Puerto Ricans are powering their own rooftop solar boom

Read the full story at Canary Media.

Residents and shop owners are installing solar-plus-battery systems in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Will the government get on board?

Methods to evaluate the aging of photovoltaics

Read the full story at AZO Materials.

A paper recently published a paper in the journal Energies demonstrated a novel method to accurately evaluate photovoltaic (PV) module degradation rates for aging diagnosis through the on-site measurement of PV power output. 

Illinois pork producer turns to solar as ‘most economically beneficial option’

Read the full story at Solar Builder.

Citing a need to diffuse accelerating energy costs and a desire to further sustainable farming practices, The Maschhoffs have broken ground on a new 3-MW solar array at its Griggsville Feed Mill.

Solential Energy began construction of the Griggsville Feed Mill array in mid-May. The project, encompassing 6,800 ground-mounted, fixed-tilt solar panels, will be fully installed and generating power by October 2022. The Maschhoffs anticipate first-year energy savings of $320,000 and 25-year accumulated savings of more than $11.3 million.

The afterlife of solar panels

Read the full story from The Wire.

Solar energy is a rapidly expanding marketplace that should benefit the environment. Solar panels can last for decades if they are properly cleaned and maintained. But there is a catch. What happens to these panels after they are decommissioned? They go straight to the landfill, where they have significant consequences. Heavy metals in solar panels such as lead and cadmium have been known to seep out of the cells, enter groundwater and harm plants, alter soil fertility, and affect our livelihoods. Most solar recycling facilities simply extract the valuable silver and copper from the cells before burning the contaminated glass and plastic casings in cement furnaces.

Upcycling silicon waste from end-of-life solar panels into thermoelectrics

Read the full story at pv magazine.

Researchers in Singapore have developed a new technique in which polycrystalline silicon is pulverized into powder and pelletized into ingots. The process relies on spark plasma sintering to dope the silicon with germanium and phosphorus.

Biden to pause solar tariffs for 2 years amid supply chain disruption from Commerce investigation

Read the full story at Utility Dive.

President Joe Biden on Monday issued plans for a 24-month exemption from tariffs for solar panel imports from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The solar industry expects the two-year break from tariffs will run parallel to the continuing solar panel anti-circumvention investigation from the Department of Commerce on those four Southeast Asian countries.

The reprieve is intended to protect existing solar jobs that were at risk due to supply chain constraints reported earlier this year, according to Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association.

RePowerEU: New mapping tool supports identification of go–to areas for renewables

Read the full story from the European Commission.

The PVGIS Photovoltaic Geographical Information System tool, developed and maintained by the Joint Research Centre, provides information about solar radiation and photvoltaic (PV) system performance for any location in Europe. Citizens and installers can use it for an instantaneous assessment of the potential to generate solar energy on rooftops.

At Google’s new campus, ‘dragonscale’ solar panels capture sunlight from all different angles

Read the full story at Fast Company.

The company’s Mountain View, California, offices feature curved roofs and textured solar panels that optimize the hours they can generate electricity. It’s just one sustainability feature of the more-than-a-million-square-foot campus.

Solar forecasting platform helps grid operators plan energy mix

If a snowstorm is coming, we check the forecast to learn how much snow we will get and when it will start. Many of us even consult multiple weather apps in pursuit of the most accurate information, only to despair when we find varying predictions.

Utility companies and grid operators face the same uncertainty when trying to figure out how much solar power could be generated on a given day. Forecasts vary, and some can predict only one to three hours ahead with accuracy. The industry needs a better way to look at forecasts to plan for available solar power.

In 2018, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) awarded $1 million to the University of Arizona (UArizona) to tackle this challenge. The resulting Solar Forecast Arbiter (SFA) is a first-of-its-kind platform that analyzes solar forecasts, comparing them against a standard so grid operators can better manage the amount of solar energy on the grid.

UArizona and its partners developed the SFA to help utilities and grid operators compare and evaluate the accuracy of solar power production forecasts from different providers so they can make better decisions about their energy mix. UArizona has operated the SFA on behalf of utilities and grid operators; now the nonprofit Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) will manage its operations.

While the energy reaching solar panels is predictable under clear skies, it is difficult to calculate how much energy will make it to the ground surface when there are clouds. When a cloud passes over a solar panel, the amount of electricity the panel generates fluctuates. How much it changes depends on the cloud’s size, thickness, and shape, and other atmospheric factors. The SFA enables users to assess the reliability of solar generation estimates over the next 24–48 hours and the likelihoods of the predicted power outputs.

Before DOE funded this project, there was no transparent and uniform way to compare forecasting methods or tools. UArizona designed the SFA as an open-source platform so anyone in the field can access benchmark data and unbiased metrics to evaluate forecast models. The software can help forecast vendors improve the accuracy of their forecasts, too.

Recently, teams competing in the American-Made Solar Forecasting Prize submitted day-ahead solar forecasts to the SFA every day for four weeks. The SFA calculated the models’ performance against a benchmark forecast that the platform generated. The prize administrator, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, used the SFA results to evaluate each team. SETO expects the competition will raise awareness and increase adoption of the SFA.

As UArizona concludes its DOE-funded project in the next few weeks, EPRI will take over stewardship of the SFA, offering a tiered user subscription. While anyone can access the platform and its code at no cost (after signing a user agreement), premium SFA subscribers will have access to hands-on support and training, the ability to create reference forecasts, and a professional network.  

