Monthly Archives: February 2017

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Should CSP Mirrors Be Glass or Metal?

 By Ucilia Wang, Contributor

Glass or metal? That could become an increasingly important question for developers of concentrating solar power projects. A growing number of companies, from 3M to Abengoa Solar, are working on mirrors made of metals and polymer that aim to be lightweight and cheaper than the glass variety. 3M is doing a pilot-stage launch of its Solar Mirror Film, and it’s planning for a full commercial launch by the end of the year, said Daniel Chen, business development manager of 3M’s renewable energy division. “Saving time and material costs are the big advantages,” Chen said during a recent poster session at 3M’s headquarters in Minnesota. Metallic films “also are easier to transport – you can pack them densely and use aluminum locally” for project construction. Like GE and other titans in their industries, 3M is keen on winning a fat slice of the growing renewable energy market. The use of metal film, which is then laminated onto an aluminum backing, isn’t a new concept, and 3M launched a similar product in the 1980s. It lasted for 4-5 years before the entire market disappeared, Chen said. The company restarted the research in this area about two years ago, when the solar industry began to revive in earnest. Proponents say metal mirrors are suitable for all types of solar thermal power plant designs, including parabolic trough, power tower and stirling dish.

But replacing glass, a durable and highly reflective material with a long history of surviving the outdoors, won’t be so easy. Investors and utilities tend to prefer well-proven technologies over novel ones. The largest solar thermal power complex in the world, the 354-megawatt solar field in the Mojave Desert, was built between 1984 and 1991 with glass mirrors. “If you are going to finance these systems, banks want these things to last at least 20 years probably longer 30 years. Most glass products have some of that history,” said Mark Mehos, the program manager for concentrating solar power research at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado. Where is the Market? 3M just saw the completion of a 1.2-MW thermal project featuring its reflective film. Abengoa Solar completed the project in April under a contract from Johnson Controls, located at the Federal Correctional Institution Englewood in Littleton, Colorado, said Pete Thompson, sales manager for Abengoa Solar IST (Industrial Solar Technology). The system uses rows of parabolic trough collectors — 160 collector modules spanning about 22,720 feet — on 1.7 acres. The collectors concentrate and direct the sunlight to heat up tubes containing a mix of water and anti-freeze, which in turn transfer that heat to a 16,000-gallon water tank. The water is heated to up to 185-degree Fahrenheit and used for showers, cooking and laundry by roughly 1,000 inmates and employees. Metal mirrors are better and cheaper options than glass mirrors because a hot water system doesn’t need to achieve the kind of high temperatures that are necessary for electricity production, Thompson said. The project should cut natural-gas use for water heating at the prison by more than 50 percent per year, according to Spain-based Abengoa. 3M and other solar thermal technology companies are eyeing not just the industrial but also the electricity market, a potential mother lode. Gigawatts of solar thermal electricity projects have been proposed, particularly in California, Arizona and Nevada. In a solar thermal power plant, the heated fluid is used to generate steam, which then drives a turbine. If those projects are successful, they will help to create a large market for new technologies. But lining up investors for these projects has been a tough challenge for power plant developers.

So far, the federal government is willing to support two financially. Abengoa Solar recently won a $1.45 billion in federal loan guarantee for its 250-megawatt Solana project in Gila Bend, Ariz. Earlier this year, California-based BrightSource Energy won $1.37 billion in federal loan guarantees for its 400-megawatt Ivanpah project in the Mojave Desert of California. Aside from using 3M’s reflective film, Abengoa Solar also is developing its own alternative to glass mirrors. Back in 2007, the U.S. Department of Energy gave Abengoa $448,000 to work on a polymeric reflector (see DOE report). The company is working with Science Application International Corporation (SAIC) in Virginia to develop the new silver-lined aluminum mirrors.

Meanwhile, some companies already have launched commercial products. Alanod Solar, for example, has an aluminum reflector that has been used by customers such as Sopogy in Hawaii. Pennsylvania-based Alcoa, meanwhile, recently announced a field trial of a parabolic trough system at NREL using Alanod’s mirrors. A trough collector featuring Alanod Solar’s mirrors is shown at left. Skyline Solar in California used Alanod’s mirrors for its recently completed 80-kilowatt project in Nipton, Calif., said Andrew Sabel, Alanod’s North American marketing manager. In Skyline’s project, the reflectors aren’t heating fluid for steam production. Instead, they concentrate and direct the sunlight onto crystalline silicon solar cells for electricity production.

Startup SkyFuel in Colorado also sells parabolic trough aluminum reflectors, which are lined with a silver film developed by NREL and commercialized by ReflecTech. SkyFuel also has received $435,000 from the DOE to design solar fields with Fresnel lenses and molten salt as the heat-transferring fluid, a design that the company said can achieve higher temperatures than Fresnel designs currently available. Mirror, Mirror On the Wall Are metallic film reflectors better than glass? Glass, in general, can reflect a higher percentage of light, particular if it’s thin. A glass reflector that is 1 millimeter or thinner could achieve 96 percent of reflectivity, Mehos said. Mehos sees metal mirrors as a more competitive alternative for building parabolic trough systems for now. For one thing, the glass sheets cut for parabolic trough collectors tend to be thicker, around 5 millimeters, so their reflectivity is lower, around 94.5 percent. Besides, making curved mirrors isn’t easy, so the number of suppliers is limited, which in turn can drive up the cost, Mehos noted. Plus, glass can be heavy and bulky to transport. In comparison, a power tower design can use flat and thinner glass mirrors, which are cheaper than curved ones. The mirrors in this setup concentrate and direct the sunlight onto the top of a central tower to generate steam, which is then piped to a turbine for electricity generation. 3M and other developers aim to close the reflectivity gap by tinkering with their recipes to create different coatings and by experimenting with different materials. 3M’s film comes with an acrylic top, below which lies a layer of silver, which is a good choice of reflective material. Underneath the silver is copper and other protective layers. The film is bonded to an aluminum substrate to form the collectors. The company uses an additive to make acrylic more resistant to UV-ray damage. A mirror’s effectiveness depends on its ability to reflect light. 3M’s film can achieve 94.2 percent of reflectivity, with 95 percent of specular reflectance, Chen said. Specular reflectance is a more specific measurement on how well the mirror can focus the light in a particular angle and minimize its dispersion, Mehos said. A higher specular reflectance is needed when the reflector tries to direct the light to a receiver that is farther away. As a result, mirrors for the power tower design – where the light has to be concentrated and directed to a central tower – would require a higher specular reflectance than the parabolic trough design. Although silver makes a good reflective material, it also needs special coatings from corrosion. It can be scratched by dust storms or even during cleaning, Mehos said. Developing a hard top surface to protect the silver is a key pursuit for companies such as 3M. Chen said 3M is developing a more abrasion-resistant film that it plans to roll out late next year. Alanod takes a different approach with its reflectors. The company forgoes using a silver-based laminate and opts to add other types of coatings directly on aluminum to boost the reflectivity of the aluminum. The coatings include a layer of silicon dioxide and titanium dioxide, Sabel said. On top of the oxide layers is a gel that hardens, and this secret sauce is crucial for achieving that necessary durable surface, Sabel added. Alanod has deployed its aluminum reflectors in field trials for the last five years. Sabel declined to say where, except that the mirrors are among traditional concentrating solar thermal systems. Alanod’s aluminum version is holding up against the glass variety, he added. Alanod’s reflectors can achieve 90 percent reflectivity and 88 percent specular reflectance. He said the measurements show what the reflectors could achieve when they are installed in the field. Reflective films, on the other hand, may have higher ratings, but they could lose some of the reflectance if they are not laminated onto the aluminum substrate correctly, Sabel said. “Glass breaks, and it cannot be used as structure members of the systems. So people are looking at metal mirror’s flexibility and light weight and [they] incorporated it into a structure element,” Sabel said. “With metal mirrors you sacrifice a few points of reflectivity but you get design flexibility.” Skyfuel’s reflectors also make use of a silver polymer film that goes on top of an aluminum substrate. The company’s spec sheet says the mirror’s solar reflectance and specular reflectance are both 94 percent.

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Achieving Global Consensus on PV Grid parity

Qualified Opinion Sources are kindly invited to express their opinion on a specific website: www.SolarGridParity.com

on the following debate:

By 2020 or earlier the installed costs for solar electricity systems will be reduced to US$1 per watt

Background: Due to strong incentives, mainly within the EU, global solar photovoltaic market has significantly grown during 2010, with the whole PV installed capacity having reached almost 40GW, or up 70% from nearly 23GW in 2009. The strong expansion in PV installations was mainly dominated by the European countries, with about 70% of the new solar power installations in 2010, with Germany leading the PV market accounting for almost 7GW and Italy with about 3GW, followed by Czech Republic (1.3GW), France (0.5GW), Spain (0.4), Belgium (0.25) and Greece (0.2). As for the main markets outside Europe, Japan PV market accounted for nearly 1GW, followed by the United States (0.8GW) and China (0.4GW).

The US administration and the Chinese government are both aiming at achieving price parity between solar electricity and fossil-based electricity without additional subsidies. Reaching this goal will establish the country’s technological leadership, improve the nation’s energy security, and strengthen economic competitiveness in the global clean energy race.

President Obama laid down a bold challenge to America in his State of the Union speech January 2011: “get to 80% clean energy by 2035.”

Ms. Eleni Despotou, Secretary General of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (www.interpv.net): “PV electricity would see its generation costs dropping to a range of 5 to 12 c / kWh by 2020, making it highly competitive with all peak generation technologies, and as low as 4 to 8c/kWh in 2030, making it also widely competitive with most mid-load generation technologies.”

 

On the other hand we hear every day: “Solar is too expensive” or “Variable costs related to permitting, inspection and interconnection are killing the solar industry’s ability to achieve speed and scale”.   .

Mr. Amnon Samid, CEO, The AGS group  (www.AGSpower.com):  “Encouraging investment only in PV systems will jeopardize the chances to develop a competitive solar thermal mini-grid distributed  generation solutions for electricity production, that may enjoy the advantages of PV systems, but offers also storage capabilities and hybrid, co-generation and on-site power production options, occupying less expensive land for extended use, making it competitive with base load generation technologies, representing an alternative for new generation capacity  in Sunbelt countries.”

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot Initiative aims to restore America’s once-dominant position in the global market for solar photovoltaic (PV), which has dwindled from 43% in 1995 to only 6% today. DOE estimates that if the installed costs for solar energy systems drop to $1 per watt — equivalent to a levelized cost of electricity of 5-6 cents per kilowatt hour — solar without subsidies would be competitive with the wholesale rate of electricity nearly everywhere in the U.S. The DOE intend to devote $200 million per year — to support a targeted roadmap to meet the SunShot goal by the end of the decade.

However, the “64 million dollar question” is:

Is it a realistic goal?

You are invited to express your professional opinion by answering three brief questions at: http://www.SolarGridParity.com

The BiPSA methodology aims to convert

Controversy-to-Consensus

www.BiPSA.com

 in collaboration with the AGS Group www.AGSpower.com

Promoting and enabling the incorporation of innovative clean energy technologies into the grid.

What Does the Future Hold for Concentrating PV?

Considering the short term of one to three years, what technology advances may be expected in the CPV sector? What conversion efficiencies might be achieved and costs/kW installed reached? And what, if any, are the technical and investment barriers which must be overcome in order to achieve these forecasts?

Jeroen Haberland, CEO, Circadian Solar

In the next three years lowering manufacturing costs will be crucial to the CPV industry. As well as the gains from adopting best practises and economies of scale, part of the cost reductions will come from advances in cell manufacturing techniques to lower the amount of material required in each cell. Exploiting increasingly optimised bandgap combinations, either by metamorphic growth or by layer transfer techniques, will produce cells with higher fundamental efficiency limits. 

We expect the current trend of 1% annual increases in research cell efficiency, from the 2010 level of 42%, to continue, although advances in cells with more optimum bandgap combinations could deliver more significant increases. Production cell efficiencies meanwhile will most likely continue to lag behind world record research cell efficiencies by 2%-3%. Overall system efficiencies are expected to rise to around 32% by 2013. This will be driven not just by cell efficiency increases, but also by the combination of high efficiency optics, optimal concentration factor, innovative thermal management, high accuracy solar tracking and through automated precision assembly too.

Commercially, the emphasis will increasingly be placed on levelised cost of electricity (LCOE), rather than just system efficiency and system price/watt, since LCOE is the key determining factor in commercial payback and return on investment.

The key barrier to investment is ‘bankability’ — the requirement to guarantee to financiers the kWh energy yield from CPV systems over 25 years for a given investment in the plant. Without this, either the cost of finance will be very high, or there will be no finance. Publicly funded projects are one of the best/only ways to demonstrate bankability and well thought out incentives, such as feed-in tariffs, will be an important enabler for the industry to reach the economies of scale necessary to reduce system costs.

Carla Pihowich, Senior Director of Marketing, Amonix

The most important technology advances in CPV solar over the next three years will be performance improvements to III-V multi-junction cells and how they are integrated into CPV.

Amonix incorporated III-V multi-junction cells into our systems in 2007 leading to dramatic improvements in efficiency — currently 39% at the cell level, which translates into 31% at the module level and 27% at the system level. At these levels of efficiency, CPV has by far the greatest efficiency of any solar technology. In addition, as we have done in the past, Amonix will deploy performance improvements over the next year that will lessen the gap between cell and system efficiency. In the years to come, we expect multi-junction production cell efficiencies will reach 42% or higher using current or new high-efficiency cell designs.

On the question of cost, we believe that CPV offers greater potential for cost reduction than conventional PV technologies such as single-crystal silicon and thin-film PV, which are nearing performance limitations that will make it difficult for them to drop below their current installed system costs. In contrast, the CPV performance advantage has plenty of headroom and can achieve continual reductions in the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE).

Achieving the cell and system efficiencies is not without its challenges — cell performance must be effectively transferred to production environments, for example. But we believe these challenges can be managed. Bottom line, efficiency improvements combined with the future cost advantages of CPV over PV, the greater deployment flexibility — and the advantage of using no water compared with CSP systems — make CPV the best choice for utility-scale solar deployments in sunny and dry climates.

Nancy Hartsoch, Vice-President Sales and Marketing, SolFocus

In 2010 industry-leading CPV companies have become commercial, demonstrating scalable deployment, bankable products, and volume manufacturing. So what does lie ahead for CPV?

One way to describe CPV’s path over the next one to three years is that it will have a steep trajectory. CPV conversion efficiencies are on a steep upward path. System efficiencies of 26%+ today will continue to increase as CPV cell efficiencies move from 39% upwards to 45%.

Manufacturing costs for CPV systems are also on a steep trajectory, but going downward, as factories are ramped from manufacturing hundreds of kW to hundreds of MW per year. The upward efficiency trajectory combined with the rapidly declining manufacturing cost trajectory provides a very steep reduction in terms of the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) for CPV in the upcoming three years.

In 2010 CPV won competitive bids around the world against other PV technologies because of its high energy yield resulting in a very strong value proposition, which will become even more commanding in the future. Bankability of the technology remains perhaps the biggest hurdle, however, this is rapidly changing through thorough due diligence on the technology and creative approaches to reduce the risk for developers.

                                                                                        

Certification to industry standards for CPV combined with multiple years of on-sun performance and reliability data also contributes to the increasing adoption of CPV into large distributed and utility-scale projects around the globe.

With 150 MW forecast to be deployed in 2011, CPV has finally turned the corner on commercialisation and is moving forward into a market where its high energy yield with the largest energy output/MW installed has the potential to dramatically change the opportunity for the PV market. Add in the need for environmentally friendly technology and it provides an extremely low carbon footprint, along with low cost of energy, It becomes easy to forecast a major impact by CPV solar.

Andreas W. Bett, Deputey Director, Fraunhofer ISE

Concentrating PV and specifically HCPV technology is now ready to enter the market. I am aware this has already been said, but the difference is that there are now serious companies in the market.

They have set up production capacities which are in the two-digit MW range, and collectively the production capacity today is more than 150 MW. Two years ago it was less than 10 MW. This achievement is an important milestone for CPV and the first step to overcome their infancy. 

In respect to technology advances, due to steady and continuous improvement for cells, optics and tracking CPV-system AC operating efficiency will eventually be 25% on an average. System efficiencies as high as 30% are possible, but it will take more than three years to achieve this goal. These high efficiencies, in combination with advancing along a steep learning curve, will lead to energy costs in the range of €0.10/kWh at sites with solar radiation of more than 2400 kWh/m²/year.

One has to take into consideration that for the moment the cost per installed kW is not an appropriate measure for CPV technology. This is simply because the corresponding rating standards for CPV are not yet established. Indeed, missing standards can be seen as one hurdle for CPV and a barrier for investors. Consequently, the financial side must learn more about CPV technology and the industry must teach and demonstrate reliability — a major obstacle today for bankability.

At present CPV struggles not so much with technology, but with funding. However, this barrier will soon be overcome, for example if guarantees can be provided by the CPV companies.

It is then that the growth and the technology development speeds up, leading to still lower CPV costs.

Hansjörg Lerchenmüller, CEO and Founder, Concentrix Solar

Leading players in the CPV sector continue to surpass record module and system efficiencies, leveraging optical and electrical expertise to optimise output from the world’s highest efficiency III-V cells.

CPV systems are typically twice as efficient as conventional PV systems, with current module efficiencies at 27% and expecting to break the remarkable 30% barrier in the near future.

At Soitec Concentrix we are currently working on the next generation of smart cell technology which is targeting cell efficiency of 50% – in turn leading to a system efficiency of more than 35%. Soitec’s patented Smart Cut™ technology, used for over a decade in the semiconductor industry, will provide crucial layer transfer expertise for the optimisation of the cell design.

The first results of the smart cell development programme will be available within the mentioned time period. In the long term, it will be integrated exclusively into Concentrix’ systems.

Prices for a full turnkey CPV power plant are today already below $4/watt and will go down to $3/watt in the coming years. Specific prices very much depend on size, the site of the power plant and timing. At the same time, it is well established that CPV technology provides some 40% to 50% more energy output than conventional PV and due to its use of dual-axis tracking, maintains a consistent, high output during periods of peak demand when energy prices are highest.

Given that we have already achieved a 27% module efficiency in production and that we have commercial plants of hundreds of kilowatts, we foresee no major roadblocks on performance reliability and cost for the CPV industry for driving down the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) produced to reach grid parity levels.

Key issues from an investment point of view are a relatively quick return on investment and bankability. The scalability of CPV helps to address this — due to the modularity of the technology, the project size can be adjusted to the financial capabilities of the investors/banks and also energy is produced as soon as the first tracker is installed, helping to reduce the time delay normally associated with utility-scale solar power plants.

In terms of bankability, Soitec Concentrix have partnered with energy efficiency and sustainability company Johnson Controls, which will build, operate, maintain and provide lifecycle support for solar installations using Concentrix CPV technology.

The combination of the respective strengths of both companies will provide advantages, allowing the partners to accelerate and widen the successful installation of solar renewable energy utility-scale plants in high direct normal irradiation regions across the globe.

Eric J. Pail, Analyst, AltaTerra Research

Short-term advances in CPV systems will be mostly technical and focused on improving the cost/performance ratio. However, longer-term advances in market development may produce even greater economic value for the sector.

In the short term, high concentration PV (HCPV) systems will continue to see technology advancements in the efficiency of III-V multi-junction cells. Multi-junction cells are at the heart of high concentrating PV systems and are a key driver to reducing costs and increasing overall system efficiency. As a rule of thumb, for every percentage increase in multi-junction cell efficiency there is a 0.75%—0.8% increase in system efficiency.

Today, most HCPV systems use 38%—39% efficient multi-junction cells and have a system efficiency of between 24% and 35%. In 2011, multi-junction cell efficiencies are expected to rise to more than 40% and on to some 42% in 2012.

The increase in the number of multi-junction cell manufacturers and number of new cell technologies under development will help the CPV industry make steep efficiency improvements in the coming years.

Like any new technology, the CPV industry still faces the challenge of justifying financing from risk-averse financers in terms of ‘bankability’. In response, SolFocus, for example, has recently announced that Munich RE will offer an insurance policy to backstop SolFocus’s warranty. Meanwhile, Morgan Solar self-financed an initial 200 kW test project to demonstrate its technology. Certification standards — particularly IEC 62108 — are also helping to provide investors with assurance. As more and larger CPV projects come online and manufacturers take direct steps to address the issue, bankability should therefore become less of a problem. 

In the long term, it is the distinctive character of concentrating PV that will lead to greater commercial uptake. With sites in very sunny regions that make use of tracking, pedestal mounting and other distinctive features of CPV installations, the industry will lower costs through volume and more effectively create economic value by focusing on customers that prize or require particular features.

 This article was originally published by the editors of RenewableEnergyWorld Magazine Dec 16 2010

Smart grids are the future of power, but what does that mean for the future of privacy?

 Smart Grids and the Future of Privacy

The transmission networks spanning nations to provide light, heat and electricity will soon undergo a radical transformation. Most of the world’s developed countries have invested in or plan to invest huge sums to implement smart energy infrastructures within the next two decades. The smart grid will revolutionize the way utilities and consumers measure and monitor electricity usage. This effort is expected to save money and aid energy conservation.

But the grid will also result in the creation of massive amounts of new data, data that can reveal intimate details about households and the people who live in them. The risk of exposure or misuse of such data creates a new set of concerns for consumers and privacy professionals. The smart grid will rely on smart meters, which will record household energy consumption and communicate it back to power providers. These new smart meters will replace the electromechanical meters that are attached to most households across the world today.

Smart appliances, which are being developed and sold by some of the world’s largest manufacturers, will enhance the intelligent grid, feeding smart meters with real-time information about electrical use down to the appliance level — smoothie at seven, treadmill at eight, for example. (According to a recent Zpryme report, the global market for household smart appliances is projected to reach $15.12 billion in 2015.) This precision will allow utility companies to analyze peak power usage times and set electric rates accordingly. In turn, households will gain a tool for more efficient management of their energy consumption, which they could use to lower costs and conserve energy.

For example, customers will have the ability to time their laundry chores for off-peak energy hours. When the grid, the meter, and the appliances are implemented and integrated, consumers will be able to fine-tune their energy consumption to get the best rates and utilities will be able to more effectively manage power distribution and identify and resolve problems remotely. The savings potential is expected to be massive.

The grid is also expected to help power suppliers prevent blackouts and brownouts by allowing for power distribution to be delivered more evenly and on a need-based schedule. Nations and utilities are investing in the development of the smart grid, and many companies have already deployed smart meters. But while those involved throw millions, even billions, toward the grid, cautioning voices are calling for privacy protections. “We are talking about implementing a very new type of network…a network that people are always attached to,” says Rebecca Herold, CIPP, founder of Rebecca Herold and Associates, LLC. Herold has led the U.S. National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) Smart Grid privacy subgroup since June 2009 and co-authored the NIST report on smart grid privacy, which is under review by NIST and expected to be published soon. The information collected on a smart grid will form a library of personal information, the mishandling of which could be highly invasive of consumer privacy,” said Christopher Wolf, co-author with Jules Polonetsky of a whitepaper published by the Future of Privacy Forum and the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario. “There will be major concerns if consumer-focused principles of transparency and control are not treated as essential design principles, from beginning to end.” Utilities are aware of the privacy concerns, according to Rick Thompson, the president of Greentech Media. “It’s absolutely on their radar,” he says, adding, “That doesn’t mean they have a full understanding or solution to solve that problem, but I think it’s an area that they are investigating heavily.” It’s an area worthy of investigation, according to many. Some say the smart grid will be “bigger than the internet,” which will result in an exponential increase of coveted, valuable and potentially identifiable data. “You come into new types of privacy issues because you are now revealing personal activities in ways that are not historically, or have not been considered to date as being personally identifiable information,” Herold says.

Beyond knowing how often the refrigerator opens or what time the garage door activates each morning, grid data may be a way of discerning when a household is empty or full, when family members go to bed at night or what time the kids come home from school. Marketers might want to tap into the data to find out when a household might be due for a new refrigerator or washing machine. Law enforcement might be interested in corroborating a story. An insurance company might want to know if a homeowner’s alarm was turned on when a burglary occurred. A divorce attorney might want to subpoena energy-use records to aid a case. Who owns the data? In a recent newspaper article, Simon McKenzie, the chief executive of a New Zealand electricity supplier, said in that country, where hundreds of thousands of smart meters are currently being installed, “We’re starting to see the retailers and network companies say: ‘Hey, there are a number of different ways that we haven’t even considered that we could utilize this data…to provide better service or solutions to customers.

” The full potential of smart grids has yet to be realized, McKenzie told The New Zealand Herald. But should retailers and other entities have access to the data? That is a question being examined on a global scale. In response to the McKenzie’s comments, New Zealand Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff said that companies need to be transparent about what information is being tracked and collected. “People need to be able to make fully informed decisions before agreeing to the new technology,” Shroff said. Others call for limited use of the data gleaned from smart grids. “The risk with a rich new data source is the temptation to use the information for more than originally intended,” Australian Privacy Commissioner Karen Curtis told those attending a smart infrastructure conference earlier this year. That’s why it will be crucial to answer the question of who owns and has access to consumers’ energy usage data, which could reveal existing and emerging types of personally identifiable information, Herold says. It’s a familiar question for privacy pros, who have grappled with it in other areas of practice, but perhaps less familiar for utilities. In a recent study, GTM asked utility companies who owns the granular data collected by smart meters — the utility company, the consumer, or a third party. The results showed a decided lack of consensus. “The interesting thing is that it was pretty well split evenly between those three options,” said GTM’s Rick Thompson. Of the companies surveyed, 39 percent said the data belonged to the consumer, 29 percent said the utility itself owned it, and 32 percent were unsure. [Chart from Greentech Media’s 2010 North American Utility Smart Grid Deployment Survey] The president of an advocacy group for the smart grid industry is more decided on the topic. “The consumer should always have access to that data,” says Kathleen Hamilton, president of the GridWise Alliance, which counts more than 100 companies and organizations as members. “I think the consumer is going to be the owner of that data,” Hamilton said. “But I think what consumers don’t understand is that when they give their data to others, if there aren’t privacy provisions in place, they can use the data in ways that either the consumer may not agree with or think appropriate.” That’s a worry many can relate to and a debate that must play itself out soon, as 70 percent of North American utility companies polled for the aforementioned GTM survey indicated that smart grid projects were either a “strong” or “highest” business priority between now and 2015. Governments keen to the potential have invested heavily in smart grid infrastructures.

 In the U.S., President Obama allocated $3.4 billion in national stimulus monies to utility companies last year to encourage development of smart grid technologies. The European Parliament’s passage of the 3rd Energy Package last year will outfit 80 percent of EU electricity customers with smart meters by 2020. In Sweden, smart meters are now mandated by the government. The U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, parts of Asia, Denmark, and the Netherlands have all reported plans to build intelligent grids. And the Chinese government has allocated $7.3 billion to grid projects in 2010. It is clear that the potential privacy pitfalls loom large. Less clear is the best solution to prevent them. “I think there are still a lot of questions out there about what the correct solution might be,” says GTM’s Thompson, predicting that solutions will vary based on the regulations of various regions. Like other areas of data privacy, regulation is a word that could divide the debate in the months and years to come. Some predict smart grid privacy issues to be bigger in Europe than other places due to the strength of the bloc’s Data Protection Directive. So far in the U.S., regulation has focused primarily on securing the grid infrastructure from cyber-attack. For example, the Grid Reliability and Infrastructure Defense (GRID) Act, introduced in April, charges the FERC with safeguarding the transmission grid from cyber-threats. The bill also tasks FERC with enforcing privacy measures, stating: “the Commission shall protect from disclosure only the minimum amount of information necessary to protect the reliability of the bulk power system and defense critical electric infrastructure.” The House passed the bill in June, but the Senate has yet to vote. Other bills have focused on ensuring that consumers have access to the data their homes’ meters produce. In March, Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, introduced The Electric Consumer Right to Know Act (e-KNOW), legislation to ensure consumers have access to free, timely and secure data about their energy usage. It also calls for the FERC to develop national standards for consumer energy data accessibility, to help utilities and state regulatory agencies formulate their policies, according to Markey’s website. State lawmakers have begun drafting their own legislation. In Colorado, a state where smart meter implementation is already widespread, Senate Bill 10-180 calls for the creation of a task force to recommend measures to “encourage the orderly implementation of smart grid technology” in that state. The bill says that one of the issues the task force must determine is the potential impacts on consumer protection and privacy. A call for standards Privacy experts say the lack of legal protection surrounding the smart grid is concerning. They are calling for standards. “In the absence of clear rules, this potentially beneficial smart grid technology could mean yet another intrusion on private life,” Jim Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) said in a March filing to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which held a three-day hearing that month to explore smart grid policies. “The PUC should act now, before our privacy is eroded,” Dempsey wrote. The CDT teamed with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on the filing, urging the CPUC to adopt “comprehensive privacy standards for the collection, retention, use and disclosure of the data” gleaned from the smart grid. The National Institute of Standards and Technology smart grid privacy subgroup, which Herold leads, has released two drafts of the privacy chapter “Smart Grid Cyber Security Strategy and Requirements.” The document includes a privacy impact assessment and addresses possible risks the smart grid presents — including cyber attacks, data breaches and the vulnerability of interconnected networks’ increased exposure to potential hackers. The draft says that while most states have laws in place regarding privacy protection, those laws do not necessarily relate to the types of data that will be within the smart grid, and many existing laws are specific to industries other than utilities. The group recommends that provisions be included within privacy laws to protect the consumer data held by utility companies. The final NISTIR 7628 Version 1 is expected soon, after which it will be submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Minimize, destroy, build privacy in As with other privacy debates, those pushing for smart infrastructure privacy protections espouse mantras often heard in data protection circles-data minimization, data destruction and privacy by design. Utilities should minimize the amount of household data collected and should keep it for the shortest amount of time possible, advocates say, in order to minimize the risk associated with storing such data. Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian agrees. In her whitepaper, she also cautions that privacy concerns must be considered early in the planning stages in order to mitigate the risks surrounding the revealing data meters collect. By designing privacy into the grid, “we can have both privacy and a fully functioning smart grid,” Cavoukian wrote in a Toronto Star Op-Ed. The government of Ontario has committed to the installation of smart meters in every home and business by the end of 2010 and Cavoukian has partnered with major utilities to develop “gold standards” for building privacy into grid projects. Some privacy advocates point to Ontario’s Hydro One as a utility company setting the standard for baking privacy provisions into its policy before deploying smart meters. Rick Stevens, director of distribution development at Hydro One says the protection of consumer’s information was built into smart meters’ designs based on Ontario’s privacy regulations.

“The regulations certainly set the context for the project,” Stevens said. “We’re just really ensuring that we bake those protections into the product that we put out there. Given that this is new technology, we’re going to be very careful to protect consumer interest as we roll these out. I know we, as an industry, take it very seriously.” Hydro One has 1.1 million meters already deployed, and at least 700,000 of them are currently reporting data back to the utility on an hourly basis. Stevens says that, as a rule, the utility does not sell customers’ data to third parties and would only share data after obtaining written authorization customers.

The president of LinkGard Systems, an Armenian software maker, says his company’s Energy Management System, which is currently being tested in the U.S., was built with privacy in mind. “It is our strong belief that the utility company has no need to control individual appliances in a residence or a commercial location,” said Hovanes Manucharyan. “The same effect can be achieved by using solutions that don’t require the customer to expose their private energy usage information….We feel that this model is friendlier towards privacy since the utility doesn’t need to acquire, store and manage potentially private data from a customer.” Hovanes said the stronger regulatory framework of the EU could result in slightly different implementations of smart grid technologies in that market. Beyond PII We haven’t yet heard a debate on whether our garage-door-opening habits qualify as personal data, but it’s a question that privacy experts say should be answered. “People have to realize it’s a new type of network,” says Herold. “It’s ‘always on,’ passively collecting information about people in their homes. It’s more than just PII, it’s personal activities,” she adds. This is what concerns a California man who staged a dramatic protest recently when Pacific Gas & Electric attempted to install a smart meter at his home. Calling it an “unconstitutional invasion of his privacy,” he locked his existing meter, saying, “PG&E needs to be stopped in their tracks here.” Education needed But smart meters are being rolled out in many places, and typically without protest.

Indeed, though smart grids are certainly on the radar of utilities and governments, most consumers are in the dark. According to a recent Harris Interactive poll, 68 percent have never heard of the smart grid and 63 percent “draw a blank” about smart meters. Experts say that will change. “You are going to see a lot more awareness over the next 24 months,” says Greentech Media’s Rick Thompson, “but in terms of becoming a true household name, I’d say that’s still three to five years out.” Thompson says utility companies are just starting to understand the importance of launching educational campaigns aimed at consumer awareness. A newly formed coalition of companies and organizations — the nonprofit Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative — hopes to increase consumer awareness in the area. “The grid is not really smart unless the consumers are able to be active participants,” said Katherine Hamilton of the GridWise Alliance, one of the founding members of SGCC. Hydro One’s Stevens says building consumer awareness by communicating the cost-savings potential and environmental benefits is what helped make his company’s transition to smart meters successful in Ontario. “For the most part, it’s been positive,” Stevens said. “I think the reason for that is the type of information we’ve been able to provide to customers.” Stevens said, however, given his company’s success with smart meters, that the only reason to have increasing regulations in the future would be if issues arise that require them. When asked whether utility companies’ self-regulatory efforts will be sufficient to stave off regulations, Herold said it’s important to consider just how many different players will be involved in the smart grid, including non-energy sector companies creating applications and appliances. “Self-regulation is a good goal, but when you start looking realistically, how do you ensure entities consistently provide protections throughout the entire smart grid if you don’t establish requirements they must all follow?” Herold asks. She points to the health care and financial industries as evidence that regulations are often necessary. “It’s always important, in dealing with privacy, to not only take what we know from past experiences, but also have our minds open to possible impacts going forward.” Some say that having the right people on board will help companies avoid issues. “One of the key things utilities should be doing today is training and hiring privacy professionals,” says Future of Privacy Forum Director Jules Polonetsky, CIPP. “Data enables the grid, but could also be its Achilles’ heel, if companies don’t have the experts in place to help shape decisions as the grid is being built.” Stevens agrees, saying that it’s in the utility industry’s best interest to maintain consumer privacy protections moving forward. “It’s a necessity,” he says. “Otherwise, it’ll backfire on us.”

This article was originally published in the July 2010 edition of the International Association of Privacy Professionals’ member newsletter, The Privacy Advisor.

An advice to CSP entrepreneurs that “insist” on competing with parabolic trough

1. You will have to compete not only with current parabolic troughs and Fresnel linear reflectors, but also with mini CSP on one hand, and on the other hand – mini towers central receivers and parabolic dish that employ high temperatures (~1000ºC) and much higher efficiencies than parabolic troughs.

2. You should not start with utility scale market, but segment the markets in a manner to allow a conservative (at least in the beginning) step-wise penetration, beginning with industrial or commercial customer demonstration, moving to utility demonstration and in parallel off-grid applications; next moving to distributed applications supplying grid support, and finally into the larger scale central peak power generation market. This approach will allow you to gain familiarity with the solar industry and bring costs down as annual production volume increase, and will allow utilities to gain confidence in your systems.

3. If you choose as target market the distributed generation and not necessarily large utility scale solar power plants, you could present a potential for more closely track demand and potential growth in loads; meet reliability requirements with fewer megawatts of installed power and spread construction costs over time after first module output has started, hence capital risks and amount of initial investment may be reduced.

A note regarding energy storage technologies

Thermal storage technologies are designed to improve the availability and dispatchability of a solar thermal power facility — thereby enhancing its overall value. In the long run, thermal storage will help integrate more solar power into the generation mix by enabling CSP facilities to shoulder a greater component of the daily power demand in many regions of the world.

 Some innovative ideas are under development lately; beside the integration of compressed air energy storage into a modular Brayton cycle based on dish + solar air receiver to heat air above 1000ْC, the ideas of using a solid medium for thermal storage is coming up again. The German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and others are executing significant work, investigating the cost and performance of utilizing concrete or ceramic materials for thermal energy storage. The DOE is encouraging companies to look at cost savings in terms of efficiency improvement, new technology and materials. Several companies are trying to solve the drawbacks of state-of-the art molten salt storage technology by using gas as heat transfer fluid that enters unique modular structures without mixing that may cause turbulences.   The existing ‘competitors’, beside the molten salt solution that is promoted also by Solar Reserve, are also low cost and widely available storage materials, like natural rocks or concrete composites, that seem to be more attractive for storage with parabolic trough based on oil (despite the issue of energy loss). It seems that ceramic storage materials, modular designs and charging and discharging concepts may have a potential for cost reduction, however, those concepts are not ready yet for scaling up to commercial pilots; it requires still more lab work, like verification of physical and dynamic numerical simulation to optimize the designs as well as the operating strategies.

 The market potential for storage is huge and the target price is < €20/kwh ~26USD/kwh, (for example in the DLR’s WESPE program, funded by the German government for developing efficient and cheap sensible storage material based on unique geometric arrangement of the heat exchanger tubes in the storage volume), while the current cost of storage based on molten salt is ~€40/kwh (Andasol).

Advanced Energy Storage from the MIT

 Currently only 2.5% of the capacity of the U.S. grid is able to be stored, compared with 10% in Europe and 15% in Japan, which in the event of a grid failure could mean trouble for the U.S. This is why Professor Donald Sadoway at MIT received US $7 million from U.S. Energy Agency ARPA-E), $4 million from French oil company Total and support from the U.S. Defense Agency DARPA.

The goal of Sadoway’s research is to bring the cost of large scale energy storage facilities in line with the cost of natural gas plants. He said that in order to do this, incredibly large liquid metal batteries will need to be built and the facilities will need to be used in much the same way that flywheel storage plants are expected to be used, as frequency regulators that are capable of dispatching energy quickly in the event of an emergency. The basic principle behind the technology is to place three layers of liquid inside a container: Two different metal alloys, and one layer of a salt. The three materials are chosen so that they have different densities that allow them to separate naturally into three distinct layers, with the salt in the middle separating the two metal layers — like novelty drinks with different layers. The energy is stored in the liquid metals that want to react with one another but can do so only by transferring ions — electrically charged atoms of one of the metals — across the electrolyte, which results in the flow of electric current out of the battery. When the battery is being charged, some ions migrate through the insulating salt layer to collect at one of the terminals. Then, when the power is being drained from the battery, those ions migrate back through the salt and collect at the opposite terminal. The whole device is kept at a high temperature, around 700°C, so that the layers remain molten. While each of these technologies has a lot of lab work left before it’s ready for field testing on a large scale, chemistry professor Dr. Dan Nocera and the company he helped found Sun Catalytix are working to commercialize a catalyst that can be used to split water.

