (floating turbines will be able to operate in much deeper waters than fixed-base turbines), wind energy advocates are beginning to look at larger scale deployment. So an announcement that Norway’s Statoil has just gotten approval for the Hywind floating wind farm project off the coast of Scotland should be welcome news indeed.Consisting of five, 6 MW floating turbines, Hywind is still pretty minuscule compared to the 10.6GW of offshore wind that the UK already has either operating or in the pipeline, but the fact that these turbines will operate in waters exceeding 100 meters in depth should give you some idea of why this matters. Given appropriate support and R&D, The Carbon Trust has estimated that floating turbines could provide 8 to 16GW of offshore wind capacity in the UK alone by 2050. The Trust also estimates that improvements in floating turbines could drive down the cost of production to below £100/MWh within a decade. (The cost for conventional offshore wind is something like £140/MWh right now.)