EPRI researchers will work to expand the SFA to support wind energy and power demand forecast evaluation, and plan to use the tool to support forecasting trials. When this feature is ready, the renamed Forecast Arbiter will have a comprehensive multi-technology evaluation platform that can better predict and integrate clean energy into the U.S. electricity grid.

Learn more about the Solar Forecast Arbiter.

Source: U.S. DOE, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Laboratory

Meet the power plant of the future: Solar + battery hybrids are poised for explosive growth

By pairing solar power and battery storage, hybrids can keep providing electricity after dark. Petmal via Getty Images

by Joachim Seel, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Bentham Paulos, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Will Gorman, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

America’s electric power system is undergoing radical change as it transitions from fossil fuels to renewable energy. While the first decade of the 2000s saw huge growth in natural gas generation, and the 2010s were the decade of wind and solar, early signs suggest the innovation of the 2020s may be a boom in “hybrid” power plants.

A typical hybrid power plant combines electricity generation with battery storage at the same location. That often means a solar or wind farm paired with large-scale batteries. Working together, solar panels and battery storage can generate renewable power when solar energy is at its peak during the day and then release it as needed after the sun goes down.

A look at the power and storage projects in the development pipeline offers a glimpse of hybrid power’s future.

Our team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that a staggering 1,400 gigawatts of proposed generation and storage projects have applied to connect to the grid – more than all existing U.S. power plants combined. The largest group is now solar projects, and over a third of those projects involve hybrid solar plus battery storage.

While these power plants of the future offer many benefits, they also raise questions about how the electric grid should best be operated.

Why hybrids are hot

As wind and solar grow, they are starting to have big impacts on the grid.

Solar power already exceeds 25% of annual power generation in California and is spreading rapidly in other states such as Texas, Florida and Georgia. The “wind belt” states, from the Dakotas to Texas, have seen massive deployment of wind turbines, with Iowa now getting a majority of its power from the wind.

This high percentage of renewable power raises a question: How do we integrate renewable sources that produce large but varying amounts of power throughout the day?

Joshua Rhodes/University of Texas at Austin.

That’s where storage comes in. Lithium-ion battery prices have rapidly fallen as production has scaled up for the electric vehicle market in recent years. While there are concerns about future supply chain challenges, battery design is also likely to evolve.

The combination of solar and batteries allows hybrid plant operators to provide power through the most valuable hours when demand is strongest, such as summer afternoons and evenings when air conditioners are running on high. Batteries also help smooth out production from wind and solar power, store excess power that would otherwise be curtailed, and reduce congestion on the grid.

Hybrids dominate the project pipeline

At the end of 2020, there were 73 solar and 16 wind hybrid projects operating in the U.S., amounting to 2.5 gigawatts of generation and 0.45 gigawatts of storage.

Today, solar and hybrids dominate the development pipeline. By the end of 2021, more than 675 gigawatts of proposed solar plants had applied for grid connection approval, with over a third of them paired with storage. Another 247 gigawatts of wind farms were in line, with 19 gigawatts, or about 8% of those, as hybrids.

Bar chart showing overwhelming increase in solar since 2014 compared to other sources and fast rise in batteries in the past two years.
The amount of proposed solar, storage and wind power waiting to hook up to the grid has grown dramatically in recent years, while coal, gas and nuclear have faded. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Of course, applying for a connection is only one step in developing a power plant. A developer also needs land and community agreements, a sales contract, financing and permits. Only about one in four new plants proposed between 2010 and 2016 made it to commercial operation. But the depth of interest in hybrid plants portends strong growth.

In markets like California, batteries are essentially obligatory for new solar developers. Since solar often accounts for the majority of power in the daytime market, building more adds little value. Currently 95% of all proposed large-scale solar capacity in the California queue comes with batteries.

5 lessons on hybrids and questions for the future

The opportunity for growth in renewable hybrids is clearly large, but it raises some questions that our group at Berkeley Lab has been investigating.

Here are some of our top findings:

  • The investment pays off in many regions. We found that while adding batteries to a solar power plant increases the price, it also increases the value of the power. Putting generation and storage in the same location can capture benefits from tax credits, construction cost savings and operational flexibility. Looking at the revenue potential over recent years, and with the help of federal tax credits, the added value appears to justify the higher price.
  • Co-location also means tradeoffs. Wind and solar perform best where the wind and solar resources are strongest, but batteries provide the most value where they can deliver the greatest grid benefits, like relieving congestion. That means there are trade-offs when determining the best location with the highest value. Federal tax credits that can be earned only when batteries are co-located with solar may be encouraging suboptimal decisions in some cases.
Rows of solar panels and two batteries the size of small shipping containers sit in a field.
Hybrid power has become standard in Hawaii as solar power saturates the grid. Dennis Schroeder/NREL
  • There is no one best combination. The value of a hybrid plant is determined in part by the configuration of the equipment. For example, the size of the battery relative to a solar generator can determine how late into the evening the plant can deliver power. But the value of nighttime power depends on local market conditions, which change throughout the year.
  • Power market rules need to evolve. Hybrids can participate in the power market as a single unit or as separate entities, with the solar and storage bidding independently. Hybrids can also be either sellers or buyers of power, or both. That can get complicated. Market participation rules for hybrids are still evolving, leaving plant operators to experiment with how they sell their services.
  • Small hybrids create