The basis of Sun Catalytix’s technology is a cobalt phosphate catalyst that Nocera said is more efficient at splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen than other materials. He said that the catalyst can work within normal ambient temperatures and with water sources as diverse as tap water and water straight out of the Charles River in Boston. While commercial electrolyzers that split water to make hydrogen already exist, Nocera said that they’re far too expensive and require a significant amount of energy to run. Sun Catalytix is in the process of testing an electroylzer that is built with its proprietary catalyst that can be manufactured using PVC plastic. A completed 100-watt system would work like this: solar PV panels would power an electrolyzer, which would then produce hydrogen that would be stored in tanks and then used as fuel for a fuel cell for electricity or to power a hydrogen vehicle. Nocera said that three liters of water a day could power a home. He said the ultimate goal of the Sun Catalytix system is use cheaper solar panels and fuel cells (still a stumbling block) to implement systems like this in the developing world where there is little-to-no electricity generating infrastructure in place and where three liters of even low-quality water per day could dramatically increase the quality of life of the people living there. Development of the technology is being financed by more than $1 million from Polaris Venture Partners. Nocera said that he expects a working prototype to be completed in the next 5-8 years and that the company has already been approached by solar companies interested in having their panels used in the system.

Source: Renewable Energy World

Company on the Focus

Company on the Focus

*every month the CleanEnergyBlogger Steering committee will choose one or two  interesting company which will be selected out of a list created by the CleanEnergyBlogger team, plus companies that have announced a significant achievement during the month, plus companies that have approached the CleanEnergyBlogger with a brief presentation that has intrigued us to share it with our readers. We realize this is an arbitrary – definitely not a scientific selection – but it is being selected by professionals*

You are invited to propose Companies via the following email:

company@ags-tech.com

and refer to the following criteria:

Criteria One: the soundness, technical merit of its technology

Criteria Two: the qualifications of its team

Criteria Three: the potential of the company to become No. One in its field, OR: the

                        potential for commercial applications and the ability to

                       commercialize the technology (in case it is yet in an early stage).

Company on the Focus: SkyFuel

A short while ago SkyFuel revealed their reflector technology, based on mirror film instead of the conventional glass mirrors – the ReflecTech™. As solar towers, dishes and other solar thermal technology solutions for electricity production, rather than parabolic troughs – are not in commercial stage yet – the importance of developing cheaper, but not less efficient and stable solutions for the trough based technology – is crucial. . SkyFuel solution really looks promising and could be a significant step towards reducing production costs, mainly due to lighter support frame required (much less material and faster assembly process) and reduction in trough replacement costs.  The ReflecTech™ mirror film is a silver-based metallized polymer film reflector, which was developed by NREL. SF is laminating the ReflecTech™ to an aluminum substrate to form a rigid reflective surface, and has designed an aluminum space frame to support the reflector, as well as control, drive and tracking system.

As much as we think that the ReflecTech is unique and contributes to lower production and installation costs and lower O&M costs of the solar field (although not necessarily higher efficiencies, durability, availability and performance), the space frame and the tracking system – are not something that others cannot do (or already doing).  The space frame, as opposed to a torque-tube, that is still being used by Solel and was in use by LUZ – is naturally lighter (we may guess 30% less from the 10 Tonns required for the metal support structure of a similar glass mirror) and it was designed for erection in the field, inorder to obtain the required optical performance of the trough.. Also their solar tracking system enjoys some advantages comparing to the systems used in SEGS, probably with lower costs and increased precision, but we have to remember that their competitors have also developed enhanced tracking systems. We assume that SF does not enjoy any performance advantage in this respect, beside its ability to design the tracking system in-house and probably with lower costs.

SF did not reveal (yet?) performance tests based on the 6 years experience of the ReflecTech operating in the Mojave Desert under changing daily conditions and different operation modes, as well as the accelerated weather testing. However, unless we receive something conclusive that contradict this, we may assume that at the best scenario SF solar field will have similar thermal output (although probably worthier durability) compared to existing reflectors, but we have to remember that they are using non-breakable reflector design (is it rigid enough for the long run – should be seen); predicted lower O&M costs, faster assembly process and may enjoy significant cost reduction in the support structure and reflectors. And not less important: It seems that SF has supporting staff to enable them to carry out the work of designing a solar field, supervising the construction of it and train the operation staff.

Company of this month: CONCENTRIX

 

 Concentrix Solar is a spin-off of Fraunhofer (a very famous institute in Germany). It has  received its first financing already in 2005 from Good Energies, an investment company in the solar photovoltaics industry. (Good Energies invested also in other companies like Q-Cells).

Concentrix’s basic technologies differ as well as their research partners, and management team.

 

Concentrix has already begun delivering demonstration modules to strategic partners – like Abengoa, that has invested in the co-operation, which was started a few months ago. Lately they have announced that during the measurement period in May 2008, AC system efficiencies of 23% were achieved, and higher were measured under normal operating conditions for a demonstration system located at the test site of Abengoa Solar in Seville, Spain.

 

Concentrix is now constructing a 25 MW production line in Freiburg, Germany, and plans to start operations in Fall 2008.

 

Concentrix is using Fresnel lens, but inorder to avoid the disadvantages of the plastic made Fresnel, they use their unique FLATCON® (Fresnel Lens All-glass Tandem cell Concentrator) technology; where the Fresnel lenses are fabricated in a silicone film on the inside of the module top glass plate, and the entire module housing is also made of glass to avoid thermal mismatch with the different materials.

 

One of the technology disadvantages: Concentrix has less wider acceptance angle (of 0.6° comparing to SolFocus +/-1°, for example);  the meaning is that their tracking systems should be more accurate and more expensive. Also, Concentrix has more conservative plans to achieve a module cost of €1.23 per Watt at 20MWp production levels and fully installed costs, including the inverter, tracker hardware, and installation, of €2.35 per Watt. (~3.75USD),

 

**However, the CleanEnergyBlogger team prefers these conservative assumptions rather than others that claim to achieve in mass production 2USD per watt

 

Concentrix is targeting large solar electric installations of commercial, industrial, and power station scale. While others are more optimistic about the application of their products outside the sunlight rich areas, we like the conservatism of Concentrix that say that their FLATCON modules will only be competitive in locations such as southern Europe, North Africa, or the American southwest.**

 

2 responses to “Company on the Focus

  1. Special Offer for Participating in the
    One World Common Future Exhibition and International Conference
    Cairo – Arab Republic of Egypt
    During the period 15, 16 and 17 of October 2008
    At Cairo International Centre for International Conferences

    Persons in Charge: Heads of the Company’s Board of Directors,

    Greetings:

    We are honoured to invite you to participate in the One World Common Future Exhibition and International Conference.

    Egypt places more emphasis on the future and the world, for upgrading the Arab, African and developing countries to catch up with the world.

    Because of the dangerous rise in petrol and energy prices, the world has started to pay attention 1to generating energy form agricultural yields. However, this has resulted in direct negative effects on food prices and subsequent serious effects on the developing countries.

    Mr. Hosni Mubarak, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, launched an appeal for discontinuing the process of generating energy from agricultural yields, because of its negative effects on food prices and poor countries.

    He has called for utilising alternative renewable sources of energy including nuclear energy, used for peaceful purposes. He also has called for starting a new phase of reform that aims at developing Egypt and the countries of the region.

    Therefore, we had to give priority to renewable sources of energy, generated form natural resources and to make use of them, since they are numerous and renewable as solar energy, the wind, sea waves energies as well as the peaceful nuclear energy.

    Today in the One World Common Future Exhibition and International Conference, we call for the participation of all the countries, factories and companies that are concerned with this field in order to exhibit the latest technology, used in this field. We also call them to market this technology in the Arab, African and Middle East countries, so that the world can obtain a clean and safe energy.

    The One World Common Future Exhibition and International Conference is regarded as the biggest international event, held in the Middle East. It is the first in its type and the most important event for the year 2008.

    Now, Egypt and all the Arab countries as well as the majority of the world countries are greatly concerned with establishing major projects in wide deserts, and expanding the development projects in the Arab and Middle East countries.

  2. Special Offer for Participating in the
    One World Common Future Exhibition and International Conference
    Cairo – Arab Republic of Egypt
    During the period 15, 16 and 17 of October 2008
    At Cairo International Centre for International Conferences

    Persons in Charge: Heads of the Company’s Board of Directors,

    Greetings:

    We are honoured to invite you to participate in the One World Common Future Exhibition and International Conference.

    Egypt places more emphasis on the future and the world, for upgrading the Arab, African and developing countries to catch up with the world.

    Because of the dangerous rise in petrol and energy prices, the world has started to pay attention 1to generating energy form agricultural yields. However, this has resulted in direct negative effects on food prices and subsequent serious effects on the developing countries.

Amnon

Author Archives: Amnon

What Does the Future Hold for Concentrating PV?

Considering the short term of one to three years, what technology advances may be expected in the CPV sector? What conversion efficiencies might be achieved and costs/kW installed reached? And what, if any, are the technical and investment barriers which must be overcome in order to achieve these forecasts?

Jeroen Haberland, CEO, Circadian Solar

In the next three years lowering manufacturing costs will be crucial to the CPV industry. As well as the gains from adopting best practises and economies of scale, part of the cost reductions will come from advances in cell manufacturing techniques to lower the amount of material required in each cell. Exploiting increasingly optimised bandgap combinations, either by metamorphic growth or by layer transfer techniques, will produce cells with higher fundamental efficiency limits. 

We expect the current trend of 1% annual increases in research cell efficiency, from the 2010 level of 42%, to continue, although advances in cells with more optimum bandgap combinations could deliver more significant increases. Production cell efficiencies meanwhile will most likely continue to lag behind world record research cell efficiencies by 2%-3%. Overall system efficiencies are expected to rise to around 32% by 2013. This will be driven not just by cell efficiency increases, but also by the combination of high efficiency optics, optimal concentration factor, innovative thermal management, high accuracy solar tracking and through automated precision assembly too.

Commercially, the emphasis will increasingly be placed on levelised cost of electricity (LCOE), rather than just system efficiency and system price/watt, since LCOE is the key determining factor in commercial payback and return on investment.

The key barrier to investment is ‘bankability’ — the requirement to guarantee to financiers the kWh energy yield from CPV systems over 25 years for a given investment in the plant. Without this, either the cost of finance will be very high, or there will be no finance. Publicly funded projects are one of the best/only ways to demonstrate bankability and well thought out incentives, such as feed-in tariffs, will be an important enabler for the industry to reach the economies of scale necessary to reduce system costs.

Carla Pihowich, Senior Director of Marketing, Amonix

The most important technology advances in CPV solar over the next three years will be performance improvements to III-V multi-junction cells and how they are integrated into CPV.

Amonix incorporated III-V multi-junction cells into our systems in 2007 leading to dramatic improvements in efficiency — currently 39% at the cell level, which translates into 31% at the module level and 27% at the system level. At these levels of efficiency, CPV has by far the greatest efficiency of any solar technology. In addition, as we have done in the past, Amonix will deploy performance improvements over the next year that will lessen the gap between cell and system efficiency. In the years to come, we expect multi-junction production cell efficiencies will reach 42% or higher using current or new high-efficiency cell designs.

On the question of cost, we believe that CPV offers greater potential for cost reduction than conventional PV technologies such as single-crystal silicon and thin-film PV, which are nearing performance limitations that will make it difficult for them to drop below their current installed system costs. In contrast, the CPV performance advantage has plenty of headroom and can achieve continual reductions in the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE).

Achieving the cell and system efficiencies is not without its challenges — cell performance must be effectively transferred to production environments, for example. But we believe these challenges can be managed. Bottom line, efficiency improvements combined with the future cost advantages of CPV over PV, the greater deployment flexibility — and the advantage of using no water compared with CSP systems — make CPV the best choice for utility-scale solar deployments in sunny and dry climates.

Nancy Hartsoch, Vice-President Sales and Marketing, SolFocus

In 2010 industry-leading CPV companies have become commercial, demonstrating scalable deployment, bankable products, and volume manufacturing. So what does lie ahead for CPV?

One way to describe CPV’s path over the next one to three years is that it will have a steep trajectory. CPV conversion efficiencies are on a steep upward path. System efficiencies of 26%+ today will continue to increase as CPV cell efficiencies move from 39% upwards to 45%.

Manufacturing costs for CPV systems are also on a steep trajectory, but going downward, as factories are ramped from manufacturing hundreds of kW to hundreds of MW per year. The upward efficiency trajectory combined with the rapidly declining manufacturing cost trajectory provides a very steep reduction in terms of the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) for CPV in the upcoming three years.

In 2010 CPV won competitive bids around the world against other PV technologies because of its high energy yield resulting in a very strong value proposition, which will become even more commanding in the future. Bankability of the technology remains perhaps the biggest hurdle, however, this is rapidly changing through thorough due diligence on the technology and creative approaches to reduce the risk for developers.

                                                                                        

Certification to industry standards for CPV combined with multiple years of on-sun performance and reliability data also contributes to the increasing adoption of CPV into large distributed and utility-scale projects around the globe.

With 150 MW forecast to be deployed in 2011, CPV has finally turned the corner on commercialisation and is moving forward into a market where its high energy yield with the largest energy output/MW installed has the potential to dramatically change the opportunity for the PV market. Add in the need for environmentally friendly technology and it provides an extremely low carbon footprint, along with low cost of energy, It becomes easy to forecast a major impact by CPV solar.

Andreas W. Bett, Deputey Director, Fraunhofer ISE

Concentrating PV and specifically HCPV technology is now ready to enter the market. I am aware this has already been said, but the difference is that there are now serious companies in the market.

They have set up production capacities which are in the two-digit MW range, and collectively the production capacity today is more than 150 MW. Two years ago it was less than 10 MW. This achievement is an important milestone for CPV and the first step to overcome their infancy. 

In respect to technology advances, due to steady and continuous improvement for cells, optics and tracking CPV-system AC operating efficiency will eventually be 25% on an average. System efficiencies as high as 30% are possible, but it will take more than three years to achieve this goal. These high efficiencies, in combination with advancing along a steep learning curve, will lead to energy costs in the range of €0.10/kWh at sites with solar radiation of more than 2400 kWh/m²/year.

One has to take into consideration that for the moment the cost per installed kW is not an appropriate measure for CPV technology. This is simply because the corresponding rating standards for CPV are not yet established. Indeed, missing standards can be seen as one hurdle for CPV and a barrier for investors. Consequently, the financial side must learn more about CPV technology and the industry must teach and demonstrate reliability — a major obstacle today for bankability.

At present CPV struggles not so much with technology, but with funding. However, this barrier will soon be overcome, for example if guarantees can be provided by the CPV companies.

It is then that the growth and the technology development speeds up, leading to still lower CPV costs.

Hansjörg Lerchenmüller, CEO and Founder, Concentrix Solar

Leading players in the CPV sector continue to surpass record module and system efficiencies, leveraging optical and electrical expertise to optimise output from the world’s highest efficiency III-V cells.

CPV systems are typically twice as efficient as conventional PV systems, with current module efficiencies at 27% and expecting to break the remarkable 30% barrier in the near future.

At Soitec Concentrix we are currently working on the next generation of smart cell technology which is targeting cell efficiency of 50% – in turn leading to a system efficiency of more than 35%. Soitec’s patented Smart Cut&trade; technology, used for over a decade in the semiconductor industry, will provide crucial layer transfer expertise for the optimisation of the cell design.

The first results of the smart cell development programme will be available within the mentioned time period. In the long term, it will be integrated exclusively into Concentrix’ systems.

Prices for a full turnkey CPV power plant are today already below $4/watt and will go down to $3/watt in the coming years. Specific prices very much depend on size, the site of the power plant and timing. At the same time, it is well established that CPV technology provides some 40% to 50% more energy output than conventional PV and due to its use of dual-axis tracking, maintains a consistent, high output during periods of peak demand when energy prices are highest.

Given that we have already achieved a 27% module efficiency in production and that we have commercial plants of hundreds of kilowatts, we foresee no major roadblocks on performance reliability and cost for the CPV industry for driving down the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) produced to reach grid parity levels.

Key issues from an investment point of view are a relatively quick return on investment and bankability. The scalability of CPV helps to address this — due to the modularity of the technology, the project size can be adjusted to the financial capabilities of the investors/banks and also energy is produced as soon as the first tracker is installed, helping to reduce the time delay normally associated with utility-scale solar power plants.

In terms of bankability, Soitec Concentrix have partnered with energy efficiency and sustainability company Johnson Controls, which will build, operate, maintain and provide lifecycle support for solar installations using Concentrix CPV technology.

The combination of the respective strengths of both companies will provide advantages, allowing the partners to accelerate and widen the successful installation of solar renewable energy utility-scale plants in high direct normal irradiation regions across the globe.

Eric J. Pail, Analyst, AltaTerra Research

Short-term advances in CPV systems will be mostly technical and focused on improving the cost/performance ratio. However, longer-term advances in market development may produce even greater economic value for the sector.

In the short term, high concentration PV (HCPV) systems will continue to see technology advancements in the efficiency of III-V multi-junction cells. Multi-junction cells are at the heart of high concentrating PV systems and are a key driver to reducing costs and increasing overall system efficiency. As a rule of thumb, for every percentage increase in multi-junction cell efficiency there is a 0.75%—0.8% increase in system efficiency.

Today, most HCPV systems use 38%—39% efficient multi-junction cells and have a system efficiency of between 24% and 35%. In 2011, multi-junction cell efficiencies are expected to rise to more than 40% and on to some 42% in 2012.

The increase in the number of multi-junction cell manufacturers and number of new cell technologies under development will help the CPV industry make steep efficiency improvements in the coming years.

Like any new technology, the CPV industry still faces the challenge of justifying financing from risk-averse financers in terms of ‘bankability’. In response, SolFocus, for example, has recently announced that Munich RE will offer an insurance policy to backstop SolFocus’s warranty. Meanwhile, Morgan Solar self-financed an initial 200 kW test project to demonstrate its technology. Certification standards — particularly IEC 62108 — are also helping to provide investors with assurance. As more and larger CPV projects come online and manufacturers take direct steps to address the issue, bankability should therefore become less of a problem. 

In the long term, it is the distinctive character of concentrating PV that will lead to greater commercial uptake. With sites in very sunny regions that make use of tracking, pedestal mounting and other distinctive features of CPV installations, the industry will lower costs through volume and more effectively create economic value by focusing on customers that prize or require particular features.

 This article was originally published by the editors of RenewableEnergyWorld Magazine Dec 16 2010

Smart grids are the future of power, but what does that mean for the future of privacy?

 Smart Grids and the Future of Privacy

The transmission networks spanning nations to provide light, heat and electricity will soon undergo a radical transformation. Most of the world’s developed countries have invested in or plan to invest huge sums to implement smart energy infrastructures within the next two decades. The smart grid will revolutionize the way utilities and consumers measure and monitor electricity usage. This effort is expected to save money and aid energy conservation.

But the grid will also result in the creation of massive amounts of new data, data that can reveal intimate details about households and the people who live in them. The risk of exposure or misuse of such data creates a new set of concerns for consumers and privacy professionals. The smart grid will rely on smart meters, which will record household energy consumption and communicate it back to power providers. These new smart meters will replace the electromechanical meters that are attached to most households across the world today.

Smart appliances, which are being developed and sold by some of the world’s largest manufacturers, will enhance the intelligent grid, feeding smart meters with real-time information about electrical use down to the appliance level — smoothie at seven, treadmill at eight, for example. (According to a recent Zpryme report, the global market for household smart appliances is projected to reach $15.12 billion in 2015.) This precision will allow utility companies to analyze peak power usage times and set electric rates accordingly. In turn, households will gain a tool for more efficient management of their energy consumption, which they could use to lower costs and conserve energy.

For example, customers will have the ability to time their laundry chores for off-peak energy hours. When the grid, the meter, and the appliances are implemented and integrated, consumers will be able to fine-tune their energy consumption to get the best rates and utilities will be able to more effectively manage power distribution and identify and resolve problems remotely. The savings potential is expected to be massive.

The grid is also expected to help power suppliers prevent blackouts and brownouts by allowing for power distribution to be delivered more evenly and on a need-based schedule. Nations and utilities are investing in the development of the smart grid, and many companies have already deployed smart meters. But while those involved throw millions, even billions, toward the grid, cautioning voices are calling for privacy protections. “We are talking about implementing a very new type of network…a network that people are always attached to,” says Rebecca Herold, CIPP, founder of Rebecca Herold and Associates, LLC. Herold has led the U.S. National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) Smart Grid privacy subgroup since June 2009 and co-authored the NIST report on smart grid privacy, which is under review by NIST and expected to be published soon. The information collected on a smart grid will form a library of personal information, the mishandling of which could be highly invasive of consumer privacy,” said Christopher Wolf, co-author with Jules Polonetsky of a whitepaper published by the Future of Privacy Forum and the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario. “There will be major concerns if consumer-focused principles of transparency and control are not treated as essential design principles, from beginning to end.” Utilities are aware of the privacy concerns, according to Rick Thompson, the president of Greentech Media. “It’s absolutely on their radar,” he says, adding, “That doesn’t mean they have a full understanding or solution to solve that problem, but I think it’s an area that they are investigating heavily.” It’s an area worthy of investigation, according to many. Some say the smart grid will be “bigger than the internet,” which will result in an exponential increase of coveted, valuable and potentially identifiable data. “You come into new types of privacy issues because you are now revealing personal activities in ways that are not historically, or have not been considered to date as being personally identifiable information,” Herold says.

Beyond knowing how often the refrigerator opens or what time the garage door activates each morning, grid data may be a way of discerning when a household is empty or full, when family members go to bed at night or what time the kids come home from school. Marketers might want to tap into the data to find out when a household might be due for a new refrigerator or washing machine. Law enforcement might be interested in corroborating a story. An insurance company might want to know if a homeowner’s alarm was turned on when a burglary occurred. A divorce attorney might want to subpoena energy-use records to aid a case. Who owns the data? In a recent newspaper article, Simon McKenzie, the chief executive of a New Zealand electricity supplier, said in that country, where hundreds of thousands of smart meters are currently being installed, “We’re starting to see the retailers and network companies say: ‘Hey, there are a number of different ways that we haven’t even considered that we could utilize this data…to provide better service or solutions to customers.

” The full potential of smart grids has yet to be realized, McKenzie told The New Zealand Herald. But should retailers and other entities have access to the data? That is a question being examined on a global scale. In response to the McKenzie’s comments, New Zealand Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff said that companies need to be transparent about what information is being tracked and collected. “People need to be able to make fully informed decisions before agreeing to the new technology,” Shroff said. Others call for limited use of the data gleaned from smart grids. “The risk with a rich new data source is the temptation to use the information for more than originally intended,” Australian Privacy Commissioner Karen Curtis told those attending a smart infrastructure conference earlier this year. That’s why it will be crucial to answer the question of who owns and has access to consumers’ energy usage data, which could reveal existing and emerging types of personally identifiable information, Herold says. It’s a familiar question for privacy pros, who have grappled with it in other areas of practice, but perhaps less familiar for utilities. In a recent study, GTM asked utility companies who owns the granular data collected by smart meters — the utility company, the consumer, or a third party. The results showed a decided lack of consensus. “The interesting thing is that it was pretty well split evenly between those three options,” said GTM’s Rick Thompson. Of the companies surveyed, 39 percent said the data belonged to the consumer, 29 percent said the utility itself owned it, and 32 percent were unsure. [Chart from Greentech Media’s 2010 North American Utility Smart Grid Deployment Survey] The president of an advocacy group for the smart grid industry is more decided on the topic. “The consumer should always have access to that data,” says Kathleen Hamilton, president of the GridWise Alliance, which counts more than 100 companies and organizations as members. “I think the consumer is going to be the owner of that data,” Hamilton said. “But I think what consumers don’t understand is that when they give their data to others, if there aren’t privacy provisions in place, they can use the data in ways that either the consumer may not agree with or think appropriate.” That’s a worry many can relate to and a debate that must play itself out soon, as 70 percent of North American utility companies polled for the aforementioned GTM survey indicated that smart grid projects were either a “strong” or “highest” business priority between now and 2015. Governments keen to the potential have invested heavily in smart grid infrastructures.

 In the U.S., President Obama allocated $3.4 billion in national stimulus monies to utility companies last year to encourage development of smart grid technologies. The European Parliament’s passage of the 3rd Energy Package last year will outfit 80 percent of EU electricity customers with smart meters by 2020. In Sweden, smart meters are now mandated by the government. The U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, parts of Asia, Denmark, and the Netherlands have all reported plans to build intelligent grids. And the Chinese government has allocated $7.3 billion to grid projects in 2010. It is clear that the potential privacy pitfalls loom large. Less clear is the best solution to prevent them. “I think there are still a lot of questions out there about what the correct solution might be,” says GTM’s Thompson, predicting that solutions will vary based on the regulations of various regions. Like other areas of data privacy, regulation is a word that could divide the debate in the months and years to come. Some predict smart grid privacy issues to be bigger in Europe than other places due to the strength of the bloc’s Data Protection Directive. So far in the U.S., regulation has focused primarily on securing the grid infrastructure from cyber-attack. For example, the Grid Reliability and Infrastructure Defense (GRID) Act, introduced in April, charges the FERC with safeguarding the transmission grid from cyber-threats. The bill also tasks FERC with enforcing privacy measures, stating: “the Commission shall protect from disclosure only the minimum amount of information necessary to protect the reliability of the bulk power system and defense critical electric infrastructure.” The House passed the bill in June, but the Senate has yet to vote. Other bills have focused on ensuring that consumers have access to the data their homes’ meters produce. In March, Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, introduced The Electric Consumer Right to Know Act (e-KNOW), legislation to ensure consumers have access to free, timely and secure data about their energy usage. It also calls for the FERC to develop national standards for consumer energy data accessibility, to help utilities and state regulatory agencies formulate their policies, according to Markey’s website. State lawmakers have begun drafting their own legislation. In Colorado, a state where smart meter implementation is already widespread, Senate Bill 10-180 calls for the creation of a task force to recommend measures to “encourage the orderly implementation of smart grid technology” in that state. The bill says that one of the issues the task force must determine is the potential impacts on consumer protection and privacy. A call for standards Privacy experts say the lack of legal protection surrounding the smart grid is concerning. They are calling for standards. “In the absence of clear rules, this potentially beneficial smart grid technology could mean yet another intrusion on private life,” Jim Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) said in a March filing to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which held a three-day hearing that month to explore smart grid policies. “The PUC should act now, before our privacy is eroded,” Dempsey wrote. The CDT teamed with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on the filing, urging the CPUC to adopt “comprehensive privacy standards for the collection, retention, use and disclosure of the data” gleaned from the smart grid. The National Institute of Standards and Technology smart grid privacy subgroup, which Herold leads, has released two drafts of the privacy chapter “Smart Grid Cyber Security Strategy and Requirements.” The document includes a privacy impact assessment and addresses possible risks the smart grid presents — including cyber attacks, data breaches and the vulnerability of interconnected networks’ increased exposure to potential hackers. The draft says that while most states have laws in place regarding privacy protection, those laws do not necessarily relate to the types of data that will be within the smart grid, and many existing laws are specific to industries other than utilities. The group recommends that provisions be included within privacy laws to protect the consumer data held by utility companies. The final NISTIR 7628 Version 1 is expected soon, after which it will be submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Minimize, destroy, build privacy in As with other privacy debates, those pushing for smart infrastructure privacy protections espouse mantras often heard in data protection circles-data minimization, data destruction and privacy by design. Utilities should minimize the amount of household data collected and should keep it for the shortest amount of time possible, advocates say, in order to minimize the risk associated with storing such data. Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian agrees. In her whitepaper, she also cautions that privacy concerns must be considered early in the planning stages in order to mitigate the risks surrounding the revealing data meters collect. By designing privacy into the grid, “we can have both privacy and a fully functioning smart grid,” Cavoukian wrote in a Toronto Star Op-Ed. The government of Ontario has committed to the installation of smart meters in every home and business by the end of 2010 and Cavoukian has partnered with major utilities to develop “gold standards” for building privacy into grid projects. Some privacy advocates point to Ontario’s Hydro One as a utility company setting the standard for baking privacy provisions into its policy before deploying smart meters. Rick Stevens, director of distribution development at Hydro One says the protection of consumer’s information was built into smart meters’ designs based on Ontario’s privacy regulations.

“The regulations certainly set the context for the project,” Stevens said. “We’re just really ensuring that we bake those protections into the product that we put out there. Given that this is new technology, we’re going to be very careful to protect consumer interest as we roll these out. I know we, as an industry, take it very seriously.” Hydro One has 1.1 million meters already deployed, and at least 700,000 of them are currently reporting data back to the utility on an hourly basis. Stevens says that, as a rule, the utility does not sell customers’ data to third parties and would only share data after obtaining written authorization customers.

The president of LinkGard Systems, an Armenian software maker, says his company’s Energy Management System, which is currently being tested in the U.S., was built with privacy in mind. “It is our strong belief that the utility company has no need to control individual appliances in a residence or a commercial location,” said Hovanes Manucharyan. “The same effect can be achieved by using solutions that don’t require the customer to expose their private energy usage information….We feel that this model is friendlier towards privacy since the utility doesn’t need to acquire, store and manage potentially private data from a customer.” Hovanes said the stronger regulatory framework of the EU could result in slightly different implementations of smart grid technologies in that market. Beyond PII We haven’t yet heard a debate on whether our garage-door-opening habits qualify as personal data, but it’s a question that privacy experts say should be answered. “People have to realize it’s a new type of network,” says Herold. “It’s ‘always on,’ passively collecting information about people in their homes. It’s more than just PII, it’s personal activities,” she adds. This is what concerns a California man who staged a dramatic protest recently when Pacific Gas & Electric attempted to install a smart meter at his home. Calling it an “unconstitutional invasion of his privacy,” he locked his existing meter, saying, “PG&E needs to be stopped in their tracks here.” Education needed But smart meters are being rolled out in many places, and typically without protest.

Indeed, though smart grids are certainly on the radar of utilities and governments, most consumers are in the dark. According to a recent Harris Interactive poll, 68 percent have never heard of the smart grid and 63 percent “draw a blank” about smart meters. Experts say that will change. “You are going to see a lot more awareness over the next 24 months,” says Greentech Media’s Rick Thompson, “but in terms of becoming a true household name, I’d say that’s still three to five years out.” Thompson says utility companies are just starting to understand the importance of launching educational campaigns aimed at consumer awareness. A newly formed coalition of companies and organizations — the nonprofit Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative — hopes to increase consumer awareness in the area. “The grid is not really smart unless the consumers are able to be active participants,” said Katherine Hamilton of the GridWise Alliance, one of the founding members of SGCC. Hydro One’s Stevens says building consumer awareness by communicating the cost-savings potential and environmental benefits is what helped make his company’s transition to smart meters successful in Ontario. “For the most part, it’s been positive,” Stevens said. “I think the reason for that is the type of information we’ve been able to provide to customers.” Stevens said, however, given his company’s success with smart meters, that the only reason to have increasing regulations in the future would be if issues arise that require them. When asked whether utility companies’ self-regulatory efforts will be sufficient to stave off regulations, Herold said it’s important to consider just how many different players will be involved in the smart grid, including non-energy sector companies creating applications and appliances. “Self-regulation is a good goal, but when you start looking realistically, how do you ensure entities consistently provide protections throughout the entire smart grid if you don’t establish requirements they must all follow?” Herold asks. She points to the health care and financial industries as evidence that regulations are often necessary. “It’s always important, in dealing with privacy, to not only take what we know from past experiences, but also have our minds open to possible impacts going forward.” Some say that having the right people on board will help companies avoid issues. “One of the key things utilities should be doing today is training and hiring privacy professionals,” says Future of Privacy Forum Director Jules Polonetsky, CIPP. “Data enables the grid, but could also be its Achilles’ heel, if companies don’t have the experts in place to help shape decisions as the grid is being built.” Stevens agrees, saying that it’s in the utility industry’s best interest to maintain consumer privacy protections moving forward. “It’s a necessity,” he says. “Otherwise, it’ll backfire on us.”

This article was originally published in the July 2010 edition of the International Association of Privacy Professionals’ member newsletter, The Privacy Advisor.

An advice to CSP entrepreneurs that “insist” on competing with parabolic trough

1. You will have to compete not only with current parabolic troughs and Fresnel linear reflectors, but also with mini CSP on one hand, and on the other hand – mini towers central receivers and parabolic dish that employ high temperatures (~1000ºC) and much higher efficiencies than parabolic troughs.

2. You should not start with utility scale market, but segment the markets in a manner to allow a conservative (at least in the beginning) step-wise penetration, beginning with industrial or commercial customer demonstration, moving to utility demonstration and in parallel off-grid applications; next moving to distributed applications supplying grid support, and finally into the larger scale central peak power generation market. This approach will allow you to gain familiarity with the solar industry and bring costs down as annual production volume increase, and will allow utilities to gain confidence in your systems.

3. If you choose as target market the distributed generation and not necessarily large utility scale solar power plants, you could present a potential for more closely track demand and potential growth in loads; meet reliability requirements with fewer megawatts of installed power and spread construction costs over time after first module output has started, hence capital risks and amount of initial investment may be reduced.

A note regarding energy storage technologies

Thermal storage technologies are designed to improve the availability and dispatchability of a solar thermal power facility — thereby enhancing its overall value. In the long run, thermal storage will help integrate more solar power into the generation mix by enabling CSP facilities to shoulder a greater component of the daily power demand in many regions of the world.

 Some innovative ideas are under development lately; beside the integration of compressed air energy storage into a modular Brayton cycle based on dish + solar air receiver to heat air above 1000ْC, the ideas of using a solid medium for thermal storage is coming up again. The German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and others are executing significant work, investigating the cost and performance of utilizing concrete or ceramic materials for thermal energy storage. The DOE is encouraging companies to look at cost savings in terms of efficiency improvement, new technology and materials. Several companies are trying to solve the drawbacks of state-of-the art molten salt storage technology by using gas as heat transfer fluid that enters unique modular structures without mixing that may cause turbulences.   The existing ‘competitors’, beside the molten salt solution that is promoted also by Solar Reserve, are also low cost and widely available storage materials, like natural rocks or concrete composites, that seem to be more attractive for storage with parabolic trough based on oil (despite the issue of energy loss). It seems that ceramic storage materials, modular designs and charging and discharging concepts may have a potential for cost reduction, however, those concepts are not ready yet for scaling up to commercial pilots; it requires still more lab work, like verification of physical and dynamic numerical simulation to optimize the designs as well as the operating strategies.

 The market potential for storage is huge and the target price is < €20/kwh ~26USD/kwh, (for example in the DLR’s WESPE program, funded by the German government for developing efficient and cheap sensible storage material based on unique geometric arrangement of the heat exchanger tubes in the storage volume), while the current cost of storage based on molten salt is ~€40/kwh (Andasol).

Advanced Energy Storage from the MIT

 Currently only 2.5% of the capacity of the U.S. grid is able to be stored, compared with 10% in Europe and 15% in Japan, which in the event of a grid failure could mean trouble for the U.S. This is why Professor Donald Sadoway at MIT received US $7 million from U.S. Energy Agency ARPA-E), $4 million from French oil company Total and support from the U.S. Defense Agency DARPA.

The goal of Sadoway’s research is to bring the cost of large scale energy storage facilities in line with the cost of natural gas plants. He said that in order to do this, incredibly large liquid metal batteries will need to be built and the facilities will need to be used in much the same way that flywheel storage plants are expected to be used, as frequency regulators that are capable of dispatching energy quickly in the event of an emergency. The basic principle behind the technology is to place three layers of liquid inside a container: Two different metal alloys, and one layer of a salt. The three materials are chosen so that they have different densities that allow them to separate naturally into three distinct layers, with the salt in the middle separating the two metal layers — like novelty drinks with different layers. The energy is stored in the liquid metals that want to react with one another but can do so only by transferring ions — electrically charged atoms of one of the metals — across the electrolyte, which results in the flow of electric current out of the battery. When the battery is being charged, some ions migrate through the insulating salt layer to collect at one of the terminals. Then, when the power is being drained from the battery, those ions migrate back through the salt and collect at the opposite terminal. The whole device is kept at a high temperature, around 700°C, so that the layers remain molten. While each of these technologies has a lot of lab work left before it’s ready for field testing on a large scale, chemistry professor Dr. Dan Nocera and the company he helped found Sun Catalytix are working to commercialize a catalyst that can be used to split water.

The basis of Sun Catalytix’s technology is a cobalt phosphate catalyst that Nocera said is more efficient at splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen than other materials. He said that the catalyst can work within normal ambient temperatures and with water sources as diverse as tap water and water straight out of the Charles River in Boston. While commercial electrolyzers that split water to make hydrogen already exist, Nocera said that they’re far too expensive and require a significant amount of energy to run. Sun Catalytix is in the process of testing an electroylzer that is built with its proprietary catalyst that can be manufactured using PVC plastic. A completed 100-watt system would work like this: solar PV panels would power an electrolyzer, which would then produce hydrogen that would be stored in tanks and then used as fuel for a fuel cell for electricity or to power a hydrogen vehicle. Nocera said that three liters of water a day could power a home. He said the ultimate goal of the Sun Catalytix system is use cheaper solar panels and fuel cells (still a stumbling block) to implement systems like this in the developing world where there is little-to-no electricity generating infrastructure in place and where three liters of even low-quality water per day could dramatically increase the quality of life of the people living there. Development of the technology is being financed by more than $1 million from Polaris Venture Partners. Nocera said that he expects a working prototype to be completed in the next 5-8 years and that the company has already been approached by solar companies interested in having their panels used in the system.

Source: Renewable Energy World

Top 50 VC-Funded Clean Energy Startups

Solar

Brightsource Energy: Big-name investors, a large war chest, a partnership with construction-giant Bechtel, more than a gigawatt in California utility PPAs and $1.37 billion in federal loan guarantees make this power-tower solar thermal player an easy choice. Now the challenge is getting past further environmental objections to its first 396-megawatt power plant.

Chromasun: Air conditioning accounts for fifty percent of the demand for power during peak periods in California, according to Peter Le Lievre, founder of Chromasun. It’s an enormous problem and market awaiting a solution.  Chromasun uses solar thermal collectors to gather solar heat to run a double effect chiller which curbs peak power, broadens the market for solar thermal technology and fits well within the practices of the building trades.  

Enphase Energy: This well-funded microinverter innovator has shipped more than 120,000 units for residential and commercial deployments.  The contract manufacturing model is working and the company continues to grow.  There are a number of microinverter startups but Enphase is the only one to reach credibility and volume shipments in a high-growth $2 billion market.

eSolar:  Fifteen months ago, eSolar was on the ropes. It desperately sought funds to build solar thermal power plants. It then switched strategies and decided to license its technology and sell equipment, leaving the actual building of the power plants to others. Since then, it’s signed deals that will lead to gigawatts worth of its solar technology planted in China, India, Africa and the Middle East. A 5 megawatt demo plant went up last year and construction on the first 92 megawatts begins this year. The secret sauce: software that helps improve the efficiency of the overall plant. Funding from Google, India’s Acme Group, Oak Investment Partners and NRG Energy.

Innovalight: The silicon nano-ink developer recently pivoted its business plan and shifted from solar panel manufacturing to panel manufacturing along with liscensing and joint ventures.  Innovalight’s inks allow silicon wafer manufacturers to boost their cell efficiency by up to 2 percent with a low capital outlay. This could be one of the last novel, “new” type of solar cells to make it out for a while.

Nanosolar:  The CIGS thin film pioneer  got started in 2002, making it one of the earliest thin film companies supported by Silicon Valley.  Since then, Nanosolar has used every avenue of funding to fund their potentially disruptive solar firm, now at about $500 million in funding to date.  Nanosolar is shipping product in the 10 to 12 percent efficiency range and has panels in the lab topping 16 percent efficiency. Nanosolar faces the same challenge as every other solar panel manufacturer — keeping up with silicon and cadmium telluride prices and efficiency.

Petra Solar: Not so much a technology play as a channel play, Petra Solar and its more than $50 million in VC funds is exploiting an untapped sales channel – solar panels on utility and power poles. Petra has a large contract with Public Service Electric & Gas, New Jersey’s biggest power utility, to install solar panels on streetlights and power poles across the distribution network.  PSE&G looks to install 200,000 panels and about 5 percent are up so far, according to PSE&G.  Potential for high growth in a new application.

SolarCity: Fast growing SolarCity has emerged as one of the largest residential solar installers in California and has moved into other solar-friendly states.  The startup has innovated in the installation field as well as in the financial field by offering leasing options for homes and small businesses.  U.S. Bancorp has set up a $100M fund to finance SolarCity’s residential and commercial installations.  Entrepreneurs are needed in the downstream solar business as much as in the technological side.

Solyndra:  With almost a billion dollars in venture capital and half a billion in DOE loan guarantees, Solyndra is the clear winner in the money raising contest.  The CIGS thin film solar company’s S-1 is filed and the firm has customers and $58.8 million in revenue in the 9 months ending Sept, 30 2009.  The investors and the company claim immense savings in balance of system costs. But skeptics abound and many believe that the company’s solar panels are more expensive than the competition. CIGS solar cells aren’t easy to make and Solyndra’s cylindrical design adds to the complexity. The debate won’t be answered until the customers start taking their data public.

Suniva: Well-funded Suniva has made numerous technological advances to raise crystalline silicon solar wafer efficiency and lower manufacturing cost.  Investors NEA, Goldman Sachs and Warburg Pincus have invested more than $125 million.

SunRun: SunRun is a home solar service company located in San Francisco, California that offers residential PPAs: “home solar as a monthly service.”  The company has seen 8 to 10 times growth over last year.   Sunrun has received venture funding from Foundation Capital and Accel Partners, as well as a $105 million tax equity commitment from an affiliate of U.S. Bancorp.  Residential PPAs from SunRun might be the disruptive piece that allows solar to better penetrate the residential roof market.
 
 

Smart Grid and EV Infrastructure

What will the smart grid of the future look like? Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers speaks of a utility-managed system that orchestrates smart meters, solar panels, batteries, demand response systems and plug-in vehicle chargers to serve as “virtual power plants” scattered throughout a utility service territory.

Arcadian Networks: Arcadian Networks designs and delivers wireless communication networks to utilities based on the private (licensed), secured 700 MHz spectrum.  The 700MHz appears to be a better choice (than 900Mhz) is rural areas, since the signal can travel farther without relays and can penetrate physical obstacles (such as crops and hilly terrain) that higher frequencies may struggle with.  The other major advantage of the 700MHz spectrum is that because it is licensed there is not any interference from other sources.  While 900MHz mesh networking solutions have dominated the market due in part to their lower costs, as interference continues to create problems for utilities, and as “intelligent provisioning” becomes more common, expect Arcadian Networks to compliment 900MHz networks in situations were interference is just not acceptable.

Better Place: A $350 million dollar funding round in January ranks as one of the largest cleantech deals in history with a pre-money valuation of $900 million.  Commercial launch is targeted for 2011 for the bold electric-vehicle / charging-station / battery-swap / electricity-selling start-up with an inital focus on Israel and Denmark.  Investors include HSBC, Morgan Stanley Investment Management, Lazard Asset Management, VantagePoint Venture Partners, et al.  Better Place is looking to install between 15,000 and 20,000 charging stations in both Israel and Denmark in the near-term.  There is the suggestion that this firm could be a Google or Netscape-type market disruptor.  But even a dominant role as an urban vehicle, as a fleet vehicle, as a delivery vehicle lets Better Place win big in a niche market.

CPower: With 800 megawatts of demand response curtailment under management, CPower is the third largest player in this emerging demand response/energy management market.  Why do we offer you #3, and not the #1 or #2?  Good question.  Those competitors, EnerNOC and Comverge have already gone public, that’s why.  Like their more-public-piers, CPower is looking to quickly move into other energy services, including reserves & frequency regulation, renewable energy credits, and energy efficiency for consumers.  Last year the company doubled their curtailment load, became the largest aggregator on the Texas (ERCOT) grid, and now claims to provide demand response services to over 1,600 different retail sites.  SCE, PG&E and Ontario Power Authority are all utility clients.  The company’s investors include Bessemer Ventures, Schneider Electric Ventures and Intel Capital.

Coulomb Technologies: Coulomb builds a vital piece of the EV infrastructure — charging stations connected to the grid with power and data.  Coulomb was founded on two premises — that every charge station should be networked and that Coulomb needed to be a self-sustaining business model — they win revenue from the sale of the charge station and from fee-based charge services.  Investors include Voyager Capital, Rho Ventures, Siemens Venutre Capital and Hartford Ventures.

EcoLogic Analytics: EcoLogic Analytics provides meter data management (MDM) software solutions and decision management technologies for utilities. They offer a suite of software solutions that include gateway engines, meter data warehouse, meter read manager, meter reading analytic, navigator graphical user interface, automated validation engine, network performance monitor and reporting engine, real time outage validation engine, data synchronization engine, calculation engine and residential rate analysis API, and virtual metering aggregation components. Their MDM solutions also integrate with other systems, such as CIS/billing, to deliver data to business users in the enterprise.  EcoLogic Analytics was chosen as the vendor to provide MDM for PG&E, the biggest AMI deployment in North America – a huge win for the company. In February 2009, the company landed its second major contract with Texas utility Oncor and will serve as the MDM provider for more than three million electric meters in Oncor’s service territory. 

eMeter: eMeter makes software that manages the enormous volume of data coming from smart meters, providing both MDM and AMI integration for utility information systems. eMeter’s solutions also allow for demand response and real-time monitoring of resource usage, yielding greater energy efficiency and more reliable service, while minimizing the costs of AMI deployment, data management, and operations. The company competes with AMI companies that can provide their own software AMI and MDM software such as Itron and Sensus, as well as other software companies such as Oracle.  In early 2009, eMeter announced a deal with CenterPoint Energy to support the Texas utility’s plan to install two million smart meters in its territory. That follows deals with Alliant Energy, Jacksonville Electric Authority, the Canadian province of Ontario, and European energy comapny, Vattenfall. The company claims to have more than 24 million meters under contract.  That number gets it a spot on the list.  eMeter has transitioned from just providing MDM solutions for utilities into consumer services, such as demand response and consumer portals, following a strategy that seems to be working among smart grid players: get your foot in the door with one solution, then seek to expand.

Proximetry: Proximetry provides network and performance management solutions for wireless networks to enable network operators to visualize, provision, and actively manage their networks, especially to support mission-critical communications.  The company’s software solution, AirSync, enables real-time, network-wide visualization, management, and active network control from a single system and location for multivendor, multifrequency, multiprotocol wireless networks.  This so-called “intelligent provisioning” which provides “dynamic bandwidth” matching network resource priorities to users and devices needs seems like a logical extension of smart grid networking, and we expect this to be a major new trend going forward. Proximetry is currently working San Diego Gas & Electric, widely considered to be one of the most innovative utilities in North America.

Silver Spring Networks: Silver Spring Networks has been plugging away at standards-based networking for smart meters for close to a decade — building routers and hubs that connect via a wireless mesh protocol. The firm has made annnouncements of utility contracts with Oklahoma Gas & Electric, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, AEP and Florida Power & Light and closed a $100 million investment from blue-chip VCs including Kleiner Perkins and Foundation Capital, bringing its VC total to north of $250 million.  This month Silver Spring declared it’s intention to go public with an IPO underwriter bake-off — the S-1 filing should follow soon.  Revenues are estimated in the $100 million range.  Easily the leading VC-funded smart grid startup.

SmartSynch:  SmartSynch’s GridRouter is a modular, standards-based, upgradeable networking device that can handle almost any communications protocol that a utility uses.  Four networking card slots allow a single box to handle ZigBee, WiFi, WiMax or other proprietary communications standards simultaneously. The cards can be removed so utilities can swap out and/or upgrade their networks without replacing the basic piece of installed equipment. It provides communication to any device on the grid over any wireless network, according to the CEO, Stephen Johnston.  Potentially, that could eliminate some of the fear and uncertainty surrounding smart grid deployments.  The Tennessee Valley Authority selected SmartSynch to serve as the communications backbone in its renewable program.

Tendril Networks: Tendril makes a varied suite of hardware and software solutions for applications such as demand response, energy monitoring, energy management and load control. It offers an energy management system for consumers (based on the ZigBee HAN standard) and utilities, smart devices (such as smart thermostats, smart plugs, and in-home displays,) as well as web based and iPhone enabled displays and energy controls. The company also develops applications for utilities such as network management, direct load control, customer load control. The startup has deals in place with more than 30 utilities and had a large commercial rollout in 2009, along with a number of field trials. In June 2009, the company raised a $30 million third round, bringing its total to more than $50 million and making it one of the better funded private companies competing in the Home Area Network space.  General Electric’s Consumer and Industrial division has teamed up with Tendril to develop algorithms and other technology that will  allow utilities employing Tendril’s TREE platform to turn GE dryers, refrigerators, washing machines and other energy-gobbling appliances off or on to curb power consumption.  The GE deal gets the company on the list. Runner-up: EcoFactor.

Trilliant: Trilliant provides utilities with wireless equipment and management software for smart grid communication networks. In 2009, Trilliant acquired SkyPilot Networks, a manufacturer of long-range, high-capacity wireless mesh networks. The acquisition allows them to offer complementary networks, both the neighborhood network and the wide-area network. Trilliant’s largest deployment is 1.4 million device network spread over 640,000 square kilometers at Hydro One’s deployment in Ontario, Canada. The company has been around for years so defining it as a start-up is tough, but it has been on this tack for only the last few years.

 

Green Buildings, Lighting

Adura Technologies: Approximately 85 percent of commercial office buildings in the U.S. are illuminated inside with fluorescent tube lights. In the vast majority of cases, these bulbs can’t be dimmed or turned off remotely. Only around 1 percent of lights in California office buildings are networked. Adura has created a wireless mesh system that effectively flips the lights off when you’re not around and dims them when the sun is out. In a recent test conducted by PG&E, Adura managed to cut the power delivered to lights by 72 percent. Next, the company plans to connect its software to other devices in buildings. VantagePoint is a lead investor. Runner up for networking: Lumenergi.

Bridgelux: Bridgelux is focused on lowering the cost of LED-based solid-state lighting to a penny per lumen — a disruptive price acheived through clever packaging and innovating in the expitaxial processes of building the phosphor-coated film.  Early this year, new CEO and ex-Seagate CEO, Bill Watkins took over the reins and announced a $50 million funding to finance a new fab, bringing its substantial fund-raising totals to over $150 million from investors including DCM, El Dorado Ventures, VantagePoint Venture Partners, Chrysalix Energy and Harris & Harris Group.  Our sources indicate that the firm is generating significant revenue. The big question is whether they can outrun the big guys like Philips and Osram.

Optimum Energy: Buildings consume 40 percent of the energy in the U.S. and 76 percent of the electricity.  HVAC is the low hanging fruit of energy efficiency in commercial buildings and where we can make an enormous impact in energy usage.  Optimum Energy develops networked building control application and products to reduce energy consumption in commercial buildings — reducing energy consumption and GHGs while increasing operating efficiencies in HVAC plants.  Optimum makes software that dynamically controls the chillers – the enormous machines that cool water for air conditioning systems in skyscrapers. According to the company, there are more than 150,000 buildings that can use their product and if the software was used in each one, 75 gigawatts could be taken off the grid. Adobe has installed it.

Recurve: Formerly Sustainable Spaces. They do energy efficiency retrofits. Recurve is assembling a dynamic software package that will allow contractors large and small around the world cut down the time, cost and errors in conducting retrofits. A lot of the employees come from Google—you can’t say that about other construction companies. In fact, a number of large contractors are testing it out now. Co-founder Matt Golden is also one of the driving forces behind the $6 billion Cash for Caulkers program recently introduced by Obama. Recurve’s next policy initiative: funding retrofits by getting them classified as carbon credits.

Redwood Systems: The company, which has received money from Battery Ventures and others, will soon disclose their technological angle, but the gist of it is this: Redwood replaces lighting wires and regular light bulbs with Ethernet cables and LEDs. Suddently, you have a network in your ceiling that every light, smoke detector and other device can link into. Founders hail from Grand Junction Networks, the Fast Ethernet pioneer turned gold mine for Cisco when acquired in 1995.

Serious Materials:  A bit heavy on hype, but Serious has the beginnnings of revenue and has just won the Empire State Building retrofit project for their triple pane windows.  The company appears to have hit some speedbumps with its drywall product, both financially and technologically. But high-end investors like Foundation Capital and high-voltage staff like CEO, Kevin Surace have kept green building materials in the news, in the public imagination and in the tax credit checkbooks of the U.S. government.  Sources indicate revenue between $25 million and $50 million in 2009.

 

Biofuels and Biochemicals

Amyris:  Rumors abound that Amryis, a synthetic biology startup spun out of UC Berkeley with more than $150 million in funding, could soon file its S-1. Amyris develops microbes that feed on sugars and secrete custom hydrocarbons for conversion into jet fuel, industrial chemicals or biodiesel.  Amyris claims to eventually produce biodiesel that can wholesale for $2 a gallon.  In late 2009 the firm paid $82 million to Brazil’s São Martinho Group for a 40-percent stake in an ethanol mill project and entered into agreements with three other Brazilian companies to produce ethanol and high-value chemicals.

LS9: The company’s scientists have engineered a strain of e coli with a genome that can convert sugars into a fatty acid methyl ester which is chemically equivalent to California Clean diesel. It’s a completely unnatural act but could lead to $45 a barrel biodiesel. LS9 hopes to show that the process is feasible next year. Added bonus: LS9 does not have to kill its microbes to get the oil. They secrete it naturally and then can live to feed, digest and excrete more dollops of oil. It’s not out of guilt: re-using a microbe instead of cultivating a new generation cuts time and costs. Another added bonus: it is working with Procter and Gamble on green chemicals and Chevron on fuel.

Sapphire Energy: Sapphire eventually hopes to produce hydrocarbons from genetically modified algae grown in open ponds. Conceivably, it could be the cheapest and fastest technique for producing algae fuel. But it’s also fraught with complications. Growing algae in open ponds for fuel oil at the moment is expensive and complex, and keeping GMO strains from being out-competed by natural strains in the open is even more daunting. The company has raised $100 million plus from top flight VCs, including the firm that invests on behalf of Bill Gates. So stay tuned.

Solazyme: One of the oldest algae companies and the one that’s also the furthest along. Solazyme eschews growing algae in ponds or bioreactors through photosynthesis. Instead, it puts algae in beer brewing kettles, feeds them sugar and grows them that way. The sugar adds to the raw material costs, but Solazyme makes up that cost because it doesn’t have to extract the algae from water, one of the most vexing problems facing algae companies. Solazyme says it will be able to show that its processes can be exploited to produce competitively priced fuel from algae in about two years. It has produced thousands of gallons already and has a contract to produce 20,000 gallons of fuel to the Navy. And it is already selling algae for revenue to the food industry. Chevron is an investor.

Synthetic Genomics:  In July of last year, Synthetic Genomics announced a $300 million agreement with Exxon to research and develop next generation biofuels using photosynthetic algae. Synthetic Genomics’ dynamic founder, J. Craig Venter, was quoted as saying, “I came up with a notion to trick algae into pumping more lipids out.”  Venter is a man of action and vision and if anyone can make algae produce hydrocarbons directly — its him.  In addition to the $300 million from Exxon, Synthetic Genomics has received funding from Draper Fisher Juvetson, Meteor Group, Biotechonomy, BP, et al.

 

Batteries, Fuel Cells, Energy Storage

Bloom Energy: Ten years in the making — $400 million from Kleiner Perkins for this solid oxide fuel cell developer garnered them a stellar list of customers, a high-powered board and a hypetastic coming-out party on 60 Minutes.  Now they have to make the economics of fuel cells work. The Bloom Energy Server costs $700,000 now.

Deeya Energy: A few years ago, flow batteries were barely understood exotic pieces of equipment. Now at least five start-ups have received funding. Deeya was first. It has created a battery in which electrolyte flows in and out of the battery so it always stays charged. Utilities and cell phone carriers that need remote power will be the primary customers. Last year, it started shipping its first commercial products. The products cost around $4,000 a kilowatt (or about half what Bloom currently sells its products for) and hopes to bring down the price to $1,000.

EEStor:  This ultracapacitor aspirant makes the list by virtue of the hype and craziness that surrounds it.  Kleiner Perkins was an original investor but appears to have backed away from EEStor as corporate milestones and technological claims became less credible.  The firm is attempting to make material advances in ceramic powders used in high energy ultracapacitors. No revenue, no prototype, no customers but an obsessed cadre of fan-boy supporters.

General Compression. The cheapest form of energy storage remains compressed air, according to EPRI. To date, however, compressed air has relied upon finding geological formations where you can stuff thousands of cubic meters of air. General Compression, along with SustainX and Isentropic Energy, want to change that with mechanical systems. Both General, which recently raised $17 million, and Isentropic employ pressure and temperature differentials to store and generate heat. Duke is building a 2 megawatt trial facility for General.

 

Transportation

Coda Automotive: Later this year, Coda will attempt to market an all-electric, mid-priced sedan to American drivers. Car start-ups like Tesla and Fisker have initially aimed at the top end of the market, where price and volume are less important factors. Can Coda, and similarly situated BYD, do it? All the auto market will watch it closely. Coda and BYD also will represent China’s first major foray into the U.S. auto market. Coda’s car—which is based around a Chinese gas-burning car that’s been retrofitted by U.S. engineers– will be assembled in China and come with a battery made through a joint venture between Coda and Lishen. A Chinese bank has agreed to lend $450 million to the battery venture. Investors include Hank “Give me $800 billion, no questions asked” Paulson. BYD counts Warren Buffet as an investor.

Fisker Automotive: A luxury EV, but unlike the Tesla, the Fisker Karma is a plug-in hybrid, combining a battery and an ICE.  This firm is another Kleiner Perkins portfolio company and uses batteries from A123.  A123 was also an investor in their most recent $115 million funding round.  The car sells for $87,900 and already has more than 1,400 people on the waiting list. Hendrik Fisker is a noted car designer who has worked with, among others, Aston Martin.

Tesla Motors: The little EV company that might. Teslas has shipped about 1,000 units of their speedy Roadster model, opened up retail outlets in the U.S. and Europe, and just filed their S-1 which showed them raising $442 million in VC and reaching revenues of $93.3 million in the 9 months ending Sept 30, 2009.  The next step is building the all-electric sedan, with far more ambitious volume sales goals.

 

Other Energy — Wind, Nuclear, Cleaner Coal, Geothermal

Laurus Energy: Funded by MDV in an $8.5 million round and helmed by energy exec, Rebecca McDonald, Laurus extracts energy from coal in the form of syngas while it is still in the ground using UCG – underground coal gasification. Laurus then fractionalizes the syngas: carbon dioxide is separated and sent via a pipe to oil fields, where it is injected into other wells to help pull crude out of the ground. The rest of the gases — a combination of hydogen, methane and hydrocarbons — are then burnt in a gas-fueled power plant.  Power from coal is not going away — any disruptive technology that lowers the carbon footprint of coal and eliminates mountain top removal can be a new untapped piece of the energy mix.  It is currently working with a Native American tribe in Alaska to build a UCG vein with a power plant.

Nuscale:  NuScale’s modular nuclear reactor design could disruptively shift development away from the “cathedral model” of large-scale, over-budget, ten-year power nuclear power plant projects. Investor in NuScale and partner at CMEA, Maurice Gunderson suggests that small modular reactors are the “game-changer” in energy technology.  NuScale can manufacture modular reactors on a factory assembly line – and cut the time to develop a nuclear plant in half.   “Nuclear is necessary, doable, and the markets are gargantuan,” adds Gunderson.  Whether nuclear belongs on a greentech list always results in vigorous debate.

Nordic Wind Power: With funding from Khosla Ventures, NEA and Novus Energy Partners, they are the only wind turbine company in the U.S. to get a DOE loan guarantee — $16 million under the innovative renewable energy program.  Nordic also received “significant” funding from Goldman Sachs in 2007.  Their innovative 1-megawatt 2-blade turbine design challenges the traditional wind turbine design paradigm.

Potter Drilling: Geothermal provided 4.5 percent of California’s power in 2007 and advocates say that more power could be extracted, even in non-geothermal hot spots, from underneath the ground. The problem has been getting to it economically and safely. Potter, founded by oil industry alums, has come up with a way to drill that’s five times as fast and less costly. Google.org is one of its investors.

Ze-Gen: Ze-Gen dips organic landfill waste into molten iron and turns it into biogas. The architecture of the system eliminates many of the inefficiencies associated with biomass. It has a pilot plant and raised $20 million in a second round last year. The big challenge is in getting a production plant off the ground.

 

Water

Oasys: This water startup is built around research from Yale with $10 million in venture funds to see if its novel desalination technique, which exploits fundamental chemistry and waste heat, can go commercial.  The company claims its “forward osmosis” process can desalinate water for about half the cost of standard reverse osmosis desalination.

Miox:  The disruptive aspect of Miox’ business plan is distributed water purification instead of the current centralized model.  The company makes onsite water purification systems for gray water remediation and water recycling. Distributed water purification could, potentially, open up a flood of investment into water.  Miox’s trick is in making the process cost-effective. The company’s system can purify a given amount of liquid with a volume of salt that is one-fourth the amount of liquid chlorine that would be required.  Investors include Sierra Venutres, DCM, and Flywheel Ventures.

Purfresh: If you drink bottled water or eat bagged organic lettuce, you’ve encountered Purfresh. The company, backed by Foundation Capital, kills microbes with ozinated water. Growers use it to keep food fresh on the way to store shelves and bottlers use it to sterilize plastic. Orders go up every time an e coli outbreak occurs. Like Serious Materials, Purfresh is expanding from its base to become a full-service water and food company.

 

Green IT

Hara: Originally funded in 2008 by Silicon Valley heavyweight VC, Kleiner Perkins, Hara has been making good headway attacking the nascent carbon accounting and management software space. It’s still early days for this market but a very large base of enterprise companies are actively looking for software solutions that provide actionable information, metrics, recommendations and reporting regarding their carbon footprints. Hara has amassed an impressive list of customers to date, including Coca Cola, News Corp., Akamai, Intuit, Brocade and Safeway.

Sandforce: The company has created a chip that makes it possible for search companies, banks and other companies with large datacenters to swap out storage systems made out of hard drives with drives made of flash memory, which only use about 5 percent of the power. In real terms, that means dropping the power budget for storage systems from $50,000 for five years to $250. Storage giant EMC has invested.

 Source: GreenTech Media

 

 

Rational and risks involved in incorporating thermal storage with current CSP plants

Much effort is invested worldwide for developing storage for trough technology. The more advanced approach is based on phaze changes materials (which is called: PCM), since it enables higher density in the storage and minimal temperature losses between charge and discharge. The main problem is the low heat transfer (due to low thermal conductivity of the salts), and this affects directly the amount of power that could be extracted from the storage. Several research is being executed (mainly in Germany) for developing enhanced solutions, usually by enhancing the heat transfer between the salt and the heat transfer fluid (in the molten salt receiver/hot storage tank), reducing transient effects, optimization of the storage materials (for example, by using metal with graphite that has very high thermal conductivity – which can result up to 15% increase in conductivity, modifications in geometry, boundary conditions (e.g., addition of inflow and outflow, adding radiating surfaces or media) are being tested.  Parts of those solutions are technically feasible, although too expensive yet, e.g. the additional costs overweigh the benefits. One of the advanced approaches, that might have a chance to be cost effective, is based on adding metal surfaces into the salt zone, which may significantly improve the heat transfer to the salt by adding both radiative and convective areas, and also induce more mixing by producing faster flow and higher turbulence. Another alternative to these effects is to add particles that participate in radiation and supply convection area. The goal is to achieve an energy storage system with thermal efficiency of 90%, life time of 30 years and specific costs of: 30 USD/KWthermal capacity, and 1.5 US cent per KWHelectric. But, as far as I know, no system can achieve it yet. 

 Various storage systems incorporated with solar tower electricity generation systems were developed and the most advanced of them was installed and tested in California. This system, Solar Two, generated 10MW electricity using an eutectic molten nitrate salts mixture pumped and piped from a ground-based cold tank to a receiver mounted on the top of a tower. The hot salt from the receiver is then piped to a second, hot tank on the ground. In a secondary loop, the hot salt flows through a heat exchanger to generate steam and returns to the cold tank. The third loop includes the steam generator, which supplies steam to a steam turbine electricity generator. This plant was closed on 1999. Now Sener is trying to do something similar in Spain.

The most common storage technology in use (following the inefficient oil storage tanks solution that is being used at the SEGS plants in California) is the molten salt two-tank system, which provides a feasible storage capacity and is considered to have low to moderate associated risks. Molten salt that will be used for storage as such is bankable (as molten salt is being used for a long time in the chemical industry), but the integration of this kind of storage system to the solar system – is risky.  Concentrated solar thermal power plants have specific requirements for storage that are not well known in the chemical industry. For example: working under thermal cycling conditions; heating and cooling; temperature changing periodically; even design the hot and cold tanks is a challenge; Not to speak about the pipes and the heat exchangers. Another problem is freezing at night. But the main risk is that it is a big step from the existing technology in the chemical industry to that is required by the solar plants, especially in size – going up in scale, since in the chemical industry relatively small amounts of molten salts are being used.   On the other hand, storage contributes not only by increasing operation hours, but also enhancing the overall efficiency, as the plant is working more hours close to the design point. 

At Acciona’s Nevada parabolic trough plant there is no storage (only for about 30 minutes, which is achieved by the fluid that is in the pipes). On the other hand, at the parabolic trough plants of Andasol One & Two – FlagSol (Solar Millennium’s subsidiary) together with ACS/Cobra developed thermal storage based on molten salt. This system is being working for almost two years, probably with a lot of obstacles to deal with, like freezing issues (the freezing point of the chosen nitrates is probably 220ºC), corrosion, blocking, purity of the salt, problems with materials that are in contact with the salt, and a lot of integration and control issues. However, the operators (ACS/Cobra) are gaining much experience and claim to be able to overcome most obstacles. 

 Another risk related to incorporating storage is how much downtime (forced outage) will the plant experience. As a worth case scenario one has to assume up to 10 percent (36.5 days) down, although some plants have almost no downtime due to troubles with storage systems. Thermal storage allows project developers to maximize the value of the solar thermal facility’s output for time of use pricing verses the cost of producing that electricity. Designing a facility to sell the largest amount of output does not necessarily make that design the one with the best return on capital. Sometimes it is preferred, for example, to store all of the thermal energy produced in the morning instead of directing only part to the storage and part to produce electricity for immediate sale. The design point as well as operation strategies are of utmost importance especially when thermal storage is incorporated with the solar thermal plant. However, reducing drastically the capital cost of thermal storage is key to the commercial deployment of the technology.

 

 

Evaluating whether clean energy technological breakthroughs are realistic for achieving grid parity & how can we make it happen?

Key addressing on policy & implementation matters at the Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy conference Feb 2010 (*) as presented by Amnon Samid, Executive Chairman, the AGS group:

• Addressing the challenges of grid integration for renewables from the transmission perspective.

• Distributed energy generation as key to deploying advanced clean energy technologies.

• Adopting the grid to be able to integrate different unstable sources of energy, incorporate energy storage, distribution automation and distribution management systems and improving frequency stability of grids that incorporate remote clean energy sources.

• Applying smart grid vision globally – a global link which uses AC and DC transmissions.

• Is not it a shame wasting hundreds of millions during the last decade on subsidizing PV integrators, instead of investing these money in developing new technologies that will not require governmental incentives and replace all use of fossil fuel for electricity production and transportation?

• Presenting the ‘big picture’ beyond subsidies and feed-in tariffs – insight into the future of developing new technologies and evaluating whether technological breakthroughs are realistic for achieving grid parity and how we can make it happen (Manhattan-like clean energy projects).

Samid also encouraged Lenders to take the risks in financing renewable energy projects that are based on new technologies, which are not defined yet as “bankable”, while presenting the main risk factors and mitigation required:

 • Technology, which should be mitigated by proven design or tested Equipment (especially when it’s not a proven technology). • Suppliers, which should be mitigated by their references, track record, experience and financial strength and warrantees.

• EPC, which could be mitigated by performance guarantee and ongoing measurements of performance & degradation.

• Developers, especially their credibility, track record and risk profile.

• O&M, which should be mitigated by track record of the contractor, warranties for availability, performance guarantees & degradation, spare parts management and O&M budget.

• Operation strategy & Performance model for the lifetime of the project.

• Financial model, which should include exposure to risks involved in fluctuations in Interest rates, currencies rates, seasonal factors etc., while especially it’s important to make sure that low probability scenarios will still result in sufficient revenues to repay the loan.

 • Solar resources, especially the basis and accuracy of historic irradiation data and assessment of future irradiation data.

• Infrastructure, Permits and Licenses, including space constrains, access roads, availability of fossil fuels, water availability, flood protection, transmission facilities, geotechnical & environmental assessments.

• Revenue which is controlled by all the above and the Power Purchase Agreement [PPA].

 —–

(*) The conference brought together major leaders on clean & renewable energy — technology experts, academic researchers, regulators, policy makers, consumers, financial experts, industry leaders, utilities, start-up companies along with influences from the US, Europe & Africa.

• Amnon Samid was moderating a panel with key decision makers analyzing the current situation of clean & renewable energy industry in Israel

Will SolarReserve defeat its competition?

“The brainchild of rocket scientists and a private equity group specialized in renewable energies, SolarReserve, the solar energy development company, is primed to be a winner in the concentrated solar power sector.

United Technology subsidiary, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, has combined its liquid rocket engine heat transfer technology and molten salt handling expertise to develop a unique tower receiver technology with thermal storage capabilities – for which SolarReserve is the exclusive license holder.

Another key ingredient is SolarReserve’s founding partner – the US Renewables Group, a US$575 million private equity firm exclusively focused on renewable power and clean fuel projects.

And finally: the team.  SolarReserve’s blend of professionals from the energy, technology and finance industries are proving to be a knockout combination.” [Source: CSP TODAY].

Competition:

 Parabolic troughs, which have been in operation since the mid-1980′s, are currently the most commercial technology and hence the main competitor for any solar thermal technology. Parabolic trough plants have proven a maximum efficiency of 21% (with an average of 12% to 15%) for the conversion of direct solar radiation into grid electricity. While the plants in California uses synthetic oil as heat transfer fluid in the collectors, efforts to achieve direct steam generation within the absorber tubes in order to reduce costs further did not achieve a viable system so far.

 Another option is the approximation of the parabolic trough by segmented mirrors according to the principle of Fresnel. Although this will reduce efficiency, it shows a considerable potential for cost reduction. The close arrangement of the mirrors requires less land and provides a partially shaded, useful space below.

 Despite improvements in performance of the parabolic troughs new generations, the cost of electricity with solar only is relatively high.  Hence lower limit of costs (through Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) or competition) will not enable this technology to be competitive for the long run. For larger scale power generation, Central receivers, which utilize a collection of heliostats – mirrors which track the sun and concentrate the radiation onto a central receiver located at the top of a tower – hold out a huge potential for lower costs. Concentrating the sunlight enables heating a heat transfer fluid up to 1200ºC and higher. Today, molten salt or air or water is used to absorb the heat in the receiver. The heat may be used for steam generation or making use of the full potential of this high-temperature technology – to drive gas turbines. For gas turbine operation, the air to be heated must pass through a pressurized solar receiver with a solar window. Combined cycle power plants (like Aora’s) require about 30% less collector area than equivalent steam cycle.

 Another option is based on Parabolic Dish, which are relatively small concentrators that have a motor-generator or a turbo-generator in the focal point of the reflector. This generator may be based on Stirling engine or a gas turbine. Because of their size, they are particularly suited for decentralized electricity supply and remote stand alone systems. Dishes up to 400m² have been built and other even larger are being currently designed. Although significant progress has been made on most major components including the high performance dish, it is too early to determine whether the promises of developing a simple, low cost and very reliable engine will be realized by new designs. Moreover, this technology is inherently nondispatchable without storage or fuel backup, so can not reach utility’s dispatch requirements. 

 

 

“Making the Impossible Possible – Finding Alternatives to Fossil Fuels”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech at the 2009 President’s Conference Jerusalem, 20 October 2009

 Translation from Hebrew

This Conference is an opportunity to think about how to make the impossible possible. How do we transform a dream into reality, a crisis into an opportunity? ……Therefore, tonight I would like to talk to you about one of the more significant matters on the global agenda: eliminating the world’s dependence on fossil fuels, particularly oil. We all know the simple truth: dependence on oil endangers the world. It is a threat to our security, our economy and the environment. Our security, because dependence on fossil fuels strengthens the dark regimes that encourage instability and fund terror with their petrodollars. Our economy, because if we don’t develop alternative energy sources, the demand for fossil fuels will increase and the supply will decrease. This will lead to an increase in prices, which in turn will adversely affect global economic development in countries that import fossil fuels – which is the majority of countries. This will cause serious economic harm. Environmentally, because the pollution from fossil fuels poisons the air that we breathe, the water that we drink and the food that we eat. Our dependence on oil harms us and the earth every day, and has done so for decades. To counteract all this, we must set a goal: we must free ourselves from our dependence on oil. I know it seems impossible, but believe me – it is possible. Sometimes all it takes is one or two inventions to make a breakthrough and change the world. Look at salt during the 19th century. Until the beginning of the 20th century, salt was a luxury item used to preserve food. Caravans of camels carried salt through the Sahara Desert, and the salt was traded for gold. Entire empires became rich trading salt, because of the world’s dependence on salt. But two inventions were made. The first was the canning process and the second was refrigeration, and all at once the world’s huge dependence on salt was eliminated. As a result, the salt empires crashed almost overnight. Is Israel the country that will discover the breakthrough that will free the world of its dependence on fossil fuels? I believe so because Israel has two significant resources that provide us with a good chance of doing so. • We have the minds and the hearts. • The capability, the will. Israel is very advanced in the technological fields – agro-tech, hi-tech, nanotechnology, solar energy, battery technologies and renewable energies. Naturally, we are leading candidates to create a global revolution in the clean energy field because of this capacity. Here is the essence of what I’m saying. It’s possible to change the world. The greatest changes in man’s history occurred when there was not only a technological change, but a conceptual change. For many generations, hundreds of thousands of years, man was a hunter-gather. He went to seek out food. He had to go great distances, chase animals to get the protein he needed, or to look for berries or fruit to gather so he’d have the nutrients that were needed for life. These nomadic hunter-gatherer patterns changed one day, because man realized that the food was right underneath his feet. And that was the day that agriculture was born. We are hunter-gatherers for energy. We go to the depths of the oceans. We seek energy from the bowels of the Earth and distant lands. But the energy is right under our noses. It’s all around us. It’s bountiful. It’s in the sun. It’s in the wind. It’s in the water. We just have to tap it.

I think we have the capacity to develop this. Our Nobel Prize winners were mentioned – yes, we have per capita more Nobel Prize winners than any other country, than any other people. We have the second largest concentration of technological capacity; in terms of venture capital, the highest per capita by far. We have scientific publications and we have patents in abundance. So we have the capacity, including in these areas – the development of energy from hydrogen, from water, the development of solar energy and other energies. We have the brains, but we also have the will. Because think what this will mean for our national security. Think of what it would mean for our future if the world ended its dependence on fossil fuels, and especially on oil. By changing this dependence, we can change the world. I don’t know which technology will triumph. Yesterday, Ray Kurzweil, who hasn’t changed a bit in 35 years – I remember you from MIT, Ray – you gave us a course on entrepreneurship and you proceeded to be an entrepreneur, like Shimon Peres, in your own great scientific capacities. Yesterday you said that the efficiency of solar energy doubles every two years. You said that we live in a very brief generation that will develop the energy of the proximate future. If that’s the case, then we’re in good shape. But I say let’s make it happen faster. If we have placed a man on the moon, surely we can harness the energy of the sun.

 What I propose to do today is to establish a nation commission of scientists, engineers, business and government people to set a goal that within ten years, we’ll have a practical, clean, efficient substitute for oil. I think it’s possible. I think we can make the impossible possible. Ladies and Gentlemen, I have never been accused of being a disciple of government intervention. However, sometimes the private market simply cannot create the critical mass of activities needed to make such a big change. Sometimes it needs a push and support from the government. Finding an alternative to oil is a critical matter for the State of Israel must deal with – with regard to geopolitics, security concerns, environmental concerns, to secure the future and to change the world’s order of priorities. Therefore, I repeat my announcement that I am going to establish a national commission comprised of scientists, manufacturers, engineers, businesspeople and government officials, with the goal of formulating a practical plan for efficient development in technologies and engineering in order to replace fossil fuels within the decade. I ask the minds and talents who are here, and around the world, to help.

It is not in our interest alone. The resources need not be exclusively Israel’s. Most of the world shares this interest. But Israel has a strong and clear interest in achieving this. “For out of Zion will come Torah”: We are commanded to bring a new light to the world. God willing, with your help and the help of many others around the world, we will make the impossible possible. Thank you.

Amnon

Author Archives: Amnon

What Does the Future Hold for Concentrating PV?

Considering the short term of one to three years, what technology advances may be expected in the CPV sector? What conversion efficiencies might be achieved and costs/kW installed reached? And what, if any, are the technical and investment barriers which must be overcome in order to achieve these forecasts?

Jeroen Haberland, CEO, Circadian Solar

In the next three years lowering manufacturing costs will be crucial to the CPV industry. As well as the gains from adopting best practises and economies of scale, part of the cost reductions will come from advances in cell manufacturing techniques to lower the amount of material required in each cell. Exploiting increasingly optimised bandgap combinations, either by metamorphic growth or by layer transfer techniques, will produce cells with higher fundamental efficiency limits. 

We expect the current trend of 1% annual increases in research cell efficiency, from the 2010 level of 42%, to continue, although advances in cells with more optimum bandgap combinations could deliver more significant increases. Production cell efficiencies meanwhile will most likely continue to lag behind world record research cell efficiencies by 2%-3%. Overall system efficiencies are expected to rise to around 32% by 2013. This will be driven not just by cell efficiency increases, but also by the combination of high efficiency optics, optimal concentration factor, innovative thermal management, high accuracy solar tracking and through automated precision assembly too.

Commercially, the emphasis will increasingly be placed on levelised cost of electricity (LCOE), rather than just system efficiency and system price/watt, since LCOE is the key determining factor in commercial payback and return on investment.

The key barrier to investment is ‘bankability’ — the requirement to guarantee to financiers the kWh energy yield from CPV systems over 25 years for a given investment in the plant. Without this, either the cost of finance will be very high, or there will be no finance. Publicly funded projects are one of the best/only ways to demonstrate bankability and well thought out incentives, such as feed-in tariffs, will be an important enabler for the industry to reach the economies of scale necessary to reduce system costs.

Carla Pihowich, Senior Director of Marketing, Amonix

The most important technology advances in CPV solar over the next three years will be performance improvements to III-V multi-junction cells and how they are integrated into CPV.

Amonix incorporated III-V multi-junction cells into our systems in 2007 leading to dramatic improvements in efficiency — currently 39% at the cell level, which translates into 31% at the module level and 27% at the system level. At these levels of efficiency, CPV has by far the greatest efficiency of any solar technology. In addition, as we have done in the past, Amonix will deploy performance improvements over the next year that will lessen the gap between cell and system efficiency. In the years to come, we expect multi-junction production cell efficiencies will reach 42% or higher using current or new high-efficiency cell designs.

On the question of cost, we believe that CPV offers greater potential for cost reduction than conventional PV technologies such as single-crystal silicon and thin-film PV, which are nearing performance limitations that will make it difficult for them to drop below their current installed system costs. In contrast, the CPV performance advantage has plenty of headroom and can achieve continual reductions in the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE).

Achieving the cell and system efficiencies is not without its challenges — cell performance must be effectively transferred to production environments, for example. But we believe these challenges can be managed. Bottom line, efficiency improvements combined with the future cost advantages of CPV over PV, the greater deployment flexibility — and the advantage of using no water compared with CSP systems — make CPV the best choice for utility-scale solar deployments in sunny and dry climates.

Nancy Hartsoch, Vice-President Sales and Marketing, SolFocus

In 2010 industry-leading CPV companies have become commercial, demonstrating scalable deployment, bankable products, and volume manufacturing. So what does lie ahead for CPV?

One way to describe CPV’s path over the next one to three years is that it will have a steep trajectory. CPV conversion efficiencies are on a steep upward path. System efficiencies of 26%+ today will continue to increase as CPV cell efficiencies move from 39% upwards to 45%.

Manufacturing costs for CPV systems are also on a steep trajectory, but going downward, as factories are ramped from manufacturing hundreds of kW to hundreds of MW per year. The upward efficiency trajectory combined with the rapidly declining manufacturing cost trajectory provides a very steep reduction in terms of the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) for CPV in the upcoming three years.

In 2010 CPV won competitive bids around the world against other PV technologies because of its high energy yield resulting in a very strong value proposition, which will become even more commanding in the future. Bankability of the technology remains perhaps the biggest hurdle, however, this is rapidly changing through thorough due diligence on the technology and creative approaches to reduce the risk for developers.

                                                                                        

Certification to industry standards for CPV combined with multiple years of on-sun performance and reliability data also contributes to the increasing adoption of CPV into large distributed and utility-scale projects around the globe.

With 150 MW forecast to be deployed in 2011, CPV has finally turned the corner on commercialisation and is moving forward into a market where its high energy yield with the largest energy output/MW installed has the potential to dramatically change the opportunity for the PV market. Add in the need for environmentally friendly technology and it provides an extremely low carbon footprint, along with low cost of energy, It becomes easy to forecast a major impact by CPV solar.

Andreas W. Bett, Deputey Director, Fraunhofer ISE

Concentrating PV and specifically HCPV technology is now ready to enter the market. I am aware this has already been said, but the difference is that there are now serious companies in the market.

They have set up production capacities which are in the two-digit MW range, and collectively the production capacity today is more than 150 MW. Two years ago it was less than 10 MW. This achievement is an important milestone for CPV and the first step to overcome their infancy. 

In respect to technology advances, due to steady and continuous improvement for cells, optics and tracking CPV-system AC operating efficiency will eventually be 25% on an average. System efficiencies as high as 30% are possible, but it will take more than three years to achieve this goal. These high efficiencies, in combination with advancing along a steep learning curve, will lead to energy costs in the range of €0.10/kWh at sites with solar radiation of more than 2400 kWh/m²/year.

One has to take into consideration that for the moment the cost per installed kW is not an appropriate measure for CPV technology. This is simply because the corresponding rating standards for CPV are not yet established. Indeed, missing standards can be seen as one hurdle for CPV and a barrier for investors. Consequently, the financial side must learn more about CPV technology and the industry must teach and demonstrate reliability — a major obstacle today for bankability.

At present CPV struggles not so much with technology, but with funding. However, this barrier will soon be overcome, for example if guarantees can be provided by the CPV companies.

It is then that the growth and the technology development speeds up, leading to still lower CPV costs.

Hansjörg Lerchenmüller, CEO and Founder, Concentrix Solar

Leading players in the CPV sector continue to surpass record module and system efficiencies, leveraging optical and electrical expertise to optimise output from the world’s highest efficiency III-V cells.

CPV systems are typically twice as efficient as conventional PV systems, with current module efficiencies at 27% and expecting to break the remarkable 30% barrier in the near future.

At Soitec Concentrix we are currently working on the next generation of smart cell technology which is targeting cell efficiency of 50% – in turn leading to a system efficiency of more than 35%. Soitec’s patented Smart Cut&trade; technology, used for over a decade in the semiconductor industry, will provide crucial layer transfer expertise for the optimisation of the cell design.

The first results of the smart cell development programme will be available within the mentioned time period. In the long term, it will be integrated exclusively into Concentrix’ systems.

Prices for a full turnkey CPV power plant are today already below $4/watt and will go down to $3/watt in the coming years. Specific prices very much depend on size, the site of the power plant and timing. At the same time, it is well established that CPV technology provides some 40% to 50% more energy output than conventional PV and due to its use of dual-axis tracking, maintains a consistent, high output during periods of peak demand when energy prices are highest.

Given that we have already achieved a 27% module efficiency in production and that we have commercial plants of hundreds of kilowatts, we foresee no major roadblocks on performance reliability and cost for the CPV industry for driving down the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) produced to reach grid parity levels.

Key issues from an investment point of view are a relatively quick return on investment and bankability. The scalability of CPV helps to address this — due to the modularity of the technology, the project size can be adjusted to the financial capabilities of the investors/banks and also energy is produced as soon as the first tracker is installed, helping to reduce the time delay normally associated with utility-scale solar power plants.

In terms of bankability, Soitec Concentrix have partnered with energy efficiency and sustainability company Johnson Controls, which will build, operate, maintain and provide lifecycle support for solar installations using Concentrix CPV technology.

The combination of the respective strengths of both companies will provide advantages, allowing the partners to accelerate and widen the successful installation of solar renewable energy utility-scale plants in high direct normal irradiation regions across the globe.

Eric J. Pail, Analyst, AltaTerra Research

Short-term advances in CPV systems will be mostly technical and focused on improving the cost/performance ratio. However, longer-term advances in market development may produce even greater economic value for the sector.

In the short term, high concentration PV (HCPV) systems will continue to see technology advancements in the efficiency of III-V multi-junction cells. Multi-junction cells are at the heart of high concentrating PV systems and are a key driver to reducing costs and increasing overall system efficiency. As a rule of thumb, for every percentage increase in multi-junction cell efficiency there is a 0.75%—0.8% increase in system efficiency.

Today, most HCPV systems use 38%—39% efficient multi-junction cells and have a system efficiency of between 24% and 35%. In 2011, multi-junction cell efficiencies are expected to rise to more than 40% and on to some 42% in 2012.

The increase in the number of multi-junction cell manufacturers and number of new cell technologies under development will help the CPV industry make steep efficiency improvements in the coming years.

Like any new technology, the CPV industry still faces the challenge of justifying financing from risk-averse financers in terms of ‘bankability’. In response, SolFocus, for example, has recently announced that Munich RE will offer an insurance policy to backstop SolFocus’s warranty. Meanwhile, Morgan Solar self-financed an initial 200 kW test project to demonstrate its technology. Certification standards — particularly IEC 62108 — are also helping to provide investors with assurance. As more and larger CPV projects come online and manufacturers take direct steps to address the issue, bankability should therefore become less of a problem. 

In the long term, it is the distinctive character of concentrating PV that will lead to greater commercial uptake. With sites in very sunny regions that make use of tracking, pedestal mounting and other distinctive features of CPV installations, the industry will lower costs through volume and more effectively create economic value by focusing on customers that prize or require particular features.

 This article was originally published by the editors of RenewableEnergyWorld Magazine Dec 16 2010

Smart grids are the future of power, but what does that mean for the future of privacy?

 Smart Grids and the Future of Privacy

The transmission networks spanning nations to provide light, heat and electricity will soon undergo a radical transformation. Most of the world’s developed countries have invested in or plan to invest huge sums to implement smart energy infrastructures within the next two decades. The smart grid will revolutionize the way utilities and consumers measure and monitor electricity usage. This effort is expected to save money and aid energy conservation.

But the grid will also result in the creation of massive amounts of new data, data that can reveal intimate details about households and the people who live in them. The risk of exposure or misuse of such data creates a new set of concerns for consumers and privacy professionals. The smart grid will rely on smart meters, which will record household energy consumption and communicate it back to power providers. These new smart meters will replace the electromechanical meters that are attached to most households across the world today.

Smart appliances, which are being developed and sold by some of the world’s largest manufacturers, will enhance the intelligent grid, feeding smart meters with real-time information about electrical use down to the appliance level — smoothie at seven, treadmill at eight, for example. (According to a recent Zpryme report, the global market for household smart appliances is projected to reach $15.12 billion in 2015.) This precision will allow utility companies to analyze peak power usage times and set electric rates accordingly. In turn, households will gain a tool for more efficient management of their energy consumption, which they could use to lower costs and conserve energy.

For example, customers will have the ability to time their laundry chores for off-peak energy hours. When the grid, the meter, and the appliances are implemented and integrated, consumers will be able to fine-tune their energy consumption to get the best rates and utilities will be able to more effectively manage power distribution and identify and resolve problems remotely. The savings potential is expected to be massive.

The grid is also expected to help power suppliers prevent blackouts and brownouts by allowing for power distribution to be delivered more evenly and on a need-based schedule. Nations and utilities are investing in the development of the smart grid, and many companies have already deployed smart meters. But while those involved throw millions, even billions, toward the grid, cautioning voices are calling for privacy protections. “We are talking about implementing a very new type of network…a network that people are always attached to,” says Rebecca Herold, CIPP, founder of Rebecca Herold and Associates, LLC. Herold has led the U.S. National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) Smart Grid privacy subgroup since June 2009 and co-authored the NIST report on smart grid privacy, which is under review by NIST and expected to be published soon. The information collected on a smart grid will form a library of personal information, the mishandling of which could be highly invasive of consumer privacy,” said Christopher Wolf, co-author with Jules Polonetsky of a whitepaper published by the Future of Privacy Forum and the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario. “There will be major concerns if consumer-focused principles of transparency and control are not treated as essential design principles, from beginning to end.” Utilities are aware of the privacy concerns, according to Rick Thompson, the president of Greentech Media. “It’s absolutely on their radar,” he says, adding, “That doesn’t mean they have a full understanding or solution to solve that problem, but I think it’s an area that they are investigating heavily.” It’s an area worthy of investigation, according to many. Some say the smart grid will be “bigger than the internet,” which will result in an exponential increase of coveted, valuable and potentially identifiable data. “You come into new types of privacy issues because you are now revealing personal activities in ways that are not historically, or have not been considered to date as being personally identifiable information,” Herold says.

Beyond knowing how often the refrigerator opens or what time the garage door activates each morning, grid data may be a way of discerning when a household is empty or full, when family members go to bed at night or what time the kids come home from school. Marketers might want to tap into the data to find out when a household might be due for a new refrigerator or washing machine. Law enforcement might be interested in corroborating a story. An insurance company might want to know if a homeowner’s alarm was turned on when a burglary occurred. A divorce attorney might want to subpoena energy-use records to aid a case. Who owns the data? In a recent newspaper article, Simon McKenzie, the chief executive of a New Zealand electricity supplier, said in that country, where hundreds of thousands of smart meters are currently being installed, “We’re starting to see the retailers and network companies say: ‘Hey, there are a number of different ways that we haven’t even considered that we could utilize this data…to provide better service or solutions to customers.

” The full potential of smart grids has yet to be realized, McKenzie told The New Zealand Herald. But should retailers and other entities have access to the data? That is a question being examined on a global scale. In response to the McKenzie’s comments, New Zealand Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff said that companies need to be transparent about what information is being tracked and collected. “People need to be able to make fully informed decisions before agreeing to the new technology,” Shroff said. Others call for limited use of the data gleaned from smart grids. “The risk with a rich new data source is the temptation to use the information for more than originally intended,” Australian Privacy Commissioner Karen Curtis told those attending a smart infrastructure conference earlier this year. That’s why it will be crucial to answer the question of who owns and has access to consumers’ energy usage data, which could reveal existing and emerging types of personally identifiable information, Herold says. It’s a familiar question for privacy pros, who have grappled with it in other areas of practice, but perhaps less familiar for utilities. In a recent study, GTM asked utility companies who owns the granular data collected by smart meters — the utility company, the consumer, or a third party. The results showed a decided lack of consensus. “The interesting thing is that it was pretty well split evenly between those three options,” said GTM’s Rick Thompson. Of the companies surveyed, 39 percent said the data belonged to the consumer, 29 percent said the utility itself owned it, and 32 percent were unsure. [Chart from Greentech Media’s 2010 North American Utility Smart Grid Deployment Survey] The president of an advocacy group for the smart grid industry is more decided on the topic. “The consumer should always have access to that data,” says Kathleen Hamilton, president of the GridWise Alliance, which counts more than 100 companies and organizations as members. “I think the consumer is going to be the owner of that data,” Hamilton said. “But I think what consumers don’t understand is that when they give their data to others, if there aren’t privacy provisions in place, they can use the data in ways that either the consumer may not agree with or think appropriate.” That’s a worry many can relate to and a debate that must play itself out soon, as 70 percent of North American utility companies polled for the aforementioned GTM survey indicated that smart grid projects were either a “strong” or “highest” business priority between now and 2015. Governments keen to the potential have invested heavily in smart grid infrastructures.

 In the U.S., President Obama allocated $3.4 billion in national stimulus monies to utility companies last year to encourage development of smart grid technologies. The European Parliament’s passage of the 3rd Energy Package last year will outfit 80 percent of EU electricity customers with smart meters by 2020. In Sweden, smart meters are now mandated by the government. The U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, parts of Asia, Denmark, and the Netherlands have all reported plans to build intelligent grids. And the Chinese government has allocated $7.3 billion to grid projects in 2010. It is clear that the potential privacy pitfalls loom large. Less clear is the best solution to prevent them. “I think there are still a lot of questions out there about what the correct solution might be,” says GTM’s Thompson, predicting that solutions will vary based on the regulations of various regions. Like other areas of data privacy, regulation is a word that could divide the debate in the months and years to come. Some predict smart grid privacy issues to be bigger in Europe than other places due to the strength of the bloc’s Data Protection Directive. So far in the U.S., regulation has focused primarily on securing the grid infrastructure from cyber-attack. For example, the Grid Reliability and Infrastructure Defense (GRID) Act, introduced in April, charges the FERC with safeguarding the transmission grid from cyber-threats. The bill also tasks FERC with enforcing privacy measures, stating: “the Commission shall protect from disclosure only the minimum amount of information necessary to protect the reliability of the bulk power system and defense critical electric infrastructure.” The House passed the bill in June, but the Senate has yet to vote. Other bills have focused on ensuring that consumers have access to the data their homes’ meters produce. In March, Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, introduced The Electric Consumer Right to Know Act (e-KNOW), legislation to ensure consumers have access to free, timely and secure data about their energy usage. It also calls for the FERC to develop national standards for consumer energy data accessibility, to help utilities and state regulatory agencies formulate their policies, according to Markey’s website. State lawmakers have begun drafting their own legislation. In Colorado, a state where smart meter implementation is already widespread, Senate Bill 10-180 calls for the creation of a task force to recommend measures to “encourage the orderly implementation of smart grid technology” in that state. The bill says that one of the issues the task force must determine is the potential impacts on consumer protection and privacy. A call for standards Privacy experts say the lack of legal protection surrounding the smart grid is concerning. They are calling for standards. “In the absence of clear rules, this potentially beneficial smart grid technology could mean yet another intrusion on private life,” Jim Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) said in a March filing to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which held a three-day hearing that month to explore smart grid policies. “The PUC should act now, before our privacy is eroded,” Dempsey wrote. The CDT teamed with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on the filing, urging the CPUC to adopt “comprehensive privacy standards for the collection, retention, use and disclosure of the data” gleaned from the smart grid. The National Institute of Standards and Technology smart grid privacy subgroup, which Herold leads, has released two drafts of the privacy chapter “Smart Grid Cyber Security Strategy and Requirements.” The document includes a privacy impact assessment and addresses possible risks the smart grid presents — including cyber attacks, data breaches and the vulnerability of interconnected networks’ increased exposure to potential hackers. The draft says that while most states have laws in place regarding privacy protection, those laws do not necessarily relate to the types of data that will be within the smart grid, and many existing laws are specific to industries other than utilities. The group recommends that provisions be included within privacy laws to protect the consumer data held by utility companies. The final NISTIR 7628 Version 1 is expected soon, after which it will be submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Minimize, destroy, build privacy in As with other privacy debates, those pushing for smart infrastructure privacy protections espouse mantras often heard in data protection circles-data minimization, data destruction and privacy by design. Utilities should minimize the amount of household data collected and should keep it for the shortest amount of time possible, advocates say, in order to minimize the risk associated with storing such data. Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian agrees. In her whitepaper, she also cautions that privacy concerns must be considered early in the planning stages in order to mitigate the risks surrounding the revealing data meters collect. By designing privacy into the grid, “we can have both privacy and a fully functioning smart grid,” Cavoukian wrote in a Toronto Star Op-Ed. The government of Ontario has committed to the installation of smart meters in every home and business by the end of 2010 and Cavoukian has partnered with major utilities to develop “gold standards” for building privacy into grid projects. Some privacy advocates point to Ontario’s Hydro One as a utility company setting the standard for baking privacy provisions into its policy before deploying smart meters. Rick Stevens, director of distribution development at Hydro One says the protection of consumer’s information was built into smart meters’ designs based on Ontario’s privacy regulations.

“The regulations certainly set the context for the project,” Stevens said. “We’re just really ensuring that we bake those protections into the product that we put out there. Given that this is new technology, we’re going to be very careful to protect consumer interest as we roll these out. I know we, as an industry, take it very seriously.” Hydro One has 1.1 million meters already deployed, and at least 700,000 of them are currently reporting data back to the utility on an hourly basis. Stevens says that, as a rule, the utility does not sell customers’ data to third parties and would only share data after obtaining written authorization customers.

The president of LinkGard Systems, an Armenian software maker, says his company’s Energy Management System, which is currently being tested in the U.S., was built with privacy in mind. “It is our strong belief that the utility company has no need to control individual appliances in a residence or a commercial location,” said Hovanes Manucharyan. “The same effect can be achieved by using solutions that don’t require the customer to expose their private energy usage information….We feel that this model is friendlier towards privacy since the utility doesn’t need to acquire, store and manage potentially private data from a customer.” Hovanes said the stronger regulatory framework of the EU could result in slightly different implementations of smart grid technologies in that market. Beyond PII We haven’t yet heard a debate on whether our garage-door-opening habits qualify as personal data, but it’s a question that privacy experts say should be answered. “People have to realize it’s a new type of network,” says Herold. “It’s ‘always on,’ passively collecting information about people in their homes. It’s more than just PII, it’s personal activities,” she adds. This is what concerns a California man who staged a dramatic protest recently when Pacific Gas & Electric attempted to install a smart meter at his home. Calling it an “unconstitutional invasion of his privacy,” he locked his existing meter, saying, “PG&E needs to be stopped in their tracks here.” Education needed But smart meters are being rolled out in many places, and typically without protest.

Indeed, though smart grids are certainly on the radar of utilities and governments, most consumers are in the dark. According to a recent Harris Interactive poll, 68 percent have never heard of the smart grid and 63 percent “draw a blank” about smart meters. Experts say that will change. “You are going to see a lot more awareness over the next 24 months,” says Greentech Media’s Rick Thompson, “but in terms of becoming a true household name, I’d say that’s still three to five years out.” Thompson says utility companies are just starting to understand the importance of launching educational campaigns aimed at consumer awareness. A newly formed coalition of companies and organizations — the nonprofit Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative — hopes to increase consumer awareness in the area. “The grid is not really smart unless the consumers are able to be active participants,” said Katherine Hamilton of the GridWise Alliance, one of the founding members of SGCC. Hydro One’s Stevens says building consumer awareness by communicating the cost-savings potential and environmental benefits is what helped make his company’s transition to smart meters successful in Ontario. “For the most part, it’s been positive,” Stevens said. “I think the reason for that is the type of information we’ve been able to provide to customers.” Stevens said, however, given his company’s success with smart meters, that the only reason to have increasing regulations in the future would be if issues arise that require them. When asked whether utility companies’ self-regulatory efforts will be sufficient to stave off regulations, Herold said it’s important to consider just how many different players will be involved in the smart grid, including non-energy sector companies creating applications and appliances. “Self-regulation is a good goal, but when you start looking realistically, how do you ensure entities consistently provide protections throughout the entire smart grid if you don’t establish requirements they must all follow?” Herold asks. She points to the health care and financial industries as evidence that regulations are often necessary. “It’s always important, in dealing with privacy, to not only take what we know from past experiences, but also have our minds open to possible impacts going forward.” Some say that having the right people on board will help companies avoid issues. “One of the key things utilities should be doing today is training and hiring privacy professionals,” says Future of Privacy Forum Director Jules Polonetsky, CIPP. “Data enables the grid, but could also be its Achilles’ heel, if companies don’t have the experts in place to help shape decisions as the grid is being built.” Stevens agrees, saying that it’s in the utility industry’s best interest to maintain consumer privacy protections moving forward. “It’s a necessity,” he says. “Otherwise, it’ll backfire on us.”

This article was originally published in the July 2010 edition of the International Association of Privacy Professionals’ member newsletter, The Privacy Advisor.

An advice to CSP entrepreneurs that “insist” on competing with parabolic trough

1. You will have to compete not only with current parabolic troughs and Fresnel linear reflectors, but also with mini CSP on one hand, and on the other hand – mini towers central receivers and parabolic dish that employ high temperatures (~1000ºC) and much higher efficiencies than parabolic troughs.

2. You should not start with utility scale market, but segment the markets in a manner to allow a conservative (at least in the beginning) step-wise penetration, beginning with industrial or commercial customer demonstration, moving to utility demonstration and in parallel off-grid applications; next moving to distributed applications supplying grid support, and finally into the larger scale central peak power generation market. This approach will allow you to gain familiarity with the solar industry and bring costs down as annual production volume increase, and will allow utilities to gain confidence in your systems.

3. If you choose as target market the distributed generation and not necessarily large utility scale solar power plants, you could present a potential for more closely track demand and potential growth in loads; meet reliability requirements with fewer megawatts of installed power and spread construction costs over time after first module output has started, hence capital risks and amount of initial investment may be reduced.

A note regarding energy storage technologies

Thermal storage technologies are designed to improve the availability and dispatchability of a solar thermal power facility — thereby enhancing its overall value. In the long run, thermal storage will help integrate more solar power into the generation mix by enabling CSP facilities to shoulder a greater component of the daily power demand in many regions of the world.

 Some innovative ideas are under development lately; beside the integration of compressed air energy storage into a modular Brayton cycle based on dish + solar air receiver to heat air above 1000ْC, the ideas of using a solid medium for thermal storage is coming up again. The German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and others are executing significant work, investigating the cost and performance of utilizing concrete or ceramic materials for thermal energy storage. The DOE is encouraging companies to look at cost savings in terms of efficiency improvement, new technology and materials. Several companies are trying to solve the drawbacks of state-of-the art molten salt storage technology by using gas as heat transfer fluid that enters unique modular structures without mixing that may cause turbulences.   The existing ‘competitors’, beside the molten salt solution that is promoted also by Solar Reserve, are also low cost and widely available storage materials, like natural rocks or concrete composites, that seem to be more attractive for storage with parabolic trough based on oil (despite the issue of energy loss). It seems that ceramic storage materials, modular designs and charging and discharging concepts may have a potential for cost reduction, however, those concepts are not ready yet for scaling up to commercial pilots; it requires still more lab work, like verification of physical and dynamic numerical simulation to optimize the designs as well as the operating strategies.

 The market potential for storage is huge and the target price is < €20/kwh ~26USD/kwh, (for example in the DLR’s WESPE program, funded by the German government for developing efficient and cheap sensible storage material based on unique geometric arrangement of the heat exchanger tubes in the storage volume), while the current cost of storage based on molten salt is ~€40/kwh (Andasol).

Advanced Energy Storage from the MIT

 Currently only 2.5% of the capacity of the U.S. grid is able to be stored, compared with 10% in Europe and 15% in Japan, which in the event of a grid failure could mean trouble for the U.S. This is why Professor Donald Sadoway at MIT received US $7 million from U.S. Energy Agency ARPA-E), $4 million from French oil company Total and support from the U.S. Defense Agency DARPA.

The goal of Sadoway’s research is to bring the cost of large scale energy storage facilities in line with the cost of natural gas plants. He said that in order to do this, incredibly large liquid metal batteries will need to be built and the facilities will need to be used in much the same way that flywheel storage plants are expected to be used, as frequency regulators that are capable of dispatching energy quickly in the event of an emergency. The basic principle behind the technology is to place three layers of liquid inside a container: Two different metal alloys, and one layer of a salt. The three materials are chosen so that they have different densities that allow them to separate naturally into three distinct layers, with the salt in the middle separating the two metal layers — like novelty drinks with different layers. The energy is stored in the liquid metals that want to react with one another but can do so only by transferring ions — electrically charged atoms of one of the metals — across the electrolyte, which results in the flow of electric current out of the battery. When the battery is being charged, some ions migrate through the insulating salt layer to collect at one of the terminals. Then, when the power is being drained from the battery, those ions migrate back through the salt and collect at the opposite terminal. The whole device is kept at a high temperature, around 700°C, so that the layers remain molten. While each of these technologies has a lot of lab work left before it’s ready for field testing on a large scale, chemistry professor Dr. Dan Nocera and the company he helped found Sun Catalytix are working to commercialize a catalyst that can be used to split water.

The basis of Sun Catalytix’s technology is a cobalt phosphate catalyst that Nocera said is more efficient at splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen than other materials. He said that the catalyst can work within normal ambient temperatures and with water sources as diverse as tap water and water straight out of the Charles River in Boston. While commercial electrolyzers that split water to make hydrogen already exist, Nocera said that they’re far too expensive and require a significant amount of energy to run. Sun Catalytix is in the process of testing an electroylzer that is built with its proprietary catalyst that can be manufactured using PVC plastic. A completed 100-watt system would work like this: solar PV panels would power an electrolyzer, which would then produce hydrogen that would be stored in tanks and then used as fuel for a fuel cell for electricity or to power a hydrogen vehicle. Nocera said that three liters of water a day could power a home. He said the ultimate goal of the Sun Catalytix system is use cheaper solar panels and fuel cells (still a stumbling block) to implement systems like this in the developing world where there is little-to-no electricity generating infrastructure in place and where three liters of even low-quality water per day could dramatically increase the quality of life of the people living there. Development of the technology is being financed by more than $1 million from Polaris Venture Partners. Nocera said that he expects a working prototype to be completed in the next 5-8 years and that the company has already been approached by solar companies interested in having their panels used in the system.

Source: Renewable Energy World

Top 50 VC-Funded Clean Energy Startups

Solar

Brightsource Energy: Big-name investors, a large war chest, a partnership with construction-giant Bechtel, more than a gigawatt in California utility PPAs and $1.37 billion in federal loan guarantees make this power-tower solar thermal player an easy choice. Now the challenge is getting past further environmental objections to its first 396-megawatt power plant.

Chromasun: Air conditioning accounts for fifty percent of the demand for power during peak periods in California, according to Peter Le Lievre, founder of Chromasun. It’s an enormous problem and market awaiting a solution.  Chromasun uses solar thermal collectors to gather solar heat to run a double effect chiller which curbs peak power, broadens the market for solar thermal technology and fits well within the practices of the building trades.  

Enphase Energy: This well-funded microinverter innovator has shipped more than 120,000 units for residential and commercial deployments.  The contract manufacturing model is working and the company continues to grow.  There are a number of microinverter startups but Enphase is the only one to reach credibility and volume shipments in a high-growth $2 billion market.

eSolar:  Fifteen months ago, eSolar was on the ropes. It desperately sought funds to build solar thermal power plants. It then switched strategies and decided to license its technology and sell equipment, leaving the actual building of the power plants to others. Since then, it’s signed deals that will lead to gigawatts worth of its solar technology planted in China, India, Africa and the Middle East. A 5 megawatt demo plant went up last year and construction on the first 92 megawatts begins this year. The secret sauce: software that helps improve the efficiency of the overall plant. Funding from Google, India’s Acme Group, Oak Investment Partners and NRG Energy.

Innovalight: The silicon nano-ink developer recently pivoted its business plan and shifted from solar panel manufacturing to panel manufacturing along with liscensing and joint ventures.  Innovalight’s inks allow silicon wafer manufacturers to boost their cell efficiency by up to 2 percent with a low capital outlay. This could be one of the last novel, “new” type of solar cells to make it out for a while.

Nanosolar:  The CIGS thin film pioneer  got started in 2002, making it one of the earliest thin film companies supported by Silicon Valley.  Since then, Nanosolar has used every avenue of funding to fund their potentially disruptive solar firm, now at about $500 million in funding to date.  Nanosolar is shipping product in the 10 to 12 percent efficiency range and has panels in the lab topping 16 percent efficiency. Nanosolar faces the same challenge as every other solar panel manufacturer — keeping up with silicon and cadmium telluride prices and efficiency.

Petra Solar: Not so much a technology play as a channel play, Petra Solar and its more than $50 million in VC funds is exploiting an untapped sales channel – solar panels on utility and power poles. Petra has a large contract with Public Service Electric & Gas, New Jersey’s biggest power utility, to install solar panels on streetlights and power poles across the distribution network.  PSE&G looks to install 200,000 panels and about 5 percent are up so far, according to PSE&G.  Potential for high growth in a new application.

SolarCity: Fast growing SolarCity has emerged as one of the largest residential solar installers in California and has moved into other solar-friendly states.  The startup has innovated in the installation field as well as in the financial field by offering leasing options for homes and small businesses.  U.S. Bancorp has set up a $100M fund to finance SolarCity’s residential and commercial installations.  Entrepreneurs are needed in the downstream solar business as much as in the technological side.

Solyndra:  With almost a billion dollars in venture capital and half a billion in DOE loan guarantees, Solyndra is the clear winner in the money raising contest.  The CIGS thin film solar company’s S-1 is filed and the firm has customers and $58.8 million in revenue in the 9 months ending Sept, 30 2009.  The investors and the company claim immense savings in balance of system costs. But skeptics abound and many believe that the company’s solar panels are more expensive than the competition. CIGS solar cells aren’t easy to make and Solyndra’s cylindrical design adds to the complexity. The debate won’t be answered until the customers start taking their data public.

Suniva: Well-funded Suniva has made numerous technological advances to raise crystalline silicon solar wafer efficiency and lower manufacturing cost.  Investors NEA, Goldman Sachs and Warburg Pincus have invested more than $125 million.

SunRun: SunRun is a home solar service company located in San Francisco, California that offers residential PPAs: “home solar as a monthly service.”  The company has seen 8 to 10 times growth over last year.   Sunrun has received venture funding from Foundation Capital and Accel Partners, as well as a $105 million tax equity commitment from an affiliate of U.S. Bancorp.  Residential PPAs from SunRun might be the disruptive piece that allows solar to better penetrate the residential roof market.
 
 

Smart Grid and EV Infrastructure

What will the smart grid of the future look like? Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers speaks of a utility-managed system that orchestrates smart meters, solar panels, batteries, demand response systems and plug-in vehicle chargers to serve as “virtual power plants” scattered throughout a utility service territory.

Arcadian Networks: Arcadian Networks designs and delivers wireless communication networks to utilities based on the private (licensed), secured 700 MHz spectrum.  The 700MHz appears to be a better choice (than 900Mhz) is rural areas, since the signal can travel farther without relays and can penetrate physical obstacles (such as crops and hilly terrain) that higher frequencies may struggle with.  The other major advantage of the 700MHz spectrum is that because it is licensed there is not any interference from other sources.  While 900MHz mesh networking solutions have dominated the market due in part to their lower costs, as interference continues to create problems for utilities, and as “intelligent provisioning” becomes more common, expect Arcadian Networks to compliment 900MHz networks in situations were interference is just not acceptable.

Better Place: A $350 million dollar funding round in January ranks as one of the largest cleantech deals in history with a pre-money valuation of $900 million.  Commercial launch is targeted for 2011 for the bold electric-vehicle / charging-station / battery-swap / electricity-selling start-up with an inital focus on Israel and Denmark.  Investors include HSBC, Morgan Stanley Investment Management, Lazard Asset Management, VantagePoint Venture Partners, et al.  Better Place is looking to install between 15,000 and 20,000 charging stations in both Israel and Denmark in the near-term.  There is the suggestion that this firm could be a Google or Netscape-type market disruptor.  But even a dominant role as an urban vehicle, as a fleet vehicle, as a delivery vehicle lets Better Place win big in a niche market.

CPower: With 800 megawatts of demand response curtailment under management, CPower is the third largest player in this emerging demand response/energy management market.  Why do we offer you #3, and not the #1 or #2?  Good question.  Those competitors, EnerNOC and Comverge have already gone public, that’s why.  Like their more-public-piers, CPower is looking to quickly move into other energy services, including reserves & frequency regulation, renewable energy credits, and energy efficiency for consumers.  Last year the company doubled their curtailment load, became the largest aggregator on the Texas (ERCOT) grid, and now claims to provide demand response services to over 1,600 different retail sites.  SCE, PG&E and Ontario Power Authority are all utility clients.  The company’s investors include Bessemer Ventures, Schneider Electric Ventures and Intel Capital.

Coulomb Technologies: Coulomb builds a vital piece of the EV infrastructure — charging stations connected to the grid with power and data.  Coulomb was founded on two premises — that every charge station should be networked and that Coulomb needed to be a self-sustaining business model — they win revenue from the sale of the charge station and from fee-based charge services.  Investors include Voyager Capital, Rho Ventures, Siemens Venutre Capital and Hartford Ventures.

EcoLogic Analytics: EcoLogic Analytics provides meter data management (MDM) software solutions and decision management technologies for utilities. They offer a suite of software solutions that include gateway engines, meter data warehouse, meter read manager, meter reading analytic, navigator graphical user interface, automated validation engine, network performance monitor and reporting engine, real time outage validation engine, data synchronization engine, calculation engine and residential rate analysis API, and virtual metering aggregation components. Their MDM solutions also integrate with other systems, such as CIS/billing, to deliver data to business users in the enterprise.  EcoLogic Analytics was chosen as the vendor to provide MDM for PG&E, the biggest AMI deployment in North America – a huge win for the company. In February 2009, the company landed its second major contract with Texas utility Oncor and will serve as the MDM provider for more than three million electric meters in Oncor’s service territory. 

eMeter: eMeter makes software that manages the enormous volume of data coming from smart meters, providing both MDM and AMI integration for utility information systems. eMeter’s solutions also allow for demand response and real-time monitoring of resource usage, yielding greater energy efficiency and more reliable service, while minimizing the costs of AMI deployment, data management, and operations. The company competes with AMI companies that can provide their own software AMI and MDM software such as Itron and Sensus, as well as other software companies such as Oracle.  In early 2009, eMeter announced a deal with CenterPoint Energy to support the Texas utility’s plan to install two million smart meters in its territory. That follows deals with Alliant Energy, Jacksonville Electric Authority, the Canadian province of Ontario, and European energy comapny, Vattenfall. The company claims to have more than 24 million meters under contract.  That number gets it a spot on the list.  eMeter has transitioned from just providing MDM solutions for utilities into consumer services, such as demand response and consumer portals, following a strategy that seems to be working among smart grid players: get your foot in the door with one solution, then seek to expand.

Proximetry: Proximetry provides network and performance management solutions for wireless networks to enable network operators to visualize, provision, and actively manage their networks, especially to support mission-critical communications.  The company’s software solution, AirSync, enables real-time, network-wide visualization, management, and active network control from a single system and location for multivendor, multifrequency, multiprotocol wireless networks.  This so-called “intelligent provisioning” which provides “dynamic bandwidth” matching network resource priorities to users and devices needs seems like a logical extension of smart grid networking, and we expect this to be a major new trend going forward. Proximetry is currently working San Diego Gas & Electric, widely considered to be one of the most innovative utilities in North America.

Silver Spring Networks: Silver Spring Networks has been plugging away at standards-based networking for smart meters for close to a decade — building routers and hubs that connect via a wireless mesh protocol. The firm has made annnouncements of utility contracts with Oklahoma Gas & Electric, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, AEP and Florida Power & Light and closed a $100 million investment from blue-chip VCs including Kleiner Perkins and Foundation Capital, bringing its VC total to north of $250 million.  This month Silver Spring declared it’s intention to go public with an IPO underwriter bake-off — the S-1 filing should follow soon.  Revenues are estimated in the $100 million range.  Easily the leading VC-funded smart grid startup.

SmartSynch:  SmartSynch’s GridRouter is a modular, standards-based, upgradeable networking device that can handle almost any communications protocol that a utility uses.  Four networking card slots allow a single box to handle ZigBee, WiFi, WiMax or other proprietary communications standards simultaneously. The cards can be removed so utilities can swap out and/or upgrade their networks without replacing the basic piece of installed equipment. It provides communication to any device on the grid over any wireless network, according to the CEO, Stephen Johnston.  Potentially, that could eliminate some of the fear and uncertainty surrounding smart grid deployments.  The Tennessee Valley Authority selected SmartSynch to serve as the communications backbone in its renewable program.

Tendril Networks: Tendril makes a varied suite of hardware and software solutions for applications such as demand response, energy monitoring, energy management and load control. It offers an energy management system for consumers (based on the ZigBee HAN standard) and utilities, smart devices (such as smart thermostats, smart plugs, and in-home displays,) as well as web based and iPhone enabled displays and energy controls. The company also develops applications for utilities such as network management, direct load control, customer load control. The startup has deals in place with more than 30 utilities and had a large commercial rollout in 2009, along with a number of field trials. In June 2009, the company raised a $30 million third round, bringing its total to more than $50 million and making it one of the better funded private companies competing in the Home Area Network space.  General Electric’s Consumer and Industrial division has teamed up with Tendril to develop algorithms and other technology that will  allow utilities employing Tendril’s TREE platform to turn GE dryers, refrigerators, washing machines and other energy-gobbling appliances off or on to curb power consumption.  The GE deal gets the company on the list. Runner-up: EcoFactor.

Trilliant: Trilliant provides utilities with wireless equipment and management software for smart grid communication networks. In 2009, Trilliant acquired SkyPilot Networks, a manufacturer of long-range, high-capacity wireless mesh networks. The acquisition allows them to offer complementary networks, both the neighborhood network and the wide-area network. Trilliant’s largest deployment is 1.4 million device network spread over 640,000 square kilometers at Hydro One’s deployment in Ontario, Canada. The company has been around for years so defining it as a start-up is tough, but it has been on this tack for only the last few years.

 

Green Buildings, Lighting

Adura Technologies: Approximately 85 percent of commercial office buildings in the U.S. are illuminated inside with fluorescent tube lights. In the vast majority of cases, these bulbs can’t be dimmed or turned off remotely. Only around 1 percent of lights in California office buildings are networked. Adura has created a wireless mesh system that effectively flips the lights off when you’re not around and dims them when the sun is out. In a recent test conducted by PG&E, Adura managed to cut the power delivered to lights by 72 percent. Next, the company plans to connect its software to other devices in buildings. VantagePoint is a lead investor. Runner up for networking: Lumenergi.

Bridgelux: Bridgelux is focused on lowering the cost of LED-based solid-state lighting to a penny per lumen — a disruptive price acheived through clever packaging and innovating in the expitaxial processes of building the phosphor-coated film.  Early this year, new CEO and ex-Seagate CEO, Bill Watkins took over the reins and announced a $50 million funding to finance a new fab, bringing its substantial fund-raising totals to over $150 million from investors including DCM, El Dorado Ventures, VantagePoint Venture Partners, Chrysalix Energy and Harris & Harris Group.  Our sources indicate that the firm is generating significant revenue. The big question is whether they can outrun the big guys like Philips and Osram.

Optimum Energy: Buildings consume 40 percent of the energy in the U.S. and 76 percent of the electricity.  HVAC is the low hanging fruit of energy efficiency in commercial buildings and where we can make an enormous impact in energy usage.  Optimum Energy develops networked building control application and products to reduce energy consumption in commercial buildings — reducing energy consumption and GHGs while increasing operating efficiencies in HVAC plants.  Optimum makes software that dynamically controls the chillers – the enormous machines that cool water for air conditioning systems in skyscrapers. According to the company, there are more than 150,000 buildings that can use their product and if the software was used in each one, 75 gigawatts could be taken off the grid. Adobe has installed it.

Recurve: Formerly Sustainable Spaces. They do energy efficiency retrofits. Recurve is assembling a dynamic software package that will allow contractors large and small around the world cut down the time, cost and errors in conducting retrofits. A lot of the employees come from Google—you can’t say that about other construction companies. In fact, a number of large contractors are testing it out now. Co-founder Matt Golden is also one of the driving forces behind the $6 billion Cash for Caulkers program recently introduced by Obama. Recurve’s next policy initiative: funding retrofits by getting them classified as carbon credits.

Redwood Systems: The company, which has received money from Battery Ventures and others, will soon disclose their technological angle, but the gist of it is this: Redwood replaces lighting wires and regular light bulbs with Ethernet cables and LEDs. Suddently, you have a network in your ceiling that every light, smoke detector and other device can link into. Founders hail from Grand Junction Networks, the Fast Ethernet pioneer turned gold mine for Cisco when acquired in 1995.

Serious Materials:  A bit heavy on hype, but Serious has the beginnnings of revenue and has just won the Empire State Building retrofit project for their triple pane windows.  The company appears to have hit some speedbumps with its drywall product, both financially and technologically. But high-end investors like Foundation Capital and high-voltage staff like CEO, Kevin Surace have kept green building materials in the news, in the public imagination and in the tax credit checkbooks of the U.S. government.  Sources indicate revenue between $25 million and $50 million in 2009.

 

Biofuels and Biochemicals

Amyris:  Rumors abound that Amryis, a synthetic biology startup spun out of UC Berkeley with more than $150 million in funding, could soon file its S-1. Amyris develops microbes that feed on sugars and secrete custom hydrocarbons for conversion into jet fuel, industrial chemicals or biodiesel.  Amyris claims to eventually produce biodiesel that can wholesale for $2 a gallon.  In late 2009 the firm paid $82 million to Brazil’s São Martinho Group for a 40-percent stake in an ethanol mill project and entered into agreements with three other Brazilian companies to produce ethanol and high-value chemicals.

LS9: The company’s scientists have engineered a strain of e coli with a genome that can convert sugars into a fatty acid methyl ester which is chemically equivalent to California Clean diesel. It’s a completely unnatural act but could lead to $45 a barrel biodiesel. LS9 hopes to show that the process is feasible next year. Added bonus: LS9 does not have to kill its microbes to get the oil. They secrete it naturally and then can live to feed, digest and excrete more dollops of oil. It’s not out of guilt: re-using a microbe instead of cultivating a new generation cuts time and costs. Another added bonus: it is working with Procter and Gamble on green chemicals and Chevron on fuel.

Sapphire Energy: Sapphire eventually hopes to produce hydrocarbons from genetically modified algae grown in open ponds. Conceivably, it could be the cheapest and fastest technique for producing algae fuel. But it’s also fraught with complications. Growing algae in open ponds for fuel oil at the moment is expensive and complex, and keeping GMO strains from being out-competed by natural strains in the open is even more daunting. The company has raised $100 million plus from top flight VCs, including the firm that invests on behalf of Bill Gates. So stay tuned.

Solazyme: One of the oldest algae companies and the one that’s also the furthest along. Solazyme eschews growing algae in ponds or bioreactors through photosynthesis. Instead, it puts algae in beer brewing kettles, feeds them sugar and grows them that way. The sugar adds to the raw material costs, but Solazyme makes up that cost because it doesn’t have to extract the algae from water, one of the most vexing problems facing algae companies. Solazyme says it will be able to show that its processes can be exploited to produce competitively priced fuel from algae in about two years. It has produced thousands of gallons already and has a contract to produce 20,000 gallons of fuel to the Navy. And it is already selling algae for revenue to the food industry. Chevron is an investor.

Synthetic Genomics:  In July of last year, Synthetic Genomics announced a $300 million agreement with Exxon to research and develop next generation biofuels using photosynthetic algae. Synthetic Genomics’ dynamic founder, J. Craig Venter, was quoted as saying, “I came up with a notion to trick algae into pumping more lipids out.”  Venter is a man of action and vision and if anyone can make algae produce hydrocarbons directly — its him.  In addition to the $300 million from Exxon, Synthetic Genomics has received funding from Draper Fisher Juvetson, Meteor Group, Biotechonomy, BP, et al.

 

Batteries, Fuel Cells, Energy Storage

Bloom Energy: Ten years in the making — $400 million from Kleiner Perkins for this solid oxide fuel cell developer garnered them a stellar list of customers, a high-powered board and a hypetastic coming-out party on 60 Minutes.  Now they have to make the economics of fuel cells work. The Bloom Energy Server costs $700,000 now.

Deeya Energy: A few years ago, flow batteries were barely understood exotic pieces of equipment. Now at least five start-ups have received funding. Deeya was first. It has created a battery in which electrolyte flows in and out of the battery so it always stays charged. Utilities and cell phone carriers that need remote power will be the primary customers. Last year, it started shipping its first commercial products. The products cost around $4,000 a kilowatt (or about half what Bloom currently sells its products for) and hopes to bring down the price to $1,000.

EEStor:  This ultracapacitor aspirant makes the list by virtue of the hype and craziness that surrounds it.  Kleiner Perkins was an original investor but appears to have backed away from EEStor as corporate milestones and technological claims became less credible.  The firm is attempting to make material advances in ceramic powders used in high energy ultracapacitors. No revenue, no prototype, no customers but an obsessed cadre of fan-boy supporters.

General Compression. The cheapest form of energy storage remains compressed air, according to EPRI. To date, however, compressed air has relied upon finding geological formations where you can stuff thousands of cubic meters of air. General Compression, along with SustainX and Isentropic Energy, want to change that with mechanical systems. Both General, which recently raised $17 million, and Isentropic employ pressure and temperature differentials to store and generate heat. Duke is building a 2 megawatt trial facility for General.

 

Transportation

Coda Automotive: Later this year, Coda will attempt to market an all-electric, mid-priced sedan to American drivers. Car start-ups like Tesla and Fisker have initially aimed at the top end of the market, where price and volume are less important factors. Can Coda, and similarly situated BYD, do it? All the auto market will watch it closely. Coda and BYD also will represent China’s first major foray into the U.S. auto market. Coda’s car—which is based around a Chinese gas-burning car that’s been retrofitted by U.S. engineers– will be assembled in China and come with a battery made through a joint venture between Coda and Lishen. A Chinese bank has agreed to lend $450 million to the battery venture. Investors include Hank “Give me $800 billion, no questions asked” Paulson. BYD counts Warren Buffet as an investor.

Fisker Automotive: A luxury EV, but unlike the Tesla, the Fisker Karma is a plug-in hybrid, combining a battery and an ICE.  This firm is another Kleiner Perkins portfolio company and uses batteries from A123.  A123 was also an investor in their most recent $115 million funding round.  The car sells for $87,900 and already has more than 1,400 people on the waiting list. Hendrik Fisker is a noted car designer who has worked with, among others, Aston Martin.

Tesla Motors: The little EV company that might. Teslas has shipped about 1,000 units of their speedy Roadster model, opened up retail outlets in the U.S. and Europe, and just filed their S-1 which showed them raising $442 million in VC and reaching revenues of $93.3 million in the 9 months ending Sept 30, 2009.  The next step is building the all-electric sedan, with far more ambitious volume sales goals.

 

Other Energy — Wind, Nuclear, Cleaner Coal, Geothermal

Laurus Energy: Funded by MDV in an $8.5 million round and helmed by energy exec, Rebecca McDonald, Laurus extracts energy from coal in the form of syngas while it is still in the ground using UCG – underground coal gasification. Laurus then fractionalizes the syngas: carbon dioxide is separated and sent via a pipe to oil fields, where it is injected into other wells to help pull crude out of the ground. The rest of the gases — a combination of hydogen, methane and hydrocarbons — are then burnt in a gas-fueled power plant.  Power from coal is not going away — any disruptive technology that lowers the carbon footprint of coal and eliminates mountain top removal can be a new untapped piece of the energy mix.  It is currently working with a Native American tribe in Alaska to build a UCG vein with a power plant.

Nuscale:  NuScale’s modular nuclear reactor design could disruptively shift development away from the “cathedral model” of large-scale, over-budget, ten-year power nuclear power plant projects. Investor in NuScale and partner at CMEA, Maurice Gunderson suggests that small modular reactors are the “game-changer” in energy technology.  NuScale can manufacture modular reactors on a factory assembly line – and cut the time to develop a nuclear plant in half.   “Nuclear is necessary, doable, and the markets are gargantuan,” adds Gunderson.  Whether nuclear belongs on a greentech list always results in vigorous debate.

Nordic Wind Power: With funding from Khosla Ventures, NEA and Novus Energy Partners, they are the only wind turbine company in the U.S. to get a DOE loan guarantee — $16 million under the innovative renewable energy program.  Nordic also received “significant” funding from Goldman Sachs in 2007.  Their innovative 1-megawatt 2-blade turbine design challenges the traditional wind turbine design paradigm.

Potter Drilling: Geothermal provided 4.5 percent of California’s power in 2007 and advocates say that more power could be extracted, even in non-geothermal hot spots, from underneath the ground. The problem has been getting to it economically and safely. Potter, founded by oil industry alums, has come up with a way to drill that’s five times as fast and less costly. Google.org is one of its investors.

Ze-Gen: Ze-Gen dips organic landfill waste into molten iron and turns it into biogas. The architecture of the system eliminates many of the inefficiencies associated with biomass. It has a pilot plant and raised $20 million in a second round last year. The big challenge is in getting a production plant off the ground.

 

Water

Oasys: This water startup is built around research from Yale with $10 million in venture funds to see if its novel desalination technique, which exploits fundamental chemistry and waste heat, can go commercial.  The company claims its “forward osmosis” process can desalinate water for about half the cost of standard reverse osmosis desalination.

Miox:  The disruptive aspect of Miox’ business plan is distributed water purification instead of the current centralized model.  The company makes onsite water purification systems for gray water remediation and water recycling. Distributed water purification could, potentially, open up a flood of investment into water.  Miox’s trick is in making the process cost-effective. The company’s system can purify a given amount of liquid with a volume of salt that is one-fourth the amount of liquid chlorine that would be required.  Investors include Sierra Venutres, DCM, and Flywheel Ventures.

Purfresh: If you drink bottled water or eat bagged organic lettuce, you’ve encountered Purfresh. The company, backed by Foundation Capital, kills microbes with ozinated water. Growers use it to keep food fresh on the way to store shelves and bottlers use it to sterilize plastic. Orders go up every time an e coli outbreak occurs. Like Serious Materials, Purfresh is expanding from its base to become a full-service water and food company.

 

Green IT

Hara: Originally funded in 2008 by Silicon Valley heavyweight VC, Kleiner Perkins, Hara has been making good headway attacking the nascent carbon accounting and management software space. It’s still early days for this market but a very large base of enterprise companies are actively looking for software solutions that provide actionable information, metrics, recommendations and reporting regarding their carbon footprints. Hara has amassed an impressive list of customers to date, including Coca Cola, News Corp., Akamai, Intuit, Brocade and Safeway.

Sandforce: The company has created a chip that makes it possible for search companies, banks and other companies with large datacenters to swap out storage systems made out of hard drives with drives made of flash memory, which only use about 5 percent of the power. In real terms, that means dropping the power budget for storage systems from $50,000 for five years to $250. Storage giant EMC has invested.

 Source: GreenTech Media

 

 

Rational and risks involved in incorporating thermal storage with current CSP plants

Much effort is invested worldwide for developing storage for trough technology. The more advanced approach is based on phaze changes materials (which is called: PCM), since it enables higher density in the storage and minimal temperature losses between charge and discharge. The main problem is the low heat transfer (due to low thermal conductivity of the salts), and this affects directly the amount of power that could be extracted from the storage. Several research is being executed (mainly in Germany) for developing enhanced solutions, usually by enhancing the heat transfer between the salt and the heat transfer fluid (in the molten salt receiver/hot storage tank), reducing transient effects, optimization of the storage materials (for example, by using metal with graphite that has very high thermal conductivity – which can result up to 15% increase in conductivity, modifications in geometry, boundary conditions (e.g., addition of inflow and outflow, adding radiating surfaces or media) are being tested.  Parts of those solutions are technically feasible, although too expensive yet, e.g. the additional costs overweigh the benefits. One of the advanced approaches, that might have a chance to be cost effective, is based on adding metal surfaces into the salt zone, which may significantly improve the heat transfer to the salt by adding both radiative and convective areas, and also induce more mixing by producing faster flow and higher turbulence. Another alternative to these effects is to add particles that participate in radiation and supply convection area. The goal is to achieve an energy storage system with thermal efficiency of 90%, life time of 30 years and specific costs of: 30 USD/KWthermal capacity, and 1.5 US cent per KWHelectric. But, as far as I know, no system can achieve it yet. 

 Various storage systems incorporated with solar tower electricity generation systems were developed and the most advanced of them was installed and tested in California. This system, Solar Two, generated 10MW electricity using an eutectic molten nitrate salts mixture pumped and piped from a ground-based cold tank to a receiver mounted on the top of a tower. The hot salt from the receiver is then piped to a second, hot tank on the ground. In a secondary loop, the hot salt flows through a heat exchanger to generate steam and returns to the cold tank. The third loop includes the steam generator, which supplies steam to a steam turbine electricity generator. This plant was closed on 1999. Now Sener is trying to do something similar in Spain.

The most common storage technology in use (following the inefficient oil storage tanks solution that is being used at the SEGS plants in California) is the molten salt two-tank system, which provides a feasible storage capacity and is considered to have low to moderate associated risks. Molten salt that will be used for storage as such is bankable (as molten salt is being used for a long time in the chemical industry), but the integration of this kind of storage system to the solar system – is risky.  Concentrated solar thermal power plants have specific requirements for storage that are not well known in the chemical industry. For example: working under thermal cycling conditions; heating and cooling; temperature changing periodically; even design the hot and cold tanks is a challenge; Not to speak about the pipes and the heat exchangers. Another problem is freezing at night. But the main risk is that it is a big step from the existing technology in the chemical industry to that is required by the solar plants, especially in size – going up in scale, since in the chemical industry relatively small amounts of molten salts are being used.   On the other hand, storage contributes not only by increasing operation hours, but also enhancing the overall efficiency, as the plant is working more hours close to the design point. 

At Acciona’s Nevada parabolic trough plant there is no storage (only for about 30 minutes, which is achieved by the fluid that is in the pipes). On the other hand, at the parabolic trough plants of Andasol One & Two – FlagSol (Solar Millennium’s subsidiary) together with ACS/Cobra developed thermal storage based on molten salt. This system is being working for almost two years, probably with a lot of obstacles to deal with, like freezing issues (the freezing point of the chosen nitrates is probably 220ºC), corrosion, blocking, purity of the salt, problems with materials that are in contact with the salt, and a lot of integration and control issues. However, the operators (ACS/Cobra) are gaining much experience and claim to be able to overcome most obstacles. 

 Another risk related to incorporating storage is how much downtime (forced outage) will the plant experience. As a worth case scenario one has to assume up to 10 percent (36.5 days) down, although some plants have almost no downtime due to troubles with storage systems. Thermal storage allows project developers to maximize the value of the solar thermal facility’s output for time of use pricing verses the cost of producing that electricity. Designing a facility to sell the largest amount of output does not necessarily make that design the one with the best return on capital. Sometimes it is preferred, for example, to store all of the thermal energy produced in the morning instead of directing only part to the storage and part to produce electricity for immediate sale. The design point as well as operation strategies are of utmost importance especially when thermal storage is incorporated with the solar thermal plant. However, reducing drastically the capital cost of thermal storage is key to the commercial deployment of the technology.

 

 

Evaluating whether clean energy technological breakthroughs are realistic for achieving grid parity & how can we make it happen?

Key addressing on policy & implementation matters at the Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy conference Feb 2010 (*) as presented by Amnon Samid, Executive Chairman, the AGS group:

• Addressing the challenges of grid integration for renewables from the transmission perspective.

• Distributed energy generation as key to deploying advanced clean energy technologies.

• Adopting the grid to be able to integrate different unstable sources of energy, incorporate energy storage, distribution automation and distribution management systems and improving frequency stability of grids that incorporate remote clean energy sources.

• Applying smart grid vision globally – a global link which uses AC and DC transmissions.

• Is not it a shame wasting hundreds of millions during the last decade on subsidizing PV integrators, instead of investing these money in developing new technologies that will not require governmental incentives and replace all use of fossil fuel for electricity production and transportation?

• Presenting the ‘big picture’ beyond subsidies and feed-in tariffs – insight into the future of developing new technologies and evaluating whether technological breakthroughs are realistic for achieving grid parity and how we can make it happen (Manhattan-like clean energy projects).

Samid also encouraged Lenders to take the risks in financing renewable energy projects that are based on new technologies, which are not defined yet as “bankable”, while presenting the main risk factors and mitigation required:

 • Technology, which should be mitigated by proven design or tested Equipment (especially when it’s not a proven technology). • Suppliers, which should be mitigated by their references, track record, experience and financial strength and warrantees.

• EPC, which could be mitigated by performance guarantee and ongoing measurements of performance & degradation.

• Developers, especially their credibility, track record and risk profile.

• O&M, which should be mitigated by track record of the contractor, warranties for availability, performance guarantees & degradation, spare parts management and O&M budget.

• Operation strategy & Performance model for the lifetime of the project.

• Financial model, which should include exposure to risks involved in fluctuations in Interest rates, currencies rates, seasonal factors etc., while especially it’s important to make sure that low probability scenarios will still result in sufficient revenues to repay the loan.

 • Solar resources, especially the basis and accuracy of historic irradiation data and assessment of future irradiation data.

• Infrastructure, Permits and Licenses, including space constrains, access roads, availability of fossil fuels, water availability, flood protection, transmission facilities, geotechnical & environmental assessments.

• Revenue which is controlled by all the above and the Power Purchase Agreement [PPA].

 —–

(*) The conference brought together major leaders on clean & renewable energy — technology experts, academic researchers, regulators, policy makers, consumers, financial experts, industry leaders, utilities, start-up companies along with influences from the US, Europe & Africa.

• Amnon Samid was moderating a panel with key decision makers analyzing the current situation of clean & renewable energy industry in Israel

Will SolarReserve defeat its competition?

“The brainchild of rocket scientists and a private equity group specialized in renewable energies, SolarReserve, the solar energy development company, is primed to be a winner in the concentrated solar power sector.

United Technology subsidiary, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, has combined its liquid rocket engine heat transfer technology and molten salt handling expertise to develop a unique tower receiver technology with thermal storage capabilities – for which SolarReserve is the exclusive license holder.

Another key ingredient is SolarReserve’s founding partner – the US Renewables Group, a US$575 million private equity firm exclusively focused on renewable power and clean fuel projects.

And finally: the team.  SolarReserve’s blend of professionals from the energy, technology and finance industries are proving to be a knockout combination.” [Source: CSP TODAY].

Competition:

 Parabolic troughs, which have been in operation since the mid-1980′s, are currently the most commercial technology and hence the main competitor for any solar thermal technology. Parabolic trough plants have proven a maximum efficiency of 21% (with an average of 12% to 15%) for the conversion of direct solar radiation into grid electricity. While the plants in California uses synthetic oil as heat transfer fluid in the collectors, efforts to achieve direct steam generation within the absorber tubes in order to reduce costs further did not achieve a viable system so far.

 Another option is the approximation of the parabolic trough by segmented mirrors according to the principle of Fresnel. Although this will reduce efficiency, it shows a considerable potential for cost reduction. The close arrangement of the mirrors requires less land and provides a partially shaded, useful space below.

 Despite improvements in performance of the parabolic troughs new generations, the cost of electricity with solar only is relatively high.  Hence lower limit of costs (through Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) or competition) will not enable this technology to be competitive for the long run. For larger scale power generation, Central receivers, which utilize a collection of heliostats – mirrors which track the sun and concentrate the radiation onto a central receiver located at the top of a tower – hold out a huge potential for lower costs. Concentrating the sunlight enables heating a heat transfer fluid up to 1200ºC and higher. Today, molten salt or air or water is used to absorb the heat in the receiver. The heat may be used for steam generation or making use of the full potential of this high-temperature technology – to drive gas turbines. For gas turbine operation, the air to be heated must pass through a pressurized solar receiver with a solar window. Combined cycle power plants (like Aora’s) require about 30% less collector area than equivalent steam cycle.

 Another option is based on Parabolic Dish, which are relatively small concentrators that have a motor-generator or a turbo-generator in the focal point of the reflector. This generator may be based on Stirling engine or a gas turbine. Because of their size, they are particularly suited for decentralized electricity supply and remote stand alone systems. Dishes up to 400m² have been built and other even larger are being currently designed. Although significant progress has been made on most major components including the high performance dish, it is too early to determine whether the promises of developing a simple, low cost and very reliable engine will be realized by new designs. Moreover, this technology is inherently nondispatchable without storage or fuel backup, so can not reach utility’s dispatch requirements. 

 

 

“Making the Impossible Possible – Finding Alternatives to Fossil Fuels”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech at the 2009 President’s Conference Jerusalem, 20 October 2009

 Translation from Hebrew

This Conference is an opportunity to think about how to make the impossible possible. How do we transform a dream into reality, a crisis into an opportunity? ……Therefore, tonight I would like to talk to you about one of the more significant matters on the global agenda: eliminating the world’s dependence on fossil fuels, particularly oil. We all know the simple truth: dependence on oil endangers the world. It is a threat to our security, our economy and the environment. Our security, because dependence on fossil fuels strengthens the dark regimes that encourage instability and fund terror with their petrodollars. Our economy, because if we don’t develop alternative energy sources, the demand for fossil fuels will increase and the supply will decrease. This will lead to an increase in prices, which in turn will adversely affect global economic development in countries that import fossil fuels – which is the majority of countries. This will cause serious economic harm. Environmentally, because the pollution from fossil fuels poisons the air that we breathe, the water that we drink and the food that we eat. Our dependence on oil harms us and the earth every day, and has done so for decades. To counteract all this, we must set a goal: we must free ourselves from our dependence on oil. I know it seems impossible, but believe me – it is possible. Sometimes all it takes is one or two inventions to make a breakthrough and change the world. Look at salt during the 19th century. Until the beginning of the 20th century, salt was a luxury item used to preserve food. Caravans of camels carried salt through the Sahara Desert, and the salt was traded for gold. Entire empires became rich trading salt, because of the world’s dependence on salt. But two inventions were made. The first was the canning process and the second was refrigeration, and all at once the world’s huge dependence on salt was eliminated. As a result, the salt empires crashed almost overnight. Is Israel the country that will discover the breakthrough that will free the world of its dependence on fossil fuels? I believe so because Israel has two significant resources that provide us with a good chance of doing so. • We have the minds and the hearts. • The capability, the will. Israel is very advanced in the technological fields – agro-tech, hi-tech, nanotechnology, solar energy, battery technologies and renewable energies. Naturally, we are leading candidates to create a global revolution in the clean energy field because of this capacity. Here is the essence of what I’m saying. It’s possible to change the world. The greatest changes in man’s history occurred when there was not only a technological change, but a conceptual change. For many generations, hundreds of thousands of years, man was a hunter-gather. He went to seek out food. He had to go great distances, chase animals to get the protein he needed, or to look for berries or fruit to gather so he’d have the nutrients that were needed for life. These nomadic hunter-gatherer patterns changed one day, because man realized that the food was right underneath his feet. And that was the day that agriculture was born. We are hunter-gatherers for energy. We go to the depths of the oceans. We seek energy from the bowels of the Earth and distant lands. But the energy is right under our noses. It’s all around us. It’s bountiful. It’s in the sun. It’s in the wind. It’s in the water. We just have to tap it.

I think we have the capacity to develop this. Our Nobel Prize winners were mentioned – yes, we have per capita more Nobel Prize winners than any other country, than any other people. We have the second largest concentration of technological capacity; in terms of venture capital, the highest per capita by far. We have scientific publications and we have patents in abundance. So we have the capacity, including in these areas – the development of energy from hydrogen, from water, the development of solar energy and other energies. We have the brains, but we also have the will. Because think what this will mean for our national security. Think of what it would mean for our future if the world ended its dependence on fossil fuels, and especially on oil. By changing this dependence, we can change the world. I don’t know which technology will triumph. Yesterday, Ray Kurzweil, who hasn’t changed a bit in 35 years – I remember you from MIT, Ray – you gave us a course on entrepreneurship and you proceeded to be an entrepreneur, like Shimon Peres, in your own great scientific capacities. Yesterday you said that the efficiency of solar energy doubles every two years. You said that we live in a very brief generation that will develop the energy of the proximate future. If that’s the case, then we’re in good shape. But I say let’s make it happen faster. If we have placed a man on the moon, surely we can harness the energy of the sun.

 What I propose to do today is to establish a nation commission of scientists, engineers, business and government people to set a goal that within ten years, we’ll have a practical, clean, efficient substitute for oil. I think it’s possible. I think we can make the impossible possible. Ladies and Gentlemen, I have never been accused of being a disciple of government intervention. However, sometimes the private market simply cannot create the critical mass of activities needed to make such a big change. Sometimes it needs a push and support from the government. Finding an alternative to oil is a critical matter for the State of Israel must deal with – with regard to geopolitics, security concerns, environmental concerns, to secure the future and to change the world’s order of priorities. Therefore, I repeat my announcement that I am going to establish a national commission comprised of scientists, manufacturers, engineers, businesspeople and government officials, with the goal of formulating a practical plan for efficient development in technologies and engineering in order to replace fossil fuels within the decade. I ask the minds and talents who are here, and around the world, to help.

It is not in our interest alone. The resources need not be exclusively Israel’s. Most of the world shares this interest. But Israel has a strong and clear interest in achieving this. “For out of Zion will come Torah”: We are commanded to bring a new light to the world. God willing, with your help and the help of many others around the world, we will make the impossible possible. Thank you.

About

About

The goal of  this blog is to establish an alternative energy forum that will be a meeting place for a spectrum of opinions from a wide range of relevant experts. Policymakers, market analysts, energy experts and anyone interested in understanding and following trends in the energy business should contribute to this blog and find it extremely useful.

The rapid pace of change in the energy market means that documented forecasts are becoming outdated very quickly, hence there is a need for an efficient, convenient place where experts could analyze and discuss new issues affecting the energy industry and present their updated thoughts and forecasts that goes beyond the traditional short-term market analysis.

This blog is an “energy-global-center” that will deal with a broad range of energy issues. From strategic issues, like the following:

– To evaluate what role will OPEC play in global oil production 5 or 10 years from now?

– Everyone is aware of the need to replace the consumption of oil. But no government is really doing anything meaningful about it. Why?

Are they afraid from the global oil companies? Don’t they have the resources? Don’t they know where to put the main efforts?

Through technological issues, like:

– Sorting out energy alternatives candidates to replace or at least mitigate consumption of oil, and mapping all serious oil-alternative with respect to their distance from service maturity.

– To estimate when oil production will peak. If we hit the peak quite soon, as some very credible experts claim, then Hydrogen and other early-stage technologies are too far off to make it on time.  If peak-oil is two or three decades away then we do have time for embryonic technologies.

– To ask a wide range of experts to express their opinion on the chances that a specific scenario to develop a specific solution with specific resources (time table etc.) – will be fulfilled. To evaluate when and where specific alternative energy technology could become profitable.

– To deal with specific technological issues, like: materials for energy conversion, energy storage, lightweight materials, clean combustion, alternative fuels, wind, solar, power distribution and transport. Will biofuels become an important part of the energy market? Etc.

2 responses to “About

  1. I’m writing from KQED Public Broadcasting in San Francisco – We recently did a radio story on The Geysers geothermal field in Sonoma County for QUEST – our multimedia series on environment, science and nature.

    We thought your readers might find this story to be a good background resource on geothermal energy – it’s posted in its entirely online.

    Listen to Geothermal Heats Up:
    http://www.kqed.org/quest/radio/view/641

    Thanks, and let me know if you have any questions.

    -Janelle Marker
    Content Intern, Quest
    KQED, Northern California Public Broadcasting
    2601 Mariposa Street
    San Francisco, CA 94110
    E: jmarker@kqed.org
    Web: http://www.kqed.org/quest

  2. Nice work, Amnon,
    Another great source of energy and climate change info is:
    http://www.setenergy.org

    Our daily blog keeps track of major developments in the US and beyond as our world moves forward in a sustainable energy transition.

    Onwards,
    Dennis

Smart transportation

Smart transportation

People on the move don’t wish to be slowed down to pay for gas or electric charge, to pay for toll, for parking, for public transportation, for personal transportation (cabs, Uber), and… to pay fines for cutting through red light, speeding, tailgating, etc. Well, payment technology is stepping up to soon enable smooth, seamless all type transportation
payment.

Stay tuned – we’ll soon present here the Only Viable Payment Solution for the emerging future of Quick, Short, Frequent, Automatic Charging of Electrical Vehicles.

Pay&Save: ElectricityUseGuard™

Pay&Save: ElectricityUseGuard™

Innovative Home Energy Behavioral Management
Enabling dynamic pricing and consumption tracking without investing in expensive smart meters.
* The vision: Building an eco-system of users of green-electricity
* Benefits to consumers: Cut electricity bill
* Benefits to Utilities: Enhance cash flow, boost revenue and loyalty.

Presented at the PowerGen Europe, Germany, June 2014   utility@BitMint.com                                      http://www.BitMint-utility.com

Abstract:
The challenge of finding a balance between utilities, nations and consumers interests as well as between incorporating clean but low cost renewable energy sources without jeopardizing utilities cash flow and financial stability has become ever more acute for the global power sector in general and the European in particular in recent years. Only lately, are the costs and security, privacy and health implications of smart grid/metering becoming apparent.
We have to do everything in our power to deal with these critical issues, as fast as we can. The good news is that we have been working hard over the past years to put the pieces in place, so we aren’t starting from scratch. The digital landscape is creating new opportunities. Money digitization algorithms as well as digitizing KwH streams stands to revolutionize payments, governance, environmental and economic fortunes of individuals, utilities and nations. How – remains to be seen, but now is the time to lay down scenarios. Here is one.
Our challenge is to find a solution that could be implemented in a wide variety of properties. As the grid becomes more integrated, the need for a frictionless framework for stable electricity supply from different sources, centralized and de-centralized, fossil and renewable, as well as effectively encouraging savings during peak hours, is more acute. It seems that money has the ‘power’ to control our – individuals as well as utilities/governments – behavior. The digitized Green Electricity Initiative protocol, to be presented here, will demonstrate these capabilities and will open new dimensions. By properly tethering the digitized electricity money conditional use and redemption, the same protocol will enable utilities to have better control on their cash flow, while consumers will get immediate reward per ‘good behavior’ [e.g. reducing peak demand, self-production of clean energy] and retailers that join the Green Electricity Initiative will gain reduced financing costs. The number of joining utilities, retailers and individuals is projected to grow exponentially, provided that a robust technology is in place to provide products and services, which are deemed essential to the enrichment of the user’s life experience, security, privacy and cash flow, day by day.

For the entire article go to the proceedings of PowerGen Europe 2014.

For collaboration inquires write to: utility@bitmint.com

What a shame: again neglecting innovation for quich return of investment

What a shame: again neglecting innovation for quich return of investment

California Gives Go-Ahead to Blythe Solar Plan

Renewable Energy World Editors
ינואר 16, 2014  |  0 Comments

New Hampshire, USA — The California Energy Commission (CEC), following the recommendation of its own staff, has approved the proposed shift of NextEra’s Blythe Solar Power Project from concentrated solar power (CSP) to solar photovoltaic (CPV).

Blythe originally was proposed in 2010 as a 1-GW CSP project (parabolic trough), backed by a $2.1 billion DoE loan guarantee. Then-project owner Solar Millennium decided to switch to PV technology in 2011, part of an industry-wide shift away from utility-scale CSP as PV prices plummeted and CSP’s economics became less attractive. Last spring Blythe’s new owner NextEra submitted a revised plan that would shrink Blythe by more than half to 485 MW of solar PV.

In mid-December the CEC internally recommended that the Blythe project be approved as a 485-MW solar PV, believing that potential “cumulatively significant” environmental impacts would be outweighed by its benefits, including its contribution to the state’s Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) and economic and jobs benefits.

And so yesterday the CEC voted unanimously 5-0 to approve the Blythe project. Construction is projected to take about four years and cost $1.13 billion.

Paired with the CEC’s staff recommendation in December about Blythe was with a less-favorable opinion of another proposed utility-scale solar project, the 500-MW Palen Solar Electric Generating System with two solar thermal power towers, also originally designed by Solar Millennium and now owned by BrightSource and Abengoa, which would take nearly three years to build at a cost of roughly $2 billion. CEC staff’s concerns include “significant environmental impacts” even with recommended mitigation measures, from “solar flux” (essentially cooking birds in mid-flight as they pass through the solar-reflecting field) to whether the mirrors might appear as a body of water and attract overhead birds down into collisions.

The CEC originally was supposed to rule issue a final vote on Palen earlier this month, but BrightSource and Abengoa, which already revised and scaled back the Palen plan to address various concerns from reducing land and water usage to eliminating an extra transmission line, asked for a delay until later this spring to conduct further assessments, so the CEC’s scheduled Jan. 7 meeting became a discussion of further input from the CEC, stakeholders, and other interested parties.

Lead image: Thumbs up, via Shutterstock

Source: www.renewableenergyworld.com

What Is the Best Solar Power Plant Technology to Cut Land Costs?

What Is the Best Solar Power Plant Technology to Cut Land Costs?

CSP costs more, but PV developers pay more for real estate.

Herman K. Trabish: August 8, 2013

As the price of photovoltaic solar levels out and the value of concentrating solar power’s storage improves, it is possible that the price of land could become a decisive factor in a solar project’s overall energy costs. A new land-use analysis demonstrates the choice of technology could be crucial. 

Researchers at NREL drew on acreage data from 72 percent of the 6.7 gigawatts of operating and under-construction photovoltaic and concentrating solar power solar capacity in 3Q 2012. The list of projects surveyed include those from major PV developers First Solar (FSLR) and SunPower (SPWR) as well as major CSP developers BrightSource Energy, SolarReserve and Abengoa.

The research team that produced the report Land-Use Requirements for Solar Power Plants in the United States used two land-use measurements. The total area was taken as the typically fenced offsite boundaries on blueprints. The direct-impact area was smaller. It included only the land on which there were solar arrays, access roads, substations, service buildings, and other infrastructure.  

The most efficient total land use was the 2.8 acres per gigawatt-hour per year associated with two-axis CPV installations of more than 20 megawatts. The least efficient use of land was the 5.5 acres per gigawatt-hour per year associated with two-axis flat-panel PV projects of less than 20 megawatts.

The most efficient direct land use was the 1.5 acres per gigawatt-hour per year for dish Stirling CSP technology. The least efficient was, again, two-axis flat-panel PV projects of less than 20 megawatts, with 4.1 acres per gigawatt-hour per year.

The caveat — and it is important — is that only one dish Stirling project, from Tessera Solar, was analyzed. And only six CPV installations, including those from Tenaska and Cogentrix, were analyzed. Four of the CPV projects were less than 20 megawatts and only two were over 20 megawatts. Other relevant findings in the analysis included:

  • Nine tower projects analyzed for direct land use came in at 2.8 acres per gigawatt-hour per year and seven parabolic trough CSP projects used 2.5 acres per gigawatt-hour per year, both better than the 43 smaller fixed PV projects’ 3.2 acres per gigawatt-hour per year and the 41 smaller single-axis 2.9 acres per gigawatt-hour per year.
  • Fourteen tower projects analyzed for total land use came in at 3.2 acres per gigawatt-hour per year and eight parabolic trough projects used 3.9 acres per gigawatt-hour per year. The 52 smaller fixed PV projects used 4.4 acres per gigawatt-hour per year and 55 smaller single-axis PV projects used 3.8 acres per gigawatt-hour per year.

Larger PV projects, though currently falling out of favor with utility-scale solar developers and financiers, showed improved direct and total land use.

  • Seven 20-megawatt-plus fixed and seven single-axis PV projects were analyzed. Fixed came in at 2.8 acres per gigawatt-hour per year in direct land use and single axis used 3.5 acres per gigawatt-hour per year.
  • Fourteen 20-megawatt-plus fixed PV projects used 3.7 acres per gigawatt-hour per year in total land and sixteen 20-megawatt-plus single-axis projects used 3.3 acres per gigawatt-hour per year.

The smart use of infrastructure in PV projects had more to do with efficient land use than module efficiency, according to lead researcher Sean Ong.

The value of the numbers and conclusions, the study acknowledged, was limited by relatively small sample sizes, and the best quality data was not always available for analysis. Often, the researchers could not get data from developers and were forced to use third-party sources.

Also, over 26 gigawatts of utility-scale PV and CSP projects were in development in February 2013. “Owing to the rapid evolution of solar technologies, as well as land-use practices and regulations,” the NREL study noted, “the results reported here reflect past performance and not necessarily future trends.

Source: GreenTechSolar.

2 responses to “What Is the Best Solar Power Plant Technology to Cut Land Costs?

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BitMint-Utility is offering much higher benefits than costs for average households – unlike conventional smart meters.

BitMint-Utility is offering much higher benefits than costs for average households – unlike conventional smart meters.

GreenTechMedia – Magdalena Klemun: August 2, 2013:

Smart Meters, Sluggish Policy? Germany Rejects Fast Smart Meter Rollout

Costs for smart meters exceed benefits for low-power consumers, study finds.

It’s a bitter pill for German smart meter manufacturers, but the news is easier to swallow for the country’s utility ratepayers: the German Ministry of Economics announced it will not follow EU recommendations to install smart meters for 80 percent of consumers by 2022.

The ministry reviewed a cost-benefit analysis by Ernst & Young and is concerned that the lion’s share of the costs could fall to households, while the bulk of benefit could go to industrial consumers with larger opportunities to reduce power consumption and leverage load shifting.

Ernst & Young’s study found higher costs than benefits for average households. If only customers that received a meter paid for them, it would cost €89 ($118) per household per year to cover device and installation costs, which is more than the expected monetary benefits. If costs are distributed among all consumers right from the start of the rollout, including customers that do not install a smart meter, the cost would drop to €29 ($38). The analysis extends until 2032, with AMI rollout assumed to begin in 2014.

Depending on local network topology and demand patterns, smart meters can have a larger or smaller impact on mitigating the need for expensive capacity additions.  Ernst & Young’s analysis included the network benefits of demand reductions and load shifting, but authors said these factors were modeled conservatively, due to considerable uncertainties. 

“The results show that we have to increase smart meter deployment in a systematic manner, and therefore in line with Germany’s energy switch policy,” Stefan Kapferer, under-secretary of state in the Ministry of Economics, said in a statement, referring to the country’s ongoing transition away from nuclear power. “Lump-sum approaches are inappropriate for the current situation.”

What appears to be a step away from EU policy goals is actually in line with them, at least in the short run. The 2009 EU directive gives leeway to member states as to how and when they reach the 80 percent smart meter deployment objective, including — in fact, recommending — that countries review regional markets and, if necessary, work out individual plans.

So Germany did just that, at least the reviewing part. But there is still the discrepancy between Germany’s ambitious renewable energy goals and the lack of a concise smart meter strategy.

The Ministry for the Environment’s “Energiekonzept 2050” includes 60 percent of energy consumption from renewable sources by 2050, and renewables providing 80 percent of electricity generation. Given the growth of distributed PV and wind generation, more metering will be needed at both the generation and consumption sides of the grid.  

Following the reform of Germany’s Renewable Energy Act in 2011, large-scale consumers are now obliged to install smart metering devices. This includes new buildings and those undergoing major renovations, as well as consumers with an annual consumption of more than 6000 kilowatt-hours, about 50 percent above average annual household consumption. Part of the story behind Germany’s delay in smart meter deployment is the special emphasis on data security and interoperability. A technical directive covering data security has recently been completed and is considered an important steppingstone.

Instead of changing direction, Ernst & Young recommends extending metering requirements to older and lower capacity generators. Up until now, only those with an installed capacity of more than 7 kilowatts and connected after the year 2011 were required to install smart metering devices.

For vendors, the recommendation to extend metering requirements offers a ray of hope. It does not promise the mass market of households, but it adds a sense of direction to a hitherto ambiguous mix of regulatory perspectives. Nevertheless, the vast number of Distribution System Operators (DSOs) in Germany complicates the situation. Over 900 different DSOs across the country have had very different ideas on PV plant requirements in the past. Without regulation, history could repeat itself for metering installations.

Overall, the decision comes at a tumultuous time regarding the EU’s view of Germany’s energy policy. The European Commission repeatedly criticized Germany’s Renewable Energy Law for providing loopholes for energy-intensive industries. Many are exempt from network fees and receive discounts on the heavily discussed renewables surcharge, which households do have to pay.

The German magazine Der Spiegel reported interventions by German government officials in Brussels to prevent proceedings before September, when Germany holds parliamentary elections. Reacting to EU pressure this week, the government decided to abandon network fee exemptions for industrial customers, leaving the discussion on the renewables surcharge until after the elections.

Cutting household Energy Use is Essential and is Possible

Cutting household Energy Use is Essential and is Possible

About 4 years ago, I was an official representative in the UN committee of Science and Technology in Geneva, and was exposed to the need that was expressed by ALL participants following my long and detailed lecture, to fulfill the vision of bootstrapping poorly developed zones by offering micro-credit, and basic banking services centered around the cellphone (78% of humanity have a cell phone!).

 I’ll not bother you with details now, but we – on our own resources – picked up the gauntlet and developed very innovative technologies that can push the world towards a rare evolutionary step in the history of money — digitization: a string of bits (ones and zeroes) is engineered to carry value and assume identity, and in that form flow, move, store, and accumulate: securely, seamlessly, discreetly and fast.  Allowing payment, banking, investment and the global economic activity to be redefined, re-engineered, and revamped. The global village is finally about to become not just global, but a village where anyone anywhere can trade, buy, pay, invest. Not account-based, like today, but eCash-based, appropriate for our modern eLife.  New creative forces unleashed, new vistas opening.

 Moreover – we have invented and developed the Tethered money – Money that could be tied to a use purpose à this is a real breakthrough! One of the most vital application is: charitable help or social support can take the form of providing the needy with ‘digital money containers’ that are only good for paying for electricity or water or for food. These restrictive conditions can be further applied to insure that these digital bits are only good to serve a home at the given address. Of course, such charitable contributions cannot be abused by the recipient for buying vanity items. This social aspect is very important everywhere.

 In the same UN committee it was suggested that pay-as-you-go models, based on a simple user friendly prepaid platform may expand affordable clean energy access in rural areas. Greater access to electricity in rural areas will enable children to study beyond sunset, replace smoky fuels such as kerosene with clean solar energy, improve respiratory health of household members and improve overall productivity of rural households. Rural customers of pay-as-you-go solutions, pay a small initial down payment for a high quality solar home system and then pay in REAL TIME for their energy service, topping up their systems in small user-defined increments using a mobile phone. Each payment adds towards their final purchase price. Once fully paid, the system unlocks permanently and continuous to produce electricity.

 BitMint-Utility technology is dealing with ALL the above.

 Moreover, it could also be offered to solar micro-grid developers as an extremely flexible prepaid metering, customer and revenue management solutions.

 However, much attention is paid lately to designing smart cities, including effective and efficient use of electricity, gas and water. Home Energy Behavioral Management is the latest buzz word in that respect refers to – Real time incentive-based demand response providing the most effective & speedy savings [peak load reduction] & real time payback per self production. The ONLY known possible way to offer Real time Cash remuneration for immediate use against energy saving or electricity self production – is based on our unique technologies.

 Cutting Energy Use in Homes is Essential and should be Possible during peak hours, shedding load to avoid summer afternoon and winter evening blackouts.

 However, experts say [e.g. Katherine Tweed, August 23, 2012,  Green-Tech Enterprise]  that ‘the smarter grid,  a more efficient, reliable electricity delivery system,  a connected world where our homes and offices can talk to the grid in real time are promises that CANNOT  shedding load to avoid blackouts,  if historic energy use in homes is any indication’. From 1978 to 2005, energy use in homes is essentially a flat line. There have been incredible efficiency gains, primarily in home heating and cooling, but that has been offset by bigger homes and more stuff that needs to be plugged in.

In a paper recently published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration at an event hosted by the “American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy“, the authors question whether meaningful energy reductions can actually be achieved in the U.S. housing stock. [BitMint-Utility answer – is definitely – YES].

We are currently involved in developing the BitMint-Utility Payment Solution for Real Time Incentive based Demand response for utility payments that will change the way customers are managing and paying for electricity/water/gas they use – at home, retailers, industry as well as unique solution for pay-as-you-go for charging electric car batteries. It will offer more efficient, lower cost and more environmentally sound energy usage and management, as Real time incentive-based demand response provides the most effective & speedy savings [peak load reduction] & real time payback per self production of electricity from renewable sources.

 for more informaton you can contact: utility@bitmint.com

Energy Access for World’s Poor should NOT be dependent on cell phone companies

Energy Access for World’s Poor should NOT be dependent on cell phone companies

 The assumptions in the below are right; the goal is vital; however, a solution that is based on paying for “air-time” to the cell phone companies, cannot be viable! Pay-per-use and direct transfer of digital money is essential!

Is there a technology to back such a business model? – Indeed! The technology exist! Ask about Pay-4-Use Solar Money based on the most innovative and most distructive platform for digital currency www.bitmint.com

————-Solar Power Off the Grid:
Energy Access for World’s Poor

More than a billion people worldwide lack access to electricity. The best way to bring it to them — while reducing greenhouse gas emissions — is to launch a global initiative to provide solar panels and other forms of distributed renewable power to poor villages and neighborhoods. 

by karl pope* 

After the Durban talks last month, climate realists must face the reality that “shared sacrifice,” however necessary eventually, has proven a catastrophically bad starting point for global collaboration. Nations have already spent decades debating who was going to give up how much first in exchange for what. So we need to seek opportunities — arenas where there are advantages, not penalties, for those who first take action — both to achieve first-round emission reductions and to build trust and cooperation.

One of the major opportunities lies in providing energy access for the more than 1.2 billion people who don’t have electricity, most of whom, in business-as-usual scenarios, still won’t have it in 2030. These are the poorest people on the planet. Ironically, the world’s poorest can best afford the most sophisticated lighting — off-grid combinations of solar panels, power electronics, and LED lights. And this creates an opportunity for which the economics are compelling, the moral urgency profound, the development benefits enormous, and the potential leverage game changing.
Falling Price of Solar

As the accompanying graphs show, the cost of coal and copper — the ingredients of conventional grid power — are soaring. Meanwhile, the cost of solar panels and LEDs, the ingredients of distributed renewable power, are racing down even faster.

If we want the poor to benefit from electricity we cannot wait for the grid, and we cannot rely on fossil fuels. The International Energy Agency, historically a grid-centric, establishment voice, admits that half of those without electricity today will never be wired. The government of India estimates that two-thirds of its non-electrified households need distributed power.

Fortunately, the historic barriers to getting distributed renewable power to scale in poor villages and neighborhoods are rapidly being dismantled by progress in technology, finance, and business models. Getting 1.2 billion people local solar power they can afford is within grasp — if we only think about the problem in a different way. In fact, the world can finish this job by 2020.

The poor already pay for light. They pay for kerosene and candles. And they pay a lot. The poorest fifth of the world pays one-fifth of the world’s lighting bill — but receives only .1 percent of the lighting benefits. Over a decade, the average poor family spends $1,800 on energy expenditures. Replacing kerosene with a vastly superior 40 Wp (Watts peak) home solar system would cost only $300 and provide them not only light, but access to cell-phone charging, fans, computers, and even televisions.

Kerosene costs 25 to 30 percent of a family’s income — globally that amounts to $36 billion a year. The poor do not use kerosene because it is
Kerosene often costs 25 to 30 percent of a family’s income. Yet the poor must rely on this expensive, dirty fuel.
cheap — they are kept poor in significant part because they must rely on expensive, dirty kerosene.

And the poor pay in other ways. A room lit by kerosene typically can have concentrations of pollution 10 times safe levels. About 1.5 million people, mostly women, die of this pollution every year, in addition to those who die from burns in fires.

So why do the poor use kerosene? Because they can buy a single day’s worth in a bottle, if that is all they can afford. For the poor, affordability has three dimensions: total cost, up-front price, and payment flexibility. Solar power comes in a panel that will give ten, or even 20, years of light and power — but the poor cannot afford a ten-year investment up front. And many cannot handle conventional finance plans, which require fixed payments regardless of their income that month.

Nor, for the record, do the electrified middle class pay for electricity up front. When I moved into my house in San Francisco, I did not get a bill for my share of the power plants and transmission grid that give me power each month. I pay as I go, based on how many kwh’s I use that month.

So lighting the lives of 1.2 billion people with off-grid renewable electricity requires three ingredients:
• Capital to pay for solar or other renewable electrical generation for 400 million households that depend on kerosene;
• Business models for those households to pay for the electricity they use, at the price it really costs, which is a lot less than kerosene;
• Financing, public policy, and partnerships to create the supply chains and distribution networks capable of getting distributed electrical systems to every household that needs them. (These needs might require $6 billion in credits and loan guarantees.)

The money is on the table. It’s just on the wrong plates. Purchase and finance of solar power for 1.2 billion people would cost about $10 billion a year over a decade. The 11 countries with the largest number of households without electricity spent $80 billion each year subsidizing fossil fuel — only 17 percent of which benefits the poor. In 2010, the World Bank spent $8 billion on coal-fired power plants, few of which provided meaningful energy access to the poor. The UN’s Clean Development Mechanism is proposing to give $4 billion a year to anything-but-clean coal-plants. So there is already far more capital in the system than is needed.

Even five years ago the business models did not exist to enable the poor to afford solar. Solar was much more expensive. The only alternative to buying a solar system with cash was a bank or micro-credit loan for which most of the poor could not qualify.

But the combination of dirt-cheap solar, the cell-phone revolution, and mobile phone banking has changed everything. There are almost 600 million cell-phone customers without electricity — using their phones very
Cell phone companies have a powerful motivation to get renewable power into rural areas.
little, still spending $10 billion to charge them in town. There are hundreds of thousands of rural, off-grid cell towers powered by diesel — at a price of about $0.70/kilowatt hour. All over the world cell-phone towers are being converted from diesel to hybrid renewable power sources. So cell phone companies have a powerful motivation to get renewable power into rural areas, to get electricity to their customers, and to charge for electricity through their mobile phone payment systems.

At least three commercial models have been launched in the last several months. India’s Simpa Networks — in partnership with SELCO in India and DT-Power in Ghana, India and Kenya — are testing models in which solar distributors can allow customers to pay for electricity through mobile banking “pay as you go” plans. Zimbabwe’s Econet Power has launched an even more intriguing model, in which it provides its cell-phone customers with solar power as a customer benefit, charging them only $1 week to use a home solar system provided by Econet, with the bills tied to the customer’s cell phone account.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has proclaimed 2012 the Year of Universal Energy Access. His initiative is keyed not to the UN climate talks, but to the Rio +20 Earth Summit talks scheduled for June.

Imagine that at Rio, instead of embracing business-as-usual solutions to energy access, the world decided to empower the poor with the electricity they can truly afford — distributed solar?

What would the benefits be? In carbon terms alone, kerosene for lighting emits almost as much greenhouse-gas pollution as the entire British economy. 1.5 million lives a year would be saved from respiratory ailments. The available income for the world’s poorest fifth would be increased by 25 to 30 percent — a pretty big development bang-for-the-buck. Numerous studies have shown that providing basic energy access increases household income by 50 percent or more by providing more time and opportunities for home-based income generation.
But the leverage is actually much greater. If one-fifth of the world is on solar, as these people prosper and can afford more electricity, they are going to expand solar systems, rather than turning to coal or nuclear. Their neighbors include the one-third of humanity with “spasmodic” electricity — wires that in rural areas work only at night, and in urban areas go down in the afternoon. These customers would find distributed solar far more reliable than the current grid. If we add those 2 billion to the 1.2 billion who are not on the grid, virtually half of humanity could be turning to renewable power as the cheapest, most reliable and most available form of energy. The fossil fuel interests would lose completely their current moral argument — that more carbon will power the poor.

That, I would argue is a phenomenal game-changer — and a powerful first step in building a trusting, low-carbon coalition of rich and poor nations. And that coalition could lay the groundwork for the more challenging global efforts that will be needed to stabilize and eventually restore the climate.

POSTED ON 04 JAN 2012 IN

*ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Carl Pope, chairman and former executive director of the Sierra Club, has served on the boards for the National Clean Air Coalition, California Common Cause, and Public Interest Economics Inc. A regular contributor to the Huffington Post, he co-wrote the book Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress, which was published

3 responses to “Energy Access for World’s Poor should NOT be dependent on cell phone companies

  1. Right! Energy Access for World’s Poor should NOT be dependent on cell phone companies, but on direct transfer of #digital money and pay-per-use.

  2. This web site certainly has all the information and facts I
    wanted about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

Tracking the CPV Global Market: Ready to Fulfill Its Potential?

Tracking the CPV Global Market: Ready to Fulfill Its Potential?

By: Alasdair Cameron, from Renewable Energy World

Not to be confused with Concentrating Solar Thermal Power (CSP), Concentrating Photovoltaics (CPV) systems use mirrors or lenses to focus the sun’s light onto a small area of photovoltaic material. By focusing the sun’s light (usually by several hundred times, but potentially by up to 1000 times) in order to reduce the amount of expensive semiconductor material that is needed to produce a usable quantity of energy, and so reduce the overall costs of the system.

While CPV has had its supporters for many years, it has so far made little impact on the global photovoltaic market. Nonetheless, despite this relatively slow progress, a series of recent developments and the possibility of rapidly falling costs mean that the sector is once again attracting attention.

CPV TECHNOLOGY

The basic principle of CPV is to focus sunlight onto a small area of photovoltaic material. This is done through the use of lenses (often a Fresnel-type lens is used), or mirrors arranged in parabolic dishes or troughs. The concentration ratio can vary: if the concentrated sunlight falls onto a well designed CPV cell, the cell will produce at least 10 times, or 100 times, the electricity. In fact the conversion efficiency of solar cells increases under concentrated light, so the correlation can be greater than one-to-one, depending on the design of the solar cell and the material used to make it.

At present CPV systems are divided into three broad categories – low (<10x), medium (up to around 150x) and high (>200x) concentration. Most utility-scale commercial systems operate at these higher concentrations. In the future, even higher concentrations are likely to become increasingly common. Importantly, since CPV can only operate efficiently in direct sunlight with a relatively low angle of incidence they require tracking systems to make sure that they stay focused on the sun throughout the day.

At low concentrations, usually with single-axis trackers, CPV generally makes use of silicon cells. However, concentrating PV also offers the option of shifting away from crystalline silicon to use the very high-efficiency, non-silicon cells. Such cells have mostly been developed primarily for space applications. These multi-junction III-V cells (which use elements from columns three and five of the periodic table, typically gallium and arsenide) are prohibitively expensive for extensive use in large flat panel arrays.

Concentrator systems, however, because they require far smaller and fewer cells, can afford the higher cost of multi-junction cells and yet still be manufactured at an acceptable dollar-per-watt cost. Indeed, combined with dual-axis tracking, the high efficiencies of these cells (typically 35%-40%) can enable the CPV units to operate at high module efficiencies, up to 27% (compared to a typical module efficiency of 20% for crystalline silicon or 12% for thin-film cadmium-telluride). This can greatly help reduce the cost per kWh produced.

At present there are several main manufacturers of III-V solar cells for use in CPV installations. Perhaps the most widely used is Spectrolab, a division of Boeing and a company that regularly sets records for cell efficiency. Other companies include Emcore, Azur Space and JDSU. Concentrix also manufactures its own cells. Aside from efficiency, there are a number of other factors which module manufacturers might take into account when sourcing cells for their systems. CPV is still a relatively new technology, and as such there is an element of higher risk perception associated with its deployment. Companies may be wary of using cells from smaller companies for fear that they might not be able to honour warranties in the event of a major programme. Bigger companies, with large backers, therefore have an advantage in terms of ‘bankability’ or risk reduction.

Nonetheless there is some evidence that the sector is finally gaining momentum with a number of utility-scale projects under development and a series of corporate tie-ups that could greatly improve the fortunes of the industry.

An important feature of CPV is its relatively low level of water use in operation. While it is important to cool CPV systems (the efficiency of a solar cell decreases with rising temperature) this is usually achieved by backing the cell onto a highly conductive metal, such as copper. Providing that this layer is sufficiently large it is usually sufficient to keep the system cool; additional cooling systems can also be employed. Given the pressure on water in many arid areas, and the cooling demands of concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) systems in particular, the ability to dry cool as standard is a clear additonal advantage in the future fortunes of CPV.

Land use is also something that many CPV manufacturers are particularly keen to emphasize. Per GWh, high-concentrating CPV uses 2.2 acres (0.9 Ha) of land compared to 4 acres (1.6 Ha) for cadmium telluride thin-film and 4.2 acres (1.7 Ha) for a solar thermal power tower. While this could provide an advantage in terms of permitting an environmental clearance, so far it appears to have little impact on the economics of these systems, since land costs typically represent a small part of the overall system costs. However, while this is certainly true in the western US, it may not be quite so inconsequential in southern Europe where land costs are higher and there is far less space available. In India too, with its massive overcrowding and demands on space, this is likely a positive advantage in developing large-scale solar systems.

STATE OF THE MARKET

To date the CPV market has been something of a fringe concern, accounting for less than 0.1% of installed photovoltaic capacity worldwide. According to GTM Research, total installed capacity at the beginning of 2011 amounted to just 28 MW, out of more than 33,000 MW of installed photovoltaic capacity worldwide, with only modest progress in 2010. According to GTM, total installations in 2010 amounted to just a few MW (although according to another consultancy – Strategy Analytics – this may have been up to 16.3 MW). Nonethless there are reasons for optimism, and at the time of writing there are 689 MW of CPV capacity under construction and in various stages development around the world – overwhelmingly in the USA, but also in Spain, Portugal, Mexico and Australia (of this 689 MW, some 414 MW has agreed a power purchase deal or been signed up to a feed-in tariff, so these are perhaps more definite). There are also a number of potential large scale projects in India and South Africa, although these are still uncertain.

Currently three companies – Soitec (which recently acquired Concentrix Solar), Amonix and SolFocus – dominate the module market, accounting for 96 percent of total projects in operation or in the pipeline. As the sector expands, however, it is likely that new players will begin to emerge, and there may be consolidation among existing companies as major investors move into the market.

SOITEC / CONCENTRIX

Of this ‘big three’, and despite installing just 2 MW in 2010, Soitec has been dominating the CPV headlines, starting in late 2009 with its acquisition of the German company Concentrix Solar. With a 25-MW manufacturing facility in Freiburg, Concentrix is one of the pioneers of CPV, using Fresnel lens reflectors to focus the sun’s energy up to 500 times onto III-V multijunction silicon solar cells and, achieving fully installed system efficiencies of up to 25 percent. In early 2011 Soitec commissioned its first utility-scale CPV power plant, a 1-MW facility at a Chevron mining facility in New Mexico, constructed in 2010. Covering 20 acres and made up of 173 units, it was the first in a number of important developments for Soitec in the North American market. For more on this project see our Large Scale Solar supplement published together with our May-June edition.

Next, in early 2011 Soitec announced that it had struck a deal to supply the 150-MW Imperial Solar Energy Centre CPV installation for Tenaska Solar Ventures, and that a subsidiary of Tenaska has reportedly already signed a power purchase agreement with San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E). Shortly after the Tenaska deal, Soitec signed another series of agreements directly with SDG&E. The first of these was to provide systems for three more solar power plants, totalling 30 MW, followed by two more deals with a total capacity of 125 MW. As with the 150-MW installation, construction work is due to begin in 2013, with the completion estimated in 2014-2015. To support the development of the market, Soitec has announced plans to construct a new 200-MW per year manufacturing facility in San Diego, as well as developing another 50 MW manufacturing plant in its home town of Freiburg.

While this brings the potential pipeline for Soitec to some 305 MW in North America alone, there appears to be some doubt over some of these plans, and the original 150-MW Imperial Solar Energy Centre agreement in particular. The uncertainty surrounds Tenaska’s application for a loan guarantee from the US Department of Energy, a programme that appears to be under financial pressure, with projects being warned that they may not be successful. If these loan guarantees are not made available, it is possible that Soitec will not establish its 200 MW manufacturing plant, placing the larger projects in doubt. Nonetheless, Soitec appears to have a number of solid projects under development and by 2015 it seems likely that it will have well over 100 MW of commercial CPV up and running.

Although the US is the main market in the immediate future, the potential for CPV extends far beyond the deserts of New Mexico and California. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is a prime candidate for CPV development and Concentrix was among the first CPV companies to join the Desertec Initiative – a consortium of financial and industrial interests seeking to develop solar energy on a vast scale in the deserts and sunny regions of North Africa, the Middle East and Mediterranean Europe. Indeed, Soitec already has a number of small-scale test projects underway in the Middle East. In Egypt, five projects totalling 30 kW are up and running to the west of Cairo in the Wadi Natrun region (where essential minerals for the preservation of ancient Egyptian mummies were mined). In Jordan, a 6-kW facility is operational while there are also two small projects in Oman and Abu Dhabi.

AMONIX

While Soitec may have made the news, one of its key rivals, Amonix, has installed the bulk of the systems. Altogether Amonix has around 19 MW of systems operational worlwide, and has already installed several multi-megawatt CPV facilities, notably 7.8-MW, 1.5-MW and 2-MW plants in Spain that were completed in 2008 and 2009, and several smaller utility-scale projects in the United States. In 2010 its total installations amounted to around 15 MW.

Like Soitec, California based Amonix uses high-efficiency III-V multi-junction cells, this time manufactured by Spectrolab, a division of Boeing. Under concentrating conditions, Amonix states that these cells can achieve conversion efficiencies of nearly 40 percent, and AC system efficiencies of up to 29 percent.

In early 2010, Amonix teamed up with Flextronics and began construction of a 150-MW manufacturing facility in Las Vegas, Nevada, which was completed in early 2011. Just prior to this it also announced the completion of a 2-MW CPV facility at the Solar Zone of the University of Arizona’s Science and Technology Park, constuction of which began in 2010.

As well as completing a number of projects and opening a new manufacturing plant, Amonix has also been taking important steps to try and reduce the risk to investors of opting for CPV. 

Finally, in early 2011 Amonix announced that it had been selected to supply the 30-MW Alamosa project in Colorado, under development by Cogentrix (not to be confused with Concentrix, now Soitec). The project managed to secure a $90 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, and the power will be sold to utility group Xcel Energy.

Looking to the future, of the 41 MW of CPV actually under construction, GTM Research estimates that 85 percent are being constructed by Amonix, with another 75 MW in the pipeline.

SOLFOCUS

Like its two rivals, SolFocus also installed some megawatt-scale installations in 2010, at Victorville and Hanford in California. Along with smaller projects in the USA, Australia and Mexico, this brought its installations for the 12-15 months up until May 2011 to around 2.7 MW. With additional operational projects in Spain, Italy, Hawaii and the western US, SolFocus has installed well over 3 MW of operational CPV.

Reducing risk for investors has also been a feature of SolFocus’ strategy and they have managed to secure technology performance insurance from Munich Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurance companies. This is the first insurance of its kind to be issued to a CPV manufacturer and will provide an additional level of protection for SolFocus, allowing it to reduce its technical risk. It should also help to reassure potential customers of the robustness of its product, since the insurance was only awarded after a thorough inspection of its manufacturing process and technologies.

Following on from this move, SolFocus has been awarded a number of high profile contracts, including a 1-MW facility with Bechtel to provide energy to pistachio growers in California (completed in April 2011), a 1.5-MW project on the Greek island of Crete and a potential 5-MW system in Portugal.

Finally, the company has announced that it is to provide modules for Saudi Arabia’s largest CPV installation to date, under development by the Vision Electro Mechanical Company. Altogether SolFocus has a development pipeline of at least 39 MW, the vast majority in North America.

ECONOMICS OF CPV

As with all forms of renewable energy the first question anybody usually asks is ‘What does it cost?’. With an emerging sector like CPV there is currently no simple answer. The big hope for CPV is that by using smaller amounts of photovoltaic material at high efficiencies it will be able to drive down costs and compete with fossil fuels – a hope shared by thin-film PV and concentrating solar thermal.

At present, CPV still has some way to go, although it does have some factors in its favor. Certainly, in terms of installation costs per kW, CPV is far from the cheapest. According to GTM, the pre-profit cost for a high-concentrating multi-junction system is roughly $3.35/W installed, compared to $2.04/W for thin-film CdTe and $2.52/W for polysilicon.

What really matters, though, is the cost per kWh produced, and here things are a little better for CPV – it can operate at capacity factors of up to 26 percent, compared with 20 percent for CdTe. Once that is taken into account, CPV is considered to be broadly competitive with non-concentrating PV.

Looking to the power purchase agreements that have been signed, it is clear that CPV companies are being ambitious, with Amonix, for example, signing power purchase agreements with utilities for less than $0.10/kWh, due to be delivered in the next couple of years. At this level it seems unlikely that the CPV companies will generate much profit, but by getting their technology out there and proving it they should be able to increase their market share and so improve their margin.

Research and development and increasing economies of scale are also likely to play an important role in the coming years. Indeed, GTM Research’s predictions on the size of the market for 2015 are predicated on there being a 30 percent reduction in total installed cost by then. More efficient manufacture, transport and handling have been identified as key areas of development, along with increases in cell efficiency, which will allow the module manufacturers to reduce the amount of photovoltaic material required for a given output.

PREDICTIONS – MARKETS AND COSTS

The coming years are likely to see stellar growth for the CPV sector, with some estimates suggesting that the sector could be installing up to 1 GW per year by 2015 – a growth of almost 200 percent per year. It is worth bearing in mind, though, that even if this comes to pass, CPV will still represent just a small proportion of the more than 25-42 GW of annual PV capacity that the European Photovoltaic Industry Association predicts will be installed in 2015.

It also seems likely that, for the next few years at least, the United States will remain the largest market for CPV technology thanks to its high insolation, long-term power purchase agreements and demand for clean power. According to GTM, if California is to meet its Renewable Portfolio Standard then it may need to install 26 GW of solar. So far power purchase agreements for just 13 GW have been signed across the whole of the Southwest US (of which around half is CSP), leaving plenty of room for growth. The real question is whether CPV can lower its costs and gain enough customers to compete in the increasingly crowded solar marketplace.

 

2 responses to “Tracking the CPV Global Market: Ready to Fulfill Its Potential?

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Should CSP Mirrors Be Glass or Metal?

Should CSP Mirrors Be Glass or Metal?

 By Ucilia Wang, Contributor

Glass or metal? That could become an increasingly important question for developers of concentrating solar power projects. A growing number of companies, from 3M to Abengoa Solar, are working on mirrors made of metals and polymer that aim to be lightweight and cheaper than the glass variety. 3M is doing a pilot-stage launch of its Solar Mirror Film, and it’s planning for a full commercial launch by the end of the year, said Daniel Chen, business development manager of 3M’s renewable energy division. “Saving time and material costs are the big advantages,” Chen said during a recent poster session at 3M’s headquarters in Minnesota. Metallic films “also are easier to transport – you can pack them densely and use aluminum locally” for project construction. Like GE and other titans in their industries, 3M is keen on winning a fat slice of the growing renewable energy market. The use of metal film, which is then laminated onto an aluminum backing, isn’t a new concept, and 3M launched a similar product in the 1980s. It lasted for 4-5 years before the entire market disappeared, Chen said. The company restarted the research in this area about two years ago, when the solar industry began to revive in earnest. Proponents say metal mirrors are suitable for all types of solar thermal power plant designs, including parabolic trough, power tower and stirling dish.

But replacing glass, a durable and highly reflective material with a long history of surviving the outdoors, won’t be so easy. Investors and utilities tend to prefer well-proven technologies over novel ones. The largest solar thermal power complex in the world, the 354-megawatt solar field in the Mojave Desert, was built between 1984 and 1991 with glass mirrors. “If you are going to finance these systems, banks want these things to last at least 20 years probably longer 30 years. Most glass products have some of that history,” said Mark Mehos, the program manager for concentrating solar power research at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado. Where is the Market? 3M just saw the completion of a 1.2-MW thermal project featuring its reflective film. Abengoa Solar completed the project in April under a contract from Johnson Controls, located at the Federal Correctional Institution Englewood in Littleton, Colorado, said Pete Thompson, sales manager for Abengoa Solar IST (Industrial Solar Technology). The system uses rows of parabolic trough collectors — 160 collector modules spanning about 22,720 feet — on 1.7 acres. The collectors concentrate and direct the sunlight to heat up tubes containing a mix of water and anti-freeze, which in turn transfer that heat to a 16,000-gallon water tank. The water is heated to up to 185-degree Fahrenheit and used for showers, cooking and laundry by roughly 1,000 inmates and employees. Metal mirrors are better and cheaper options than glass mirrors because a hot water system doesn’t need to achieve the kind of high temperatures that are necessary for electricity production, Thompson said. The project should cut natural-gas use for water heating at the prison by more than 50 percent per year, according to Spain-based Abengoa. 3M and other solar thermal technology companies are eyeing not just the industrial but also the electricity market, a potential mother lode. Gigawatts of solar thermal electricity projects have been proposed, particularly in California, Arizona and Nevada. In a solar thermal power plant, the heated fluid is used to generate steam, which then drives a turbine. If those projects are successful, they will help to create a large market for new technologies. But lining up investors for these projects has been a tough challenge for power plant developers.

So far, the federal government is willing to support two financially. Abengoa Solar recently won a $1.45 billion in federal loan guarantee for its 250-megawatt Solana project in Gila Bend, Ariz. Earlier this year, California-based BrightSource Energy won $1.37 billion in federal loan guarantees for its 400-megawatt Ivanpah project in the Mojave Desert of California. Aside from using 3M’s reflective film, Abengoa Solar also is developing its own alternative to glass mirrors. Back in 2007, the U.S. Department of Energy gave Abengoa $448,000 to work on a polymeric reflector (see DOE report). The company is working with Science Application International Corporation (SAIC) in Virginia to develop the new silver-lined aluminum mirrors.

Meanwhile, some companies already have launched commercial products. Alanod Solar, for example, has an aluminum reflector that has been used by customers such as Sopogy in Hawaii. Pennsylvania-based Alcoa, meanwhile, recently announced a field trial of a parabolic trough system at NREL using Alanod’s mirrors. A trough collector featuring Alanod Solar’s mirrors is shown at left. Skyline Solar in California used Alanod’s mirrors for its recently completed 80-kilowatt project in Nipton, Calif., said Andrew Sabel, Alanod’s North American marketing manager. In Skyline’s project, the reflectors aren’t heating fluid for steam production. Instead, they concentrate and direct the sunlight onto crystalline silicon solar cells for electricity production.

Startup SkyFuel in Colorado also sells parabolic trough aluminum reflectors, which are lined with a silver film developed by NREL and commercialized by ReflecTech. SkyFuel also has received $435,000 from the DOE to design solar fields with Fresnel lenses and molten salt as the heat-transferring fluid, a design that the company said can achieve higher temperatures than Fresnel designs currently available. Mirror, Mirror On the Wall Are metallic film reflectors better than glass? Glass, in general, can reflect a higher percentage of light, particular if it’s thin. A glass reflector that is 1 millimeter or thinner could achieve 96 percent of reflectivity, Mehos said. Mehos sees metal mirrors as a more competitive alternative for building parabolic trough systems for now. For one thing, the glass sheets cut for parabolic trough collectors tend to be thicker, around 5 millimeters, so their reflectivity is lower, around 94.5 percent. Besides, making curved mirrors isn’t easy, so the number of suppliers is limited, which in turn can drive up the cost, Mehos noted. Plus, glass can be heavy and bulky to transport. In comparison, a power tower design can use flat and thinner glass mirrors, which are cheaper than curved ones. The mirrors in this setup concentrate and direct the sunlight onto the top of a central tower to generate steam, which is then piped to a turbine for electricity generation. 3M and other developers aim to close the reflectivity gap by tinkering with their recipes to create different coatings and by experimenting with different materials. 3M’s film comes with an acrylic top, below which lies a layer of silver, which is a good choice of reflective material. Underneath the silver is copper and other protective layers. The film is bonded to an aluminum substrate to form the collectors. The company uses an additive to make acrylic more resistant to UV-ray damage. A mirror’s effectiveness depends on its ability to reflect light. 3M’s film can achieve 94.2 percent of reflectivity, with 95 percent of specular reflectance, Chen said. Specular reflectance is a more specific measurement on how well the mirror can focus the light in a particular angle and minimize its dispersion, Mehos said. A higher specular reflectance is needed when the reflector tries to direct the light to a receiver that is farther away. As a result, mirrors for the power tower design – where the light has to be concentrated and directed to a central tower – would require a higher specular reflectance than the parabolic trough design. Although silver makes a good reflective material, it also needs special coatings from corrosion. It can be scratched by dust storms or even during cleaning, Mehos said. Developing a hard top surface to protect the silver is a key pursuit for companies such as 3M. Chen said 3M is developing a more abrasion-resistant film that it plans to roll out late next year. Alanod takes a different approach with its reflectors. The company forgoes using a silver-based laminate and opts to add other types of coatings directly on aluminum to boost the reflectivity of the aluminum. The coatings include a layer of silicon dioxide and titanium dioxide, Sabel said. On top of the oxide layers is a gel that hardens, and this secret sauce is crucial for achieving that necessary durable surface, Sabel added. Alanod has deployed its aluminum reflectors in field trials for the last five years. Sabel declined to say where, except that the mirrors are among traditional concentrating solar thermal systems. Alanod’s aluminum version is holding up against the glass variety, he added. Alanod’s reflectors can achieve 90 percent reflectivity and 88 percent specular reflectance. He said the measurements show what the reflectors could achieve when they are installed in the field. Reflective films, on the other hand, may have higher ratings, but they could lose some of the reflectance if they are not laminated onto the aluminum substrate correctly, Sabel said. “Glass breaks, and it cannot be used as structure members of the systems. So people are looking at metal mirror’s flexibility and light weight and [they] incorporated it into a structure element,” Sabel said. “With metal mirrors you sacrifice a few points of reflectivity but you get design flexibility.” Skyfuel’s reflectors also make use of a silver polymer film that goes on top of an aluminum substrate. The company’s spec sheet says the mirror’s solar reflectance and specular reflectance are both 94 percent.

Copyright © 1999-2011 RenewableEnergyWorld.com All rights reserved.

4 responses to “Should CSP Mirrors Be Glass or Metal?

  1. Pingback: Aluminum Mirro | Kitchen Room

  2. I assume the hand work – brush coating is only for demonnstration, and when commercial it will be an automatic process. Right?

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Achieving Global Consensus on PV Grid parity

Achieving Global Consensus on PV Grid parity

Qualified Opinion Sources are kindly invited to express their opinion on a specific website: www.SolarGridParity.com

on the following debate:

By 2020 or earlier the installed costs for solar electricity systems will be reduced to US$1 per watt

Background: Due to strong incentives, mainly within the EU, global solar photovoltaic market has significantly grown during 2010, with the whole PV installed capacity having reached almost 40GW, or up 70% from nearly 23GW in 2009. The strong expansion in PV installations was mainly dominated by the European countries, with about 70% of the new solar power installations in 2010, with Germany leading the PV market accounting for almost 7GW and Italy with about 3GW, followed by Czech Republic (1.3GW), France (0.5GW), Spain (0.4), Belgium (0.25) and Greece (0.2). As for the main markets outside Europe, Japan PV market accounted for nearly 1GW, followed by the United States (0.8GW) and China (0.4GW).

The US administration and the Chinese government are both aiming at achieving price parity between solar electricity and fossil-based electricity without additional subsidies. Reaching this goal will establish the country’s technological leadership, improve the nation’s energy security, and strengthen economic competitiveness in the global clean energy race.

President Obama laid down a bold challenge to America in his State of the Union speech January 2011: “get to 80% clean energy by 2035.”

Ms. Eleni Despotou, Secretary General of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (www.interpv.net): “PV electricity would see its generation costs dropping to a range of 5 to 12 c / kWh by 2020, making it highly competitive with all peak generation technologies, and as low as 4 to 8c/kWh in 2030, making it also widely competitive with most mid-load generation technologies.”

 

On the other hand we hear every day: “Solar is too expensive” or “Variable costs related to permitting, inspection and interconnection are killing the solar industry’s ability to achieve speed and scale”.   .

Mr. Amnon Samid, CEO, The AGS group  (www.AGSpower.com):  “Encouraging investment only in PV systems will jeopardize the chances to develop a competitive solar thermal mini-grid distributed  generation solutions for electricity production, that may enjoy the advantages of PV systems, but offers also storage capabilities and hybrid, co-generation and on-site power production options, occupying less expensive land for extended use, making it competitive with base load generation technologies, representing an alternative for new generation capacity  in Sunbelt countries.”

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot Initiative aims to restore America’s once-dominant position in the global market for solar photovoltaic (PV), which has dwindled from 43% in 1995 to only 6% today. DOE estimates that if the installed costs for solar energy systems drop to $1 per watt — equivalent to a levelized cost of electricity of 5-6 cents per kilowatt hour — solar without subsidies would be competitive with the wholesale rate of electricity nearly everywhere in the U.S. The DOE intend to devote $200 million per year — to support a targeted roadmap to meet the SunShot goal by the end of the decade.

However, the “64 million dollar question” is:

Is it a realistic goal?

You are invited to express your professional opinion by answering three brief questions at: http://www.SolarGridParity.com

The BiPSA methodology aims to convert

Controversy-to-Consensus

www.BiPSA.com

 in collaboration with the AGS Group www.AGSpower.com

Promoting and enabling the incorporation of innovative clean energy technologies into the grid.

3 responses to “Achieving Global Consensus on PV Grid parity

  1. achieving global consensus on pv grid parity is clean energy.

    i think so.and you?

  2. Achieving Global Consensus on PV Grid parity

    is very key

    i think so.

  3. What I don’t understand is why the double standard when it comes to solar? so many people want solar to stand on it’s own, yet no energy source, nor even much of our country’s food is without government subsidies? Explain that to me…

What Does the Future Hold for Concentrating PV?

What Does the Future Hold for Concentrating PV?

Considering the short term of one to three years, what technology advances may be expected in the CPV sector? What conversion efficiencies might be achieved and costs/kW installed reached? And what, if any, are the technical and investment barriers which must be overcome in order to achieve these forecasts?

Jeroen Haberland, CEO, Circadian Solar

In the next three years lowering manufacturing costs will be crucial to the CPV industry. As well as the gains from adopting best practises and economies of scale, part of the cost reductions will come from advances in cell manufacturing techniques to lower the amount of material required in each cell. Exploiting increasingly optimised bandgap combinations, either by metamorphic growth or by layer transfer techniques, will produce cells with higher fundamental efficiency limits. 

We expect the current trend of 1% annual increases in research cell efficiency, from the 2010 level of 42%, to continue, although advances in cells with more optimum bandgap combinations could deliver more significant increases. Production cell efficiencies meanwhile will most likely continue to lag behind world record research cell efficiencies by 2%-3%. Overall system efficiencies are expected to rise to around 32% by 2013. This will be driven not just by cell efficiency increases, but also by the combination of high efficiency optics, optimal concentration factor, innovative thermal management, high accuracy solar tracking and through automated precision assembly too.

Commercially, the emphasis will increasingly be placed on levelised cost of electricity (LCOE), rather than just system efficiency and system price/watt, since LCOE is the key determining factor in commercial payback and return on investment.

The key barrier to investment is ‘bankability’ — the requirement to guarantee to financiers the kWh energy yield from CPV systems over 25 years for a given investment in the plant. Without this, either the cost of finance will be very high, or there will be no finance. Publicly funded projects are one of the best/only ways to demonstrate bankability and well thought out incentives, such as feed-in tariffs, will be an important enabler for the industry to reach the economies of scale necessary to reduce system costs.

Carla Pihowich, Senior Director of Marketing, Amonix

The most important technology advances in CPV solar over the next three years will be performance improvements to III-V multi-junction cells and how they are integrated into CPV.

Amonix incorporated III-V multi-junction cells into our systems in 2007 leading to dramatic improvements in efficiency — currently 39% at the cell level, which translates into 31% at the module level and 27% at the system level. At these levels of efficiency, CPV has by far the greatest efficiency of any solar technology. In addition, as we have done in the past, Amonix will deploy performance improvements over the next year that will lessen the gap between cell and system efficiency. In the years to come, we expect multi-junction production cell efficiencies will reach 42% or higher using current or new high-efficiency cell designs.

On the question of cost, we believe that CPV offers greater potential for cost reduction than conventional PV technologies such as single-crystal silicon and thin-film PV, which are nearing performance limitations that will make it difficult for them to drop below their current installed system costs. In contrast, the CPV performance advantage has plenty of headroom and can achieve continual reductions in the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE).

Achieving the cell and system efficiencies is not without its challenges — cell performance must be effectively transferred to production environments, for example. But we believe these challenges can be managed. Bottom line, efficiency improvements combined with the future cost advantages of CPV over PV, the greater deployment flexibility — and the advantage of using no water compared with CSP systems — make CPV the best choice for utility-scale solar deployments in sunny and dry climates.

Nancy Hartsoch, Vice-President Sales and Marketing, SolFocus

In 2010 industry-leading CPV companies have become commercial, demonstrating scalable deployment, bankable products, and volume manufacturing. So what does lie ahead for CPV?

One way to describe CPV’s path over the next one to three years is that it will have a steep trajectory. CPV conversion efficiencies are on a steep upward path. System efficiencies of 26%+ today will continue to increase as CPV cell efficiencies move from 39% upwards to 45%.

Manufacturing costs for CPV systems are also on a steep trajectory, but going downward, as factories are ramped from manufacturing hundreds of kW to hundreds of MW per year. The upward efficiency trajectory combined with the rapidly declining manufacturing cost trajectory provides a very steep reduction in terms of the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) for CPV in the upcoming three years.

In 2010 CPV won competitive bids around the world against other PV technologies because of its high energy yield resulting in a very strong value proposition, which will become even more commanding in the future. Bankability of the technology remains perhaps the biggest hurdle, however, this is rapidly changing through thorough due diligence on the technology and creative approaches to reduce the risk for developers.

                                                                                        

Certification to industry standards for CPV combined with multiple years of on-sun performance and reliability data also contributes to the increasing adoption of CPV into large distributed and utility-scale projects around the globe.

With 150 MW forecast to be deployed in 2011, CPV has finally turned the corner on commercialisation and is moving forward into a market where its high energy yield with the largest energy output/MW installed has the potential to dramatically change the opportunity for the PV market. Add in the need for environmentally friendly technology and it provides an extremely low carbon footprint, along with low cost of energy, It becomes easy to forecast a major impact by CPV solar.

Andreas W. Bett, Deputey Director, Fraunhofer ISE

Concentrating PV and specifically HCPV technology is now ready to enter the market. I am aware this has already been said, but the difference is that there are now serious companies in the market.

They have set up production capacities which are in the two-digit MW range, and collectively the production capacity today is more than 150 MW. Two years ago it was less than 10 MW. This achievement is an important milestone for CPV and the first step to overcome their infancy. 

In respect to technology advances, due to steady and continuous improvement for cells, optics and tracking CPV-system AC operating efficiency will eventually be 25% on an average. System efficiencies as high as 30% are possible, but it will take more than three years to achieve this goal. These high efficiencies, in combination with advancing along a steep learning curve, will lead to energy costs in the range of €0.10/kWh at sites with solar radiation of more than 2400 kWh/m²/year.

One has to take into consideration that for the moment the cost per installed kW is not an appropriate measure for CPV technology. This is simply because the corresponding rating standards for CPV are not yet established. Indeed, missing standards can be seen as one hurdle for CPV and a barrier for investors. Consequently, the financial side must learn more about CPV technology and the industry must teach and demonstrate reliability — a major obstacle today for bankability.

At present CPV struggles not so much with technology, but with funding. However, this barrier will soon be overcome, for example if guarantees can be provided by the CPV companies.

It is then that the growth and the technology development speeds up, leading to still lower CPV costs.

Hansjörg Lerchenmüller, CEO and Founder, Concentrix Solar

Leading players in the CPV sector continue to surpass record module and system efficiencies, leveraging optical and electrical expertise to optimise output from the world’s highest efficiency III-V cells.

CPV systems are typically twice as efficient as conventional PV systems, with current module efficiencies at 27% and expecting to break the remarkable 30% barrier in the near future.

At Soitec Concentrix we are currently working on the next generation of smart cell technology which is targeting cell efficiency of 50% – in turn leading to a system efficiency of more than 35%. Soitec’s patented Smart Cut&trade; technology, used for over a decade in the semiconductor industry, will provide crucial layer transfer expertise for the optimisation of the cell design.

The first results of the smart cell development programme will be available within the mentioned time period. In the long term, it will be integrated exclusively into Concentrix’ systems.

Prices for a full turnkey CPV power plant are today already below $4/watt and will go down to $3/watt in the coming years. Specific prices very much depend on size, the site of the power plant and timing. At the same time, it is well established that CPV technology provides some 40% to 50% more energy output than conventional PV and due to its use of dual-axis tracking, maintains a consistent, high output during periods of peak demand when energy prices are highest.

Given that we have already achieved a 27% module efficiency in production and that we have commercial plants of hundreds of kilowatts, we foresee no major roadblocks on performance reliability and cost for the CPV industry for driving down the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) produced to reach grid parity levels.

Key issues from an investment point of view are a relatively quick return on investment and bankability. The scalability of CPV helps to address this — due to the modularity of the technology, the project size can be adjusted to the financial capabilities of the investors/banks and also energy is produced as soon as the first tracker is installed, helping to reduce the time delay normally associated with utility-scale solar power plants.

In terms of bankability, Soitec Concentrix have partnered with energy efficiency and sustainability company Johnson Controls, which will build, operate, maintain and provide lifecycle support for solar installations using Concentrix CPV technology.

The combination of the respective strengths of both companies will provide advantages, allowing the partners to accelerate and widen the successful installation of solar renewable energy utility-scale plants in high direct normal irradiation regions across the globe.

Eric J. Pail, Analyst, AltaTerra Research

Short-term advances in CPV systems will be mostly technical and focused on improving the cost/performance ratio. However, longer-term advances in market development may produce even greater economic value for the sector.

In the short term, high concentration PV (HCPV) systems will continue to see technology advancements in the efficiency of III-V multi-junction cells. Multi-junction cells are at the heart of high concentrating PV systems and are a key driver to reducing costs and increasing overall system efficiency. As a rule of thumb, for every percentage increase in multi-junction cell efficiency there is a 0.75%—0.8% increase in system efficiency.

Today, most HCPV systems use 38%—39% efficient multi-junction cells and have a system efficiency of between 24% and 35%. In 2011, multi-junction cell efficiencies are expected to rise to more than 40% and on to some 42% in 2012.

The increase in the number of multi-junction cell manufacturers and number of new cell technologies under development will help the CPV industry make steep efficiency improvements in the coming years.

Like any new technology, the CPV industry still faces the challenge of justifying financing from risk-averse financers in terms of ‘bankability’. In response, SolFocus, for example, has recently announced that Munich RE will offer an insurance policy to backstop SolFocus’s warranty. Meanwhile, Morgan Solar self-financed an initial 200 kW test project to demonstrate its technology. Certification standards — particularly IEC 62108 — are also helping to provide investors with assurance. As more and larger CPV projects come online and manufacturers take direct steps to address the issue, bankability should therefore become less of a problem. 

In the long term, it is the distinctive character of concentrating PV that will lead to greater commercial uptake. With sites in very sunny regions that make use of tracking, pedestal mounting and other distinctive features of CPV installations, the industry will lower costs through volume and more effectively create economic value by focusing on customers that prize or require particular features.

 This article was originally published by the editors of RenewableEnergyWorld Magazine Dec 16 2010

3 responses to “What Does the Future Hold for Concentrating PV?

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Smart grids are the future of power, but what does that mean for the future of privacy?

Smart grids are the future of power, but what does that mean for the future of privacy?

 Smart Grids and the Future of Privacy

The transmission networks spanning nations to provide light, heat and electricity will soon undergo a radical transformation. Most of the world’s developed countries have invested in or plan to invest huge sums to implement smart energy infrastructures within the next two decades. The smart grid will revolutionize the way utilities and consumers measure and monitor electricity usage. This effort is expected to save money and aid energy conservation.

But the grid will also result in the creation of massive amounts of new data, data that can reveal intimate details about households and the people who live in them. The risk of exposure or misuse of such data creates a new set of concerns for consumers and privacy professionals. The smart grid will rely on smart meters, which will record household energy consumption and communicate it back to power providers. These new smart meters will replace the electromechanical meters that are attached to most households across the world today.

Smart appliances, which are being developed and sold by some of the world’s largest manufacturers, will enhance the intelligent grid, feeding smart meters with real-time information about electrical use down to the appliance level — smoothie at seven, treadmill at eight, for example. (According to a recent Zpryme report, the global market for household smart appliances is projected to reach $15.12 billion in 2015.) This precision will allow utility companies to analyze peak power usage times and set electric rates accordingly. In turn, households will gain a tool for more efficient management of their energy consumption, which they could use to lower costs and conserve energy.

For example, customers will have the ability to time their laundry chores for off-peak energy hours. When the grid, the meter, and the appliances are implemented and integrated, consumers will be able to fine-tune their energy consumption to get the best rates and utilities will be able to more effectively manage power distribution and identify and resolve problems remotely. The savings potential is expected to be massive.

The grid is also expected to help power suppliers prevent blackouts and brownouts by allowing for power distribution to be delivered more evenly and on a need-based schedule. Nations and utilities are investing in the development of the smart grid, and many companies have already deployed smart meters. But while those involved throw millions, even billions, toward the grid, cautioning voices are calling for privacy protections. “We are talking about implementing a very new type of network…a network that people are always attached to,” says Rebecca Herold, CIPP, founder of Rebecca Herold and Associates, LLC. Herold has led the U.S. National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) Smart Grid privacy subgroup since June 2009 and co-authored the NIST report on smart grid privacy, which is under review by NIST and expected to be published soon. The information collected on a smart grid will form a library of personal information, the mishandling of which could be highly invasive of consumer privacy,” said Christopher Wolf, co-author with Jules Polonetsky of a whitepaper published by the Future of Privacy Forum and the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario. “There will be major concerns if consumer-focused principles of transparency and control are not treated as essential design principles, from beginning to end.” Utilities are aware of the privacy concerns, according to Rick Thompson, the president of Greentech Media. “It’s absolutely on their radar,” he says, adding, “That doesn’t mean they have a full understanding or solution to solve that problem, but I think it’s an area that they are investigating heavily.” It’s an area worthy of investigation, according to many. Some say the smart grid will be “bigger than the internet,” which will result in an exponential increase of coveted, valuable and potentially identifiable data. “You come into new types of privacy issues because you are now revealing personal activities in ways that are not historically, or have not been considered to date as being personally identifiable information,” Herold says.

Beyond knowing how often the refrigerator opens or what time the garage door activates each morning, grid data may be a way of discerning when a household is empty or full, when family members go to bed at night or what time the kids come home from school. Marketers might want to tap into the data to find out when a household might be due for a new refrigerator or washing machine. Law enforcement might be interested in corroborating a story. An insurance company might want to know if a homeowner’s alarm was turned on when a burglary occurred. A divorce attorney might want to subpoena energy-use records to aid a case. Who owns the data? In a recent newspaper article, Simon McKenzie, the chief executive of a New Zealand electricity supplier, said in that country, where hundreds of thousands of smart meters are currently being installed, “We’re starting to see the retailers and network companies say: ‘Hey, there are a number of different ways that we haven’t even considered that we could utilize this data…to provide better service or solutions to customers.

” The full potential of smart grids has yet to be realized, McKenzie told The New Zealand Herald. But should retailers and other entities have access to the data? That is a question being examined on a global scale. In response to the McKenzie’s comments, New Zealand Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff said that companies need to be transparent about what information is being tracked and collected. “People need to be able to make fully informed decisions before agreeing to the new technology,” Shroff said. Others call for limited use of the data gleaned from smart grids. “The risk with a rich new data source is the temptation to use the information for more than originally intended,” Australian Privacy Commissioner Karen Curtis told those attending a smart infrastructure conference earlier this year. That’s why it will be crucial to answer the question of who owns and has access to consumers’ energy usage data, which could reveal existing and emerging types of personally identifiable information, Herold says. It’s a familiar question for privacy pros, who have grappled with it in other areas of practice, but perhaps less familiar for utilities. In a recent study, GTM asked utility companies who owns the granular data collected by smart meters — the utility company, the consumer, or a third party. The results showed a decided lack of consensus. “The interesting thing is that it was pretty well split evenly between those three options,” said GTM’s Rick Thompson. Of the companies surveyed, 39 percent said the data belonged to the consumer, 29 percent said the utility itself owned it, and 32 percent were unsure. [Chart from Greentech Media’s 2010 North American Utility Smart Grid Deployment Survey] The president of an advocacy group for the smart grid industry is more decided on the topic. “The consumer should always have access to that data,” says Kathleen Hamilton, president of the GridWise Alliance, which counts more than 100 companies and organizations as members. “I think the consumer is going to be the owner of that data,” Hamilton said. “But I think what consumers don’t understand is that when they give their data to others, if there aren’t privacy provisions in place, they can use the data in ways that either the consumer may not agree with or think appropriate.” That’s a worry many can relate to and a debate that must play itself out soon, as 70 percent of North American utility companies polled for the aforementioned GTM survey indicated that smart grid projects were either a “strong” or “highest” business priority between now and 2015. Governments keen to the potential have invested heavily in smart grid infrastructures.

 In the U.S., President Obama allocated $3.4 billion in national stimulus monies to utility companies last year to encourage development of smart grid technologies. The European Parliament’s passage of the 3rd Energy Package last year will outfit 80 percent of EU electricity customers with smart meters by 2020. In Sweden, smart meters are now mandated by the government. The U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, parts of Asia, Denmark, and the Netherlands have all reported plans to build intelligent grids. And the Chinese government has allocated $7.3 billion to grid projects in 2010. It is clear that the potential privacy pitfalls loom large. Less clear is the best solution to prevent them. “I think there are still a lot of questions out there about what the correct solution might be,” says GTM’s Thompson, predicting that solutions will vary based on the regulations of various regions. Like other areas of data privacy, regulation is a word that could divide the debate in the months and years to come. Some predict smart grid privacy issues to be bigger in Europe than other places due to the strength of the bloc’s Data Protection Directive. So far in the U.S., regulation has focused primarily on securing the grid infrastructure from cyber-attack. For example, the Grid Reliability and Infrastructure Defense (GRID) Act, introduced in April, charges the FERC with safeguarding the transmission grid from cyber-threats. The bill also tasks FERC with enforcing privacy measures, stating: “the Commission shall protect from disclosure only the minimum amount of information necessary to protect the reliability of the bulk power system and defense critical electric infrastructure.” The House passed the bill in June, but the Senate has yet to vote. Other bills have focused on ensuring that consumers have access to the data their homes’ meters produce. In March, Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, introduced The Electric Consumer Right to Know Act (e-KNOW), legislation to ensure consumers have access to free, timely and secure data about their energy usage. It also calls for the FERC to develop national standards for consumer energy data accessibility, to help utilities and state regulatory agencies formulate their policies, according to Markey’s website. State lawmakers have begun drafting their own legislation. In Colorado, a state where smart meter implementation is already widespread, Senate Bill 10-180 calls for the creation of a task force to recommend measures to “encourage the orderly implementation of smart grid technology” in that state. The bill says that one of the issues the task force must determine is the potential impacts on consumer protection and privacy. A call for standards Privacy experts say the lack of legal protection surrounding the smart grid is concerning. They are calling for standards. “In the absence of clear rules, this potentially beneficial smart grid technology could mean yet another intrusion on private life,” Jim Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) said in a March filing to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which held a three-day hearing that month to explore smart grid policies. “The PUC should act now, before our privacy is eroded,” Dempsey wrote. The CDT teamed with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on the filing, urging the CPUC to adopt “comprehensive privacy standards for the collection, retention, use and disclosure of the data” gleaned from the smart grid. The National Institute of Standards and Technology smart grid privacy subgroup, which Herold leads, has released two drafts of the privacy chapter “Smart Grid Cyber Security Strategy and Requirements.” The document includes a privacy impact assessment and addresses possible risks the smart grid presents — including cyber attacks, data breaches and the vulnerability of interconnected networks’ increased exposure to potential hackers. The draft says that while most states have laws in place regarding privacy protection, those laws do not necessarily relate to the types of data that will be within the smart grid, and many existing laws are specific to industries other than utilities. The group recommends that provisions be included within privacy laws to protect the consumer data held by utility companies. The final NISTIR 7628 Version 1 is expected soon, after which it will be submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Minimize, destroy, build privacy in As with other privacy debates, those pushing for smart infrastructure privacy protections espouse mantras often heard in data protection circles-data minimization, data destruction and privacy by design. Utilities should minimize the amount of household data collected and should keep it for the shortest amount of time possible, advocates say, in order to minimize the risk associated with storing such data. Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian agrees. In her whitepaper, she also cautions that privacy concerns must be considered early in the planning stages in order to mitigate the risks surrounding the revealing data meters collect. By designing privacy into the grid, “we can have both privacy and a fully functioning smart grid,” Cavoukian wrote in a Toronto Star Op-Ed. The government of Ontario has committed to the installation of smart meters in every home and business by the end of 2010 and Cavoukian has partnered with major utilities to develop “gold standards” for building privacy into grid projects. Some privacy advocates point to Ontario’s Hydro One as a utility company setting the standard for baking privacy provisions into its policy before deploying smart meters. Rick Stevens, director of distribution development at Hydro One says the protection of consumer’s information was built into smart meters’ designs based on Ontario’s privacy regulations.

“The regulations certainly set the context for the project,” Stevens said. “We’re just really ensuring that we bake those protections into the product that we put out there. Given that this is new technology, we’re going to be very careful to protect consumer interest as we roll these out. I know we, as an industry, take it very seriously.” Hydro One has 1.1 million meters already deployed, and at least 700,000 of them are currently reporting data back to the utility on an hourly basis. Stevens says that, as a rule, the utility does not sell customers’ data to third parties and would only share data after obtaining written authorization customers.

The president of LinkGard Systems, an Armenian software maker, says his company’s Energy Management System, which is currently being tested in the U.S., was built with privacy in mind. “It is our strong belief that the utility company has no need to control individual appliances in a residence or a commercial location,” said Hovanes Manucharyan. “The same effect can be achieved by using solutions that don’t require the customer to expose their private energy usage information….We feel that this model is friendlier towards privacy since the utility doesn’t need to acquire, store and manage potentially private data from a customer.” Hovanes said the stronger regulatory framework of the EU could result in slightly different implementations of smart grid technologies in that market. Beyond PII We haven’t yet heard a debate on whether our garage-door-opening habits qualify as personal data, but it’s a question that privacy experts say should be answered. “People have to realize it’s a new type of network,” says Herold. “It’s ‘always on,’ passively collecting information about people in their homes. It’s more than just PII, it’s personal activities,” she adds. This is what concerns a California man who staged a dramatic protest recently when Pacific Gas & Electric attempted to install a smart meter at his home. Calling it an “unconstitutional invasion of his privacy,” he locked his existing meter, saying, “PG&E needs to be stopped in their tracks here.” Education needed But smart meters are being rolled out in many places, and typically without protest.

Indeed, though smart grids are certainly on the radar of utilities and governments, most consumers are in the dark. According to a recent Harris Interactive poll, 68 percent have never heard of the smart grid and 63 percent “draw a blank” about smart meters. Experts say that will change. “You are going to see a lot more awareness over the next 24 months,” says Greentech Media’s Rick Thompson, “but in terms of becoming a true household name, I’d say that’s still three to five years out.” Thompson says utility companies are just starting to understand the importance of launching educational campaigns aimed at consumer awareness. A newly formed coalition of companies and organizations — the nonprofit Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative — hopes to increase consumer awareness in the area. “The grid is not really smart unless the consumers are able to be active participants,” said Katherine Hamilton of the GridWise Alliance, one of the founding members of SGCC. Hydro One’s Stevens says building consumer awareness by communicating the cost-savings potential and environmental benefits is what helped make his company’s transition to smart meters successful in Ontario. “For the most part, it’s been positive,” Stevens said. “I think the reason for that is the type of information we’ve been able to provide to customers.” Stevens said, however, given his company’s success with smart meters, that the only reason to have increasing regulations in the future would be if issues arise that require them. When asked whether utility companies’ self-regulatory efforts will be sufficient to stave off regulations, Herold said it’s important to consider just how many different players will be involved in the smart grid, including non-energy sector companies creating applications and appliances. “Self-regulation is a good goal, but when you start looking realistically, how do you ensure entities consistently provide protections throughout the entire smart grid if you don’t establish requirements they must all follow?” Herold asks. She points to the health care and financial industries as evidence that regulations are often necessary. “It’s always important, in dealing with privacy, to not only take what we know from past experiences, but also have our minds open to possible impacts going forward.” Some say that having the right people on board will help companies avoid issues. “One of the key things utilities should be doing today is training and hiring privacy professionals,” says Future of Privacy Forum Director Jules Polonetsky, CIPP. “Data enables the grid, but could also be its Achilles’ heel, if companies don’t have the experts in place to help shape decisions as the grid is being built.” Stevens agrees, saying that it’s in the utility industry’s best interest to maintain consumer privacy protections moving forward. “It’s a necessity,” he says. “Otherwise, it’ll backfire on us.”

This article was originally published in the July 2010 edition of the International Association of Privacy Professionals’ member newsletter, The Privacy Advisor.

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An advice to CSP entrepreneurs that “insist” on competing with parabolic trough

An advice to CSP entrepreneurs that “insist” on competing with parabolic trough

1. You will have to compete not only with current parabolic troughs and Fresnel linear reflectors, but also with mini CSP on one hand, and on the other hand – mini towers central receivers and parabolic dish that employ high temperatures (~1000ºC) and much higher efficiencies than parabolic troughs.

2. You should not start with utility scale market, but segment the markets in a manner to allow a conservative (at least in the beginning) step-wise penetration, beginning with industrial or commercial customer demonstration, moving to utility demonstration and in parallel off-grid applications; next moving to distributed applications supplying grid support, and finally into the larger scale central peak power generation market. This approach will allow you to gain familiarity with the solar industry and bring costs down as annual production volume increase, and will allow utilities to gain confidence in your systems.

3. If you choose as target market the distributed generation and not necessarily large utility scale solar power plants, you could present a potential for more closely track demand and potential growth in loads; meet reliability requirements with fewer megawatts of installed power and spread construction costs over time after first module output has started, hence capital risks and amount of initial investment may be reduced.

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A note regarding energy storage technologies

A note regarding energy storage technologies

Thermal storage technologies are designed to improve the availability and dispatchability of a solar thermal power facility — thereby enhancing its overall value. In the long run, thermal storage will help integrate more solar power into the generation mix by enabling CSP facilities to shoulder a greater component of the daily power demand in many regions of the world.

 Some innovative ideas are under development lately; beside the integration of compressed air energy storage into a modular Brayton cycle based on dish + solar air receiver to heat air above 1000ْC, the ideas of using a solid medium for thermal storage is coming up again. The German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and others are executing significant work, investigating the cost and performance of utilizing concrete or ceramic materials for thermal energy storage. The DOE is encouraging companies to look at cost savings in terms of efficiency improvement, new technology and materials. Several companies are trying to solve the drawbacks of state-of-the art molten salt storage technology by using gas as heat transfer fluid that enters unique modular structures without mixing that may cause turbulences.   The existing ‘competitors’, beside the molten salt solution that is promoted also by Solar Reserve, are also low cost and widely available storage materials, like natural rocks or concrete composites, that seem to be more attractive for storage with parabolic trough based on oil (despite the issue of energy loss). It seems that ceramic storage materials, modular designs and charging and discharging concepts may have a potential for cost reduction, however, those concepts are not ready yet for scaling up to commercial pilots; it requires still more lab work, like verification of physical and dynamic numerical simulation to optimize the designs as well as the operating strategies.

 The market potential for storage is huge and the target price is < €20/kwh ~26USD/kwh, (for example in the DLR’s WESPE program, funded by the German government for developing efficient and cheap sensible storage material based on unique geometric arrangement of the heat exchanger tubes in the storage volume), while the current cost of storage based on molten salt is ~€40/kwh (Andasol).

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Advanced Energy Storage from the MIT

Advanced Energy Storage from the MIT

 Currently only 2.5% of the capacity of the U.S. grid is able to be stored, compared with 10% in Europe and 15% in Japan, which in the event of a grid failure could mean trouble for the U.S. This is why Professor Donald Sadoway at MIT received US $7 million from U.S. Energy Agency ARPA-E), $4 million from French oil company Total and support from the U.S. Defense Agency DARPA.

The goal of Sadoway’s research is to bring the cost of large scale energy storage facilities in line with the cost of natural gas plants. He said that in order to do this, incredibly large liquid metal batteries will need to be built and the facilities will need to be used in much the same way that flywheel storage plants are expected to be used, as frequency regulators that are capable of dispatching energy quickly in the event of an emergency. The basic principle behind the technology is to place three layers of liquid inside a container: Two different metal alloys, and one layer of a salt. The three materials are chosen so that they have different densities that allow them to separate naturally into three distinct layers, with the salt in the middle separating the two metal layers — like novelty drinks with different layers. The energy is stored in the liquid metals that want to react with one another but can do so only by transferring ions — electrically charged atoms of one of the metals — across the electrolyte, which results in the flow of electric current out of the battery. When the battery is being charged, some ions migrate through the insulating salt layer to collect at one of the terminals. Then, when the power is being drained from the battery, those ions migrate back through the salt and collect at the opposite terminal. The whole device is kept at a high temperature, around 700°C, so that the layers remain molten. While each of these technologies has a lot of lab work left before it’s ready for field testing on a large scale, chemistry professor Dr. Dan Nocera and the company he helped found Sun Catalytix are working to commercialize a catalyst that can be used to split water.

The basis of Sun Catalytix’s technology is a cobalt phosphate catalyst that Nocera said is more efficient at splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen than other materials. He said that the catalyst can work within normal ambient temperatures and with water sources as diverse as tap water and water straight out of the Charles River in Boston. While commercial electrolyzers that split water to make hydrogen already exist, Nocera said that they’re far too expensive and require a significant amount of energy to run. Sun Catalytix is in the process of testing an electroylzer that is built with its proprietary catalyst that can be manufactured using PVC plastic. A completed 100-watt system would work like this: solar PV panels would power an electrolyzer, which would then produce hydrogen that would be stored in tanks and then used as fuel for a fuel cell for electricity or to power a hydrogen vehicle. Nocera said that three liters of water a day could power a home. He said the ultimate goal of the Sun Catalytix system is use cheaper solar panels and fuel cells (still a stumbling block) to implement systems like this in the developing world where there is little-to-no electricity generating infrastructure in place and where three liters of even low-quality water per day could dramatically increase the quality of life of the people living there. Development of the technology is being financed by more than $1 million from Polaris Venture Partners. Nocera said that he expects a working prototype to be completed in the next 5-8 years and that the company has already been approached by solar companies interested in having their panels used in the system.

Source: Renewable Energy World

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Top 50 VC-Funded Clean Energy Startups

Top 50 VC-Funded Clean Energy Startups

Solar

Brightsource Energy: Big-name investors, a large war chest, a partnership with construction-giant Bechtel, more than a gigawatt in California utility PPAs and $1.37 billion in federal loan guarantees make this power-tower solar thermal player an easy choice. Now the challenge is getting past further environmental objections to its first 396-megawatt power plant.

Chromasun: Air conditioning accounts for fifty percent of the demand for power during peak periods in California, according to Peter Le Lievre, founder of Chromasun. It’s an enormous problem and market awaiting a solution.  Chromasun uses solar thermal collectors to gather solar heat to run a double effect chiller which curbs peak power, broadens the market for solar thermal technology and fits well within the practices of the building trades.  

Enphase Energy: This well-funded microinverter innovator has shipped more than 120,000 units for residential and commercial deployments.  The contract manufacturing model is working and the company continues to grow.  There are a number of microinverter startups but Enphase is the only one to reach credibility and volume shipments in a high-growth $2 billion market.

eSolar:  Fifteen months ago, eSolar was on the ropes. It desperately sought funds to build solar thermal power plants. It then switched strategies and decided to license its technology and sell equipment, leaving the actual building of the power plants to others. Since then, it’s signed deals that will lead to gigawatts worth of its solar technology planted in China, India, Africa and the Middle East. A 5 megawatt demo plant went up last year and construction on the first 92 megawatts begins this year. The secret sauce: software that helps improve the efficiency of the overall plant. Funding from Google, India’s Acme Group, Oak Investment Partners and NRG Energy.

Innovalight: The silicon nano-ink developer recently pivoted its business plan and shifted from solar panel manufacturing to panel manufacturing along with liscensing and joint ventures.  Innovalight’s inks allow silicon wafer manufacturers to boost their cell efficiency by up to 2 percent with a low capital outlay. This could be one of the last novel, “new” type of solar cells to make it out for a while.

Nanosolar:  The CIGS thin film pioneer  got started in 2002, making it one of the earliest thin film companies supported by Silicon Valley.  Since then, Nanosolar has used every avenue of funding to fund their potentially disruptive solar firm, now at about $500 million in funding to date.  Nanosolar is shipping product in the 10 to 12 percent efficiency range and has panels in the lab topping 16 percent efficiency. Nanosolar faces the same challenge as every other solar panel manufacturer — keeping up with silicon and cadmium telluride prices and efficiency.

Petra Solar: Not so much a technology play as a channel play, Petra Solar and its more than $50 million in VC funds is exploiting an untapped sales channel – solar panels on utility and power poles. Petra has a large contract with Public Service Electric & Gas, New Jersey’s biggest power utility, to install solar panels on streetlights and power poles across the distribution network.  PSE&G looks to install 200,000 panels and about 5 percent are up so far, according to PSE&G.  Potential for high growth in a new application.

SolarCity: Fast growing SolarCity has emerged as one of the largest residential solar installers in California and has moved into other solar-friendly states.  The startup has innovated in the installation field as well as in the financial field by offering leasing options for homes and small businesses.  U.S. Bancorp has set up a $100M fund to finance SolarCity’s residential and commercial installations.  Entrepreneurs are needed in the downstream solar business as much as in the technological side.

Solyndra:  With almost a billion dollars in venture capital and half a billion in DOE loan guarantees, Solyndra is the clear winner in the money raising contest.  The CIGS thin film solar company’s S-1 is filed and the firm has customers and $58.8 million in revenue in the 9 months ending Sept, 30 2009.  The investors and the company claim immense savings in balance of system costs. But skeptics abound and many believe that the company’s solar panels are more expensive than the competition. CIGS solar cells aren’t easy to make and Solyndra’s cylindrical design adds to the complexity. The debate won’t be answered until the customers start taking their data public.

Suniva: Well-funded Suniva has made numerous technological advances to raise crystalline silicon solar wafer efficiency and lower manufacturing cost.  Investors NEA, Goldman Sachs and Warburg Pincus have invested more than $125 million.

SunRun: SunRun is a home solar service company located in San Francisco, California that offers residential PPAs: “home solar as a monthly service.”  The company has seen 8 to 10 times growth over last year.   Sunrun has received venture funding from Foundation Capital and Accel Partners, as well as a $105 million tax equity commitment from an affiliate of U.S. Bancorp.  Residential PPAs from SunRun might be the disruptive piece that allows solar to better penetrate the residential roof market.
 
 

Smart Grid and EV Infrastructure

What will the smart grid of the future look like? Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers speaks of a utility-managed system that orchestrates smart meters, solar panels, batteries, demand response systems and plug-in vehicle chargers to serve as “virtual power plants” scattered throughout a utility service territory.

Arcadian Networks: Arcadian Networks designs and delivers wireless communication networks to utilities based on the private (licensed), secured 700 MHz spectrum.  The 700MHz appears to be a better choice (than 900Mhz) is rural areas, since the signal can travel farther without relays and can penetrate physical obstacles (such as crops and hilly terrain) that higher frequencies may struggle with.  The other major advantage of the 700MHz spectrum is that because it is licensed there is not any interference from other sources.  While 900MHz mesh networking solutions have dominated the market due in part to their lower costs, as interference continues to create problems for utilities, and as “intelligent provisioning” becomes more common, expect Arcadian Networks to compliment 900MHz networks in situations were interference is just not acceptable.

Better Place: A $350 million dollar funding round in January ranks as one of the largest cleantech deals in history with a pre-money valuation of $900 million.  Commercial launch is targeted for 2011 for the bold electric-vehicle / charging-station / battery-swap / electricity-selling start-up with an inital focus on Israel and Denmark.  Investors include HSBC, Morgan Stanley Investment Management, Lazard Asset Management, VantagePoint Venture Partners, et al.  Better Place is looking to install between 15,000 and 20,000 charging stations in both Israel and Denmark in the near-term.  There is the suggestion that this firm could be a Google or Netscape-type market disruptor.  But even a dominant role as an urban vehicle, as a fleet vehicle, as a delivery vehicle lets Better Place win big in a niche market.

CPower: With 800 megawatts of demand response curtailment under management, CPower is the third largest player in this emerging demand response/energy management market.  Why do we offer you #3, and not the #1 or #2?  Good question.  Those competitors, EnerNOC and Comverge have already gone public, that’s why.  Like their more-public-piers, CPower is looking to quickly move into other energy services, including reserves & frequency regulation, renewable energy credits, and energy efficiency for consumers.  Last year the company doubled their curtailment load, became the largest aggregator on the Texas (ERCOT) grid, and now claims to provide demand response services to over 1,600 different retail sites.  SCE, PG&E and Ontario Power Authority are all utility clients.  The company’s investors include Bessemer Ventures, Schneider Electric Ventures and Intel Capital.

Coulomb Technologies: Coulomb builds a vital piece of the EV infrastructure — charging stations connected to the grid with power and data.  Coulomb was founded on two premises — that every charge station should be networked and that Coulomb needed to be a self-sustaining business model — they win revenue from the sale of the charge station and from fee-based charge services.  Investors include Voyager Capital, Rho Ventures, Siemens Venutre Capital and Hartford Ventures.

EcoLogic Analytics: EcoLogic Analytics provides meter data management (MDM) software solutions and decision management technologies for utilities. They offer a suite of software solutions that include gateway engines, meter data warehouse, meter read manager, meter reading analytic, navigator graphical user interface, automated validation engine, network performance monitor and reporting engine, real time outage validation engine, data synchronization engine, calculation engine and residential rate analysis API, and virtual metering aggregation components. Their MDM solutions also integrate with other systems, such as CIS/billing, to deliver data to business users in the enterprise.  EcoLogic Analytics was chosen as the vendor to provide MDM for PG&E, the biggest AMI deployment in North America – a huge win for the company. In February 2009, the company landed its second major contract with Texas utility Oncor and will serve as the MDM provider for more than three million electric meters in Oncor’s service territory. 

eMeter: eMeter makes software that manages the enormous volume of data coming from smart meters, providing both MDM and AMI integration for utility information systems. eMeter’s solutions also allow for demand response and real-time monitoring of resource usage, yielding greater energy efficiency and more reliable service, while minimizing the costs of AMI deployment, data management, and operations. The company competes with AMI companies that can provide their own software AMI and MDM software such as Itron and Sensus, as well as other software companies such as Oracle.  In early 2009, eMeter announced a deal with CenterPoint Energy to support the Texas utility’s plan to install two million smart meters in its territory. That follows deals with Alliant Energy, Jacksonville Electric Authority, the Canadian province of Ontario, and European energy comapny, Vattenfall. The company claims to have more than 24 million meters under contract.  That number gets it a spot on the list.  eMeter has transitioned from just providing MDM solutions for utilities into consumer services, such as demand response and consumer portals, following a strategy that seems to be working among smart grid players: get your foot in the door with one solution, then seek to expand.

Proximetry: Proximetry provides network and performance management solutions for wireless networks to enable network operators to visualize, provision, and actively manage their networks, especially to support mission-critical communications.  The company’s software solution, AirSync, enables real-time, network-wide visualization, management, and active network control from a single system and location for multivendor, multifrequency, multiprotocol wireless networks.  This so-called “intelligent provisioning” which provides “dynamic bandwidth” matching network resource priorities to users and devices needs seems like a logical extension of smart grid networking, and we expect this to be a major new trend going forward. Proximetry is currently working San Diego Gas & Electric, widely considered to be one of the most innovative utilities in North America.

Silver Spring Networks: Silver Spring Networks has been plugging away at standards-based networking for smart meters for close to a decade — building routers and hubs that connect via a wireless mesh protocol. The firm has made annnouncements of utility contracts with Oklahoma Gas & Electric, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, AEP and Florida Power & Light and closed a $100 million investment from blue-chip VCs including Kleiner Perkins and Foundation Capital, bringing its VC total to north of $250 million.  This month Silver Spring declared it’s intention to go public with an IPO underwriter bake-off — the S-1 filing should follow soon.  Revenues are estimated in the $100 million range.  Easily the leading VC-funded smart grid startup.

SmartSynch:  SmartSynch’s GridRouter is a modular, standards-based, upgradeable networking device that can handle almost any communications protocol that a utility uses.  Four networking card slots allow a single box to handle ZigBee, WiFi, WiMax or other proprietary communications standards simultaneously. The cards can be removed so utilities can swap out and/or upgrade their networks without replacing the basic piece of installed equipment. It provides communication to any device on the grid over any wireless network, according to the CEO, Stephen Johnston.  Potentially, that could eliminate some of the fear and uncertainty surrounding smart grid deployments.  The Tennessee Valley Authority selected SmartSynch to serve as the communications backbone in its renewable program.

Tendril Networks: Tendril makes a varied suite of hardware and software solutions for applications such as demand response, energy monitoring, energy management and load control. It offers an energy management system for consumers (based on the ZigBee HAN standard) and utilities, smart devices (such as smart thermostats, smart plugs, and in-home displays,) as well as web based and iPhone enabled displays and energy controls. The company also develops applications for utilities such as network management, direct load control, customer load control. The startup has deals in place with more than 30 utilities and had a large commercial rollout in 2009, along with a number of field trials. In June 2009, the company raised a $30 million third round, bringing its total to more than $50 million and making it one of the better funded private companies competing in the Home Area Network space.  General Electric’s Consumer and Industrial division has teamed up with Tendril to develop algorithms and other technology that will  allow utilities employing Tendril’s TREE platform to turn GE dryers, refrigerators, washing machines and other energy-gobbling appliances off or on to curb power consumption.  The GE deal gets the company on the list. Runner-up: EcoFactor.

Trilliant: Trilliant provides utilities with wireless equipment and management software for smart grid communication networks. In 2009, Trilliant acquired SkyPilot Networks, a manufacturer of long-range, high-capacity wireless mesh networks. The acquisition allows them to offer complementary networks, both the neighborhood network and the wide-area network. Trilliant’s largest deployment is 1.4 million device network spread over 640,000 square kilometers at Hydro One’s deployment in Ontario, Canada. The company has been around for years so defining it as a start-up is tough, but it has been on this tack for only the last few years.

 

Green Buildings, Lighting

Adura Technologies: Approximately 85 percent of commercial office buildings in the U.S. are illuminated inside with fluorescent tube lights. In the vast majority of cases, these bulbs can’t be dimmed or turned off remotely. Only around 1 percent of lights in California office buildings are networked. Adura has created a wireless mesh system that effectively flips the lights off when you’re not around and dims them when the sun is out. In a recent test conducted by PG&E, Adura managed to cut the power delivered to lights by 72 percent. Next, the company plans to connect its software to other devices in buildings. VantagePoint is a lead investor. Runner up for networking: Lumenergi.

Bridgelux: Bridgelux is focused on lowering the cost of LED-based solid-state lighting to a penny per lumen — a disruptive price acheived through clever packaging and innovating in the expitaxial processes of building the phosphor-coated film.  Early this year, new CEO and ex-Seagate CEO, Bill Watkins took over the reins and announced a $50 million funding to finance a new fab, bringing its substantial fund-raising totals to over $150 million from investors including DCM, El Dorado Ventures, VantagePoint Venture Partners, Chrysalix Energy and Harris & Harris Group.  Our sources indicate that the firm is generating significant revenue. The big question is whether they can outrun the big guys like Philips and Osram.

Optimum Energy: Buildings consume 40 percent of the energy in the U.S. and 76 percent of the electricity.  HVAC is the low hanging fruit of energy efficiency in commercial buildings and where we can make an enormous impact in energy usage.  Optimum Energy develops networked building control application and products to reduce energy consumption in commercial buildings — reducing energy consumption and GHGs while increasing operating efficiencies in HVAC plants.  Optimum makes software that dynamically controls the chillers – the enormous machines that cool water for air conditioning systems in skyscrapers. According to the company, there are more than 150,000 buildings that can use their product and if the software was used in each one, 75 gigawatts could be taken off the grid. Adobe has installed it.

Recurve: Formerly Sustainable Spaces. They do energy efficiency retrofits. Recurve is assembling a dynamic software package that will allow contractors large and small around the world cut down the time, cost and errors in conducting retrofits. A lot of the employees come from Google—you can’t say that about other construction companies. In fact, a number of large contractors are testing it out now. Co-founder Matt Golden is also one of the driving forces behind the $6 billion Cash for Caulkers program recently introduced by Obama. Recurve’s next policy initiative: funding retrofits by getting them classified as carbon credits.

Redwood Systems: The company, which has received money from Battery Ventures and others, will soon disclose their technological angle, but the gist of it is this: Redwood replaces lighting wires and regular light bulbs with Ethernet cables and LEDs. Suddently, you have a network in your ceiling that every light, smoke detector and other device can link into. Founders hail from Grand Junction Networks, the Fast Ethernet pioneer turned gold mine for Cisco when acquired in 1995.

Serious Materials:  A bit heavy on hype, but Serious has the beginnnings of revenue and has just won the Empire State Building retrofit project for their triple pane windows.  The company appears to have hit some speedbumps with its drywall product, both financially and technologically. But high-end investors like Foundation Capital and high-voltage staff like CEO, Kevin Surace have kept green building materials in the news, in the public imagination and in the tax credit checkbooks of the U.S. government.  Sources indicate revenue between $25 million and $50 million in 2009.

 

Biofuels and Biochemicals

Amyris:  Rumors abound that Amryis, a synthetic biology startup spun out of UC Berkeley with more than $150 million in funding, could soon file its S-1. Amyris develops microbes that feed on sugars and secrete custom hydrocarbons for conversion into jet fuel, industrial chemicals or biodiesel.  Amyris claims to eventually produce biodiesel that can wholesale for $2 a gallon.  In late 2009 the firm paid $82 million to Brazil’s São Martinho Group for a 40-percent stake in an ethanol mill project and entered into agreements with three other Brazilian companies to produce ethanol and high-value chemicals.

LS9: The company’s scientists have engineered a strain of e coli with a genome that can convert sugars into a fatty acid methyl ester which is chemically equivalent to California Clean diesel. It’s a completely unnatural act but could lead to $45 a barrel biodiesel. LS9 hopes to show that the process is feasible next year. Added bonus: LS9 does not have to kill its microbes to get the oil. They secrete it naturally and then can live to feed, digest and excrete more dollops of oil. It’s not out of guilt: re-using a microbe instead of cultivating a new generation cuts time and costs. Another added bonus: it is working with Procter and Gamble on green chemicals and Chevron on fuel.

Sapphire Energy: Sapphire eventually hopes to produce hydrocarbons from genetically modified algae grown in open ponds. Conceivably, it could be the cheapest and fastest technique for producing algae fuel. But it’s also fraught with complications. Growing algae in open ponds for fuel oil at the moment is expensive and complex, and keeping GMO strains from being out-competed by natural strains in the open is even more daunting. The company has raised $100 million plus from top flight VCs, including the firm that invests on behalf of Bill Gates. So stay tuned.

Solazyme: One of the oldest algae companies and the one that’s also the furthest along. Solazyme eschews growing algae in ponds or bioreactors through photosynthesis. Instead, it puts algae in beer brewing kettles, feeds them sugar and grows them that way. The sugar adds to the raw material costs, but Solazyme makes up that cost because it doesn’t have to extract the algae from water, one of the most vexing problems facing algae companies. Solazyme says it will be able to show that its processes can be exploited to produce competitively priced fuel from algae in about two years. It has produced thousands of gallons already and has a contract to produce 20,000 gallons of fuel to the Navy. And it is already selling algae for revenue to the food industry. Chevron is an investor.

Synthetic Genomics:  In July of last year, Synthetic Genomics announced a $300 million agreement with Exxon to research and develop next generation biofuels using photosynthetic algae. Synthetic Genomics’ dynamic founder, J. Craig Venter, was quoted as saying, “I came up with a notion to trick algae into pumping more lipids out.”  Venter is a man of action and vision and if anyone can make algae produce hydrocarbons directly — its him.  In addition to the $300 million from Exxon, Synthetic Genomics has received funding from Draper Fisher Juvetson, Meteor Group, Biotechonomy, BP, et al.

 

Batteries, Fuel Cells, Energy Storage

Bloom Energy: Ten years in the making — $400 million from Kleiner Perkins for this solid oxide fuel cell developer garnered them a stellar list of customers, a high-powered board and a hypetastic coming-out party on 60 Minutes.  Now they have to make the economics of fuel cells work. The Bloom Energy Server costs $700,000 now.

Deeya Energy: A few years ago, flow batteries were barely understood exotic pieces of equipment. Now at least five start-ups have received funding. Deeya was first. It has created a battery in which electrolyte flows in and out of the battery so it always stays charged. Utilities and cell phone carriers that need remote power will be the primary customers. Last year, it started shipping its first commercial products. The products cost around $4,000 a kilowatt (or about half what Bloom currently sells its products for) and hopes to bring down the price to $1,000.

EEStor:  This ultracapacitor aspirant makes the list by virtue of the hype and craziness that surrounds it.  Kleiner Perkins was an original investor but appears to have backed away from EEStor as corporate milestones and technological claims became less credible.  The firm is attempting to make material advances in ceramic powders used in high energy ultracapacitors. No revenue, no prototype, no customers but an obsessed cadre of fan-boy supporters.

General Compression. The cheapest form of energy storage remains compressed air, according to EPRI. To date, however, compressed air has relied upon finding geological formations where you can stuff thousands of cubic meters of air. General Compression, along with SustainX and Isentropic Energy, want to change that with mechanical systems. Both General, which recently raised $17 million, and Isentropic employ pressure and temperature differentials to store and generate heat. Duke is building a 2 megawatt trial facility for General.

 

Transportation

Coda Automotive: Later this year, Coda will attempt to market an all-electric, mid-priced sedan to American drivers. Car start-ups like Tesla and Fisker have initially aimed at the top end of the market, where price and volume are less important factors. Can Coda, and similarly situated BYD, do it? All the auto market will watch it closely. Coda and BYD also will represent China’s first major foray into the U.S. auto market. Coda’s car—which is based around a Chinese gas-burning car that’s been retrofitted by U.S. engineers– will be assembled in China and come with a battery made through a joint venture between Coda and Lishen. A Chinese bank has agreed to lend $450 million to the battery venture. Investors include Hank “Give me $800 billion, no questions asked” Paulson. BYD counts Warren Buffet as an investor.

Fisker Automotive: A luxury EV, but unlike the Tesla, the Fisker Karma is a plug-in hybrid, combining a battery and an ICE.  This firm is another Kleiner Perkins portfolio company and uses batteries from A123.  A123 was also an investor in their most recent $115 million funding round.  The car sells for $87,900 and already has more than 1,400 people on the waiting list. Hendrik Fisker is a noted car designer who has worked with, among others, Aston Martin.

Tesla Motors: The little EV company that might. Teslas has shipped about 1,000 units of their speedy Roadster model, opened up retail outlets in the U.S. and Europe, and just filed their S-1 which showed them raising $442 million in VC and reaching revenues of $93.3 million in the 9 months ending Sept 30, 2009.  The next step is building the all-electric sedan, with far more ambitious volume sales goals.

 

Other Energy — Wind, Nuclear, Cleaner Coal, Geothermal

Laurus Energy: Funded by MDV in an $8.5 million round and helmed by energy exec, Rebecca McDonald, Laurus extracts energy from coal in the form of syngas while it is still in the ground using UCG – underground coal gasification. Laurus then fractionalizes the syngas: carbon dioxide is separated and sent via a pipe to oil fields, where it is injected into other wells to help pull crude out of the ground. The rest of the gases — a combination of hydogen, methane and hydrocarbons — are then burnt in a gas-fueled power plant.  Power from coal is not going away — any disruptive technology that lowers the carbon footprint of coal and eliminates mountain top removal can be a new untapped piece of the energy mix.  It is currently working with a Native American tribe in Alaska to build a UCG vein with a power plant.

Nuscale:  NuScale’s modular nuclear reactor design could disruptively shift development away from the “cathedral model” of large-scale, over-budget, ten-year power nuclear power plant projects. Investor in NuScale and partner at CMEA, Maurice Gunderson suggests that small modular reactors are the “game-changer” in energy technology.  NuScale can manufacture modular reactors on a factory assembly line – and cut the time to develop a nuclear plant in half.   “Nuclear is necessary, doable, and the markets are gargantuan,” adds Gunderson.  Whether nuclear belongs on a greentech list always results in vigorous debate.

Nordic Wind Power: With funding from Khosla Ventures, NEA and Novus Energy Partners, they are the only wind turbine company in the U.S. to get a DOE loan guarantee — $16 million under the innovative renewable energy program.  Nordic also received “significant” funding from Goldman Sachs in 2007.  Their innovative 1-megawatt 2-blade turbine design challenges the traditional wind turbine design paradigm.

Potter Drilling: Geothermal provided 4.5 percent of California’s power in 2007 and advocates say that more power could be extracted, even in non-geothermal hot spots, from underneath the ground. The problem has been getting to it economically and safely. Potter, founded by oil industry alums, has come up with a way to drill that’s five times as fast and less costly. Google.org is one of its investors.

Ze-Gen: Ze-Gen dips organic landfill waste into molten iron and turns it into biogas. The architecture of the system eliminates many of the inefficiencies associated with biomass. It has a pilot plant and raised $20 million in a second round last year. The big challenge is in getting a production plant off the ground.

 

Water

Oasys: This water startup is built around research from Yale with $10 million in venture funds to see if its novel desalination technique, which exploits fundamental chemistry and waste heat, can go commercial.  The company claims its “forward osmosis” process can desalinate water for about half the cost of standard reverse osmosis desalination.

Miox:  The disruptive aspect of Miox’ business plan is distributed water purification instead of the current centralized model.  The company makes onsite water purification systems for gray water remediation and water recycling. Distributed water purification could, potentially, open up a flood of investment into water.  Miox’s trick is in making the process cost-effective. The company’s system can purify a given amount of liquid with a volume of salt that is one-fourth the amount of liquid chlorine that would be required.  Investors include Sierra Venutres, DCM, and Flywheel Ventures.

Purfresh: If you drink bottled water or eat bagged organic lettuce, you’ve encountered Purfresh. The company, backed by Foundation Capital, kills microbes with ozinated water. Growers use it to keep food fresh on the way to store shelves and bottlers use it to sterilize plastic. Orders go up every time an e coli outbreak occurs. Like Serious Materials, Purfresh is expanding from its base to become a full-service water and food company.

 

Green IT

Hara: Originally funded in 2008 by Silicon Valley heavyweight VC, Kleiner Perkins, Hara has been making good headway attacking the nascent carbon accounting and management software space. It’s still early days for this market but a very large base of enterprise companies are actively looking for software solutions that provide actionable information, metrics, recommendations and reporting regarding their carbon footprints. Hara has amassed an impressive list of customers to date, including Coca Cola, News Corp., Akamai, Intuit, Brocade and Safeway.

Sandforce: The company has created a chip that makes it possible for search companies, banks and other companies with large datacenters to swap out storage systems made out of hard drives with drives made of flash memory, which only use about 5 percent of the power. In real terms, that means dropping the power budget for storage systems from $50,000 for five years to $250. Storage giant EMC has invested.

 Source: GreenTech Media

 

 

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Rational and risks involved in incorporating thermal storage with current CSP plants

Rational and risks involved in incorporating thermal storage with current CSP plants

Much effort is invested worldwide for developing storage for trough technology. The more advanced approach is based on phaze changes materials (which is called: PCM), since it enables higher density in the storage and minimal temperature losses between charge and discharge. The main problem is the low heat transfer (due to low thermal conductivity of the salts), and this affects directly the amount of power that could be extracted from the storage. Several research is being executed (mainly in Germany) for developing enhanced solutions, usually by enhancing the heat transfer between the salt and the heat transfer fluid (in the molten salt receiver/hot storage tank), reducing transient effects, optimization of the storage materials (for example, by using metal with graphite that has very high thermal conductivity – which can result up to 15% increase in conductivity, modifications in geometry, boundary conditions (e.g., addition of inflow and outflow, adding radiating surfaces or media) are being tested.  Parts of those solutions are technically feasible, although too expensive yet, e.g. the additional costs overweigh the benefits. One of the advanced approaches, that might have a chance to be cost effective, is based on adding metal surfaces into the salt zone, which may significantly improve the heat transfer to the salt by adding both radiative and convective areas, and also induce more mixing by producing faster flow and higher turbulence. Another alternative to these effects is to add particles that participate in radiation and supply convection area. The goal is to achieve an energy storage system with thermal efficiency of 90%, life time of 30 years and specific costs of: 30 USD/KWthermal capacity, and 1.5 US cent per KWHelectric. But, as far as I know, no system can achieve it yet. 

 Various storage systems incorporated with solar tower electricity generation systems were developed and the most advanced of them was installed and tested in California. This system, Solar Two, generated 10MW electricity using an eutectic molten nitrate salts mixture pumped and piped from a ground-based cold tank to a receiver mounted on the top of a tower. The hot salt from the receiver is then piped to a second, hot tank on the ground. In a secondary loop, the hot salt flows through a heat exchanger to generate steam and returns to the cold tank. The third loop includes the steam generator, which supplies steam to a steam turbine electricity generator. This plant was closed on 1999. Now Sener is trying to do something similar in Spain.

The most common storage technology in use (following the inefficient oil storage tanks solution that is being used at the SEGS plants in California) is the molten salt two-tank system, which provides a feasible storage capacity and is considered to have low to moderate associated risks. Molten salt that will be used for storage as such is bankable (as molten salt is being used for a long time in the chemical industry), but the integration of this kind of storage system to the solar system – is risky.  Concentrated solar thermal power plants have specific requirements for storage that are not well known in the chemical industry. For example: working under thermal cycling conditions; heating and cooling; temperature changing periodically; even design the hot and cold tanks is a challenge; Not to speak about the pipes and the heat exchangers. Another problem is freezing at night. But the main risk is that it is a big step from the existing technology in the chemical industry to that is required by the solar plants, especially in size – going up in scale, since in the chemical industry relatively small amounts of molten salts are being used.   On the other hand, storage contributes not only by increasing operation hours, but also enhancing the overall efficiency, as the plant is working more hours close to the design point. 

At Acciona’s Nevada parabolic trough plant there is no storage (only for about 30 minutes, which is achieved by the fluid that is in the pipes). On the other hand, at the parabolic trough plants of Andasol One & Two – FlagSol (Solar Millennium’s subsidiary) together with ACS/Cobra developed thermal storage based on molten salt. This system is being working for almost two years, probably with a lot of obstacles to deal with, like freezing issues (the freezing point of the chosen nitrates is probably 220ºC), corrosion, blocking, purity of the salt, problems with materials that are in contact with the salt, and a lot of integration and control issues. However, the operators (ACS/Cobra) are gaining much experience and claim to be able to overcome most obstacles. 

 Another risk related to incorporating storage is how much downtime (forced outage) will the plant experience. As a worth case scenario one has to assume up to 10 percent (36.5 days) down, although some plants have almost no downtime due to troubles with storage systems. Thermal storage allows project developers to maximize the value of the solar thermal facility’s output for time of use pricing verses the cost of producing that electricity. Designing a facility to sell the largest amount of output does not necessarily make that design the one with the best return on capital. Sometimes it is preferred, for example, to store all of the thermal energy produced in the morning instead of directing only part to the storage and part to produce electricity for immediate sale. The design point as well as operation strategies are of utmost importance especially when thermal storage is incorporated with the solar thermal plant. However, reducing drastically the capital cost of thermal storage is key to the commercial deployment of the technology.

 

 

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Evaluating whether clean energy technological breakthroughs are realistic for achieving grid parity & how can we make it happen?

Evaluating whether clean energy technological breakthroughs are realistic for achieving grid parity & how can we make it happen?

Key addressing on policy & implementation matters at the Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy conference Feb 2010 (*) as presented by Amnon Samid, Executive Chairman, the AGS group:

• Addressing the challenges of grid integration for renewables from the transmission perspective.

• Distributed energy generation as key to deploying advanced clean energy technologies.

• Adopting the grid to be able to integrate different unstable sources of energy, incorporate energy storage, distribution automation and distribution management systems and improving frequency stability of grids that incorporate remote clean energy sources.

• Applying smart grid vision globally – a global link which uses AC and DC transmissions.

• Is not it a shame wasting hundreds of millions during the last decade on subsidizing PV integrators, instead of investing these money in developing new technologies that will not require governmental incentives and replace all use of fossil fuel for electricity production and transportation?

• Presenting the ‘big picture’ beyond subsidies and feed-in tariffs – insight into the future of developing new technologies and evaluating whether technological breakthroughs are realistic for achieving grid parity and how we can make it happen (Manhattan-like clean energy projects).

Samid also encouraged Lenders to take the risks in financing renewable energy projects that are based on new technologies, which are not defined yet as “bankable”, while presenting the main risk factors and mitigation required:

 • Technology, which should be mitigated by proven design or tested Equipment (especially when it’s not a proven technology). • Suppliers, which should be mitigated by their references, track record, experience and financial strength and warrantees.

• EPC, which could be mitigated by performance guarantee and ongoing measurements of performance & degradation.

• Developers, especially their credibility, track record and risk profile.

• O&M, which should be mitigated by track record of the contractor, warranties for availability, performance guarantees & degradation, spare parts management and O&M budget.

• Operation strategy & Performance model for the lifetime of the project.

• Financial model, which should include exposure to risks involved in fluctuations in Interest rates, currencies rates, seasonal factors etc., while especially it’s important to make sure that low probability scenarios will still result in sufficient revenues to repay the loan.

 • Solar resources, especially the basis and accuracy of historic irradiation data and assessment of future irradiation data.

• Infrastructure, Permits and Licenses, including space constrains, access roads, availability of fossil fuels, water availability, flood protection, transmission facilities, geotechnical & environmental assessments.

• Revenue which is controlled by all the above and the Power Purchase Agreement [PPA].

 —–

(*) The conference brought together major leaders on clean & renewable energy — technology experts, academic researchers, regulators, policy makers, consumers, financial experts, industry leaders, utilities, start-up companies along with influences from the US, Europe & Africa.

• Amnon Samid was moderating a panel with key decision makers analyzing the current situation of clean & renewable energy industry in Israel

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Will SolarReserve defeat its competition?

Will SolarReserve defeat its competition?

“The brainchild of rocket scientists and a private equity group specialized in renewable energies, SolarReserve, the solar energy development company, is primed to be a winner in the concentrated solar power sector.

United Technology subsidiary, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, has combined its liquid rocket engine heat transfer technology and molten salt handling expertise to develop a unique tower receiver technology with thermal storage capabilities – for which SolarReserve is the exclusive license holder.

Another key ingredient is SolarReserve’s founding partner – the US Renewables Group, a US$575 million private equity firm exclusively focused on renewable power and clean fuel projects.

And finally: the team.  SolarReserve’s blend of professionals from the energy, technology and finance industries are proving to be a knockout combination.” [Source: CSP TODAY].

Competition:

 Parabolic troughs, which have been in operation since the mid-1980′s, are currently the most commercial technology and hence the main competitor for any solar thermal technology. Parabolic trough plants have proven a maximum efficiency of 21% (with an average of 12% to 15%) for the conversion of direct solar radiation into grid electricity. While the plants in California uses synthetic oil as heat transfer fluid in the collectors, efforts to achieve direct steam generation within the absorber tubes in order to reduce costs further did not achieve a viable system so far.

 Another option is the approximation of the parabolic trough by segmented mirrors according to the principle of Fresnel. Although this will reduce efficiency, it shows a considerable potential for cost reduction. The close arrangement of the mirrors requires less land and provides a partially shaded, useful space below.

 Despite improvements in performance of the parabolic troughs new generations, the cost of electricity with solar only is relatively high.  Hence lower limit of costs (through Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) or competition) will not enable this technology to be competitive for the long run. For larger scale power generation, Central receivers, which utilize a collection of heliostats – mirrors which track the sun and concentrate the radiation onto a central receiver located at the top of a tower – hold out a huge potential for lower costs. Concentrating the sunlight enables heating a heat transfer fluid up to 1200ºC and higher. Today, molten salt or air or water is used to absorb the heat in the receiver. The heat may be used for steam generation or making use of the full potential of this high-temperature technology – to drive gas turbines. For gas turbine operation, the air to be heated must pass through a pressurized solar receiver with a solar window. Combined cycle power plants (like Aora’s) require about 30% less collector area than equivalent steam cycle.

 Another option is based on Parabolic Dish, which are relatively small concentrators that have a motor-generator or a turbo-generator in the focal point of the reflector. This generator may be based on Stirling engine or a gas turbine. Because of their size, they are particularly suited for decentralized electricity supply and remote stand alone systems. Dishes up to 400m² have been built and other even larger are being currently designed. Although significant progress has been made on most major components including the high performance dish, it is too early to determine whether the promises of developing a simple, low cost and very reliable engine will be realized by new designs. Moreover, this technology is inherently nondispatchable without storage or fuel backup, so can not reach utility’s dispatch requirements. 

 

 

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“Making the Impossible Possible – Finding Alternatives to Fossil Fuels”

“Making the Impossible Possible – Finding Alternatives to Fossil Fuels”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech at the 2009 President’s Conference Jerusalem, 20 October 2009

 Translation from Hebrew

This Conference is an opportunity to think about how to make the impossible possible. How do we transform a dream into reality, a crisis into an opportunity? ……Therefore, tonight I would like to talk to you about one of the more significant matters on the global agenda: eliminating the world’s dependence on fossil fuels, particularly oil. We all know the simple truth: dependence on oil endangers the world. It is a threat to our security, our economy and the environment. Our security, because dependence on fossil fuels strengthens the dark regimes that encourage instability and fund terror with their petrodollars. Our economy, because if we don’t develop alternative energy sources, the demand for fossil fuels will increase and the supply will decrease. This will lead to an increase in prices, which in turn will adversely affect global economic development in countries that import fossil fuels – which is the majority of countries. This will cause serious economic harm. Environmentally, because the pollution from fossil fuels poisons the air that we breathe, the water that we drink and the food that we eat. Our dependence on oil harms us and the earth every day, and has done so for decades. To counteract all this, we must set a goal: we must free ourselves from our dependence on oil. I know it seems impossible, but believe me – it is possible. Sometimes all it takes is one or two inventions to make a breakthrough and change the world. Look at salt during the 19th century. Until the beginning of the 20th century, salt was a luxury item used to preserve food. Caravans of camels carried salt through the Sahara Desert, and the salt was traded for gold. Entire empires became rich trading salt, because of the world’s dependence on salt. But two inventions were made. The first was the canning process and the second was refrigeration, and all at once the world’s huge dependence on salt was eliminated. As a result, the salt empires crashed almost overnight. Is Israel the country that will discover the breakthrough that will free the world of its dependence on fossil fuels? I believe so because Israel has two significant resources that provide us with a good chance of doing so. • We have the minds and the hearts. • The capability, the will. Israel is very advanced in the technological fields – agro-tech, hi-tech, nanotechnology, solar energy, battery technologies and renewable energies. Naturally, we are leading candidates to create a global revolution in the clean energy field because of this capacity. Here is the essence of what I’m saying. It’s possible to change the world. The greatest changes in man’s history occurred when there was not only a technological change, but a conceptual change. For many generations, hundreds of thousands of years, man was a hunter-gather. He went to seek out food. He had to go great distances, chase animals to get the protein he needed, or to look for berries or fruit to gather so he’d have the nutrients that were needed for life. These nomadic hunter-gatherer patterns changed one day, because man realized that the food was right underneath his feet. And that was the day that agriculture was born. We are hunter-gatherers for energy. We go to the depths of the oceans. We seek energy from the bowels of the Earth and distant lands. But the energy is right under our noses. It’s all around us. It’s bountiful. It’s in the sun. It’s in the wind. It’s in the water. We just have to tap it.

I think we have the capacity to develop this. Our Nobel Prize winners were mentioned – yes, we have per capita more Nobel Prize winners than any other country, than any other people. We have the second largest concentration of technological capacity; in terms of venture capital, the highest per capita by far. We have scientific publications and we have patents in abundance. So we have the capacity, including in these areas – the development of energy from hydrogen, from water, the development of solar energy and other energies. We have the brains, but we also have the will. Because think what this will mean for our national security. Think of what it would mean for our future if the world ended its dependence on fossil fuels, and especially on oil. By changing this dependence, we can change the world. I don’t know which technology will triumph. Yesterday, Ray Kurzweil, who hasn’t changed a bit in 35 years – I remember you from MIT, Ray – you gave us a course on entrepreneurship and you proceeded to be an entrepreneur, like Shimon Peres, in your own great scientific capacities. Yesterday you said that the efficiency of solar energy doubles every two years. You said that we live in a very brief generation that will develop the energy of the proximate future. If that’s the case, then we’re in good shape. But I say let’s make it happen faster. If we have placed a man on the moon, surely we can harness the energy of the sun.

 What I propose to do today is to establish a nation commission of scientists, engineers, business and government people to set a goal that within ten years, we’ll have a practical, clean, efficient substitute for oil. I think it’s possible. I think we can make the impossible possible. Ladies and Gentlemen, I have never been accused of being a disciple of government intervention. However, sometimes the private market simply cannot create the critical mass of activities needed to make such a big change. Sometimes it needs a push and support from the government. Finding an alternative to oil is a critical matter for the State of Israel must deal with – with regard to geopolitics, security concerns, environmental concerns, to secure the future and to change the world’s order of priorities. Therefore, I repeat my announcement that I am going to establish a national commission comprised of scientists, manufacturers, engineers, businesspeople and government officials, with the goal of formulating a practical plan for efficient development in technologies and engineering in order to replace fossil fuels within the decade. I ask the minds and talents who are here, and around the world, to help.

It is not in our interest alone. The resources need not be exclusively Israel’s. Most of the world shares this interest. But Israel has a strong and clear interest in achieving this. “For out of Zion will come Torah”: We are commanded to bring a new light to the world. God willing, with your help and the help of many others around the world, we will make the impossible possible. Thank you.

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One Response to “Making the Impossible Possible – Finding Alternatives to Fossil Fuels”

  1. I can not participate now in discussion – there is no free time. But I will be released – I will necessarily write that I think.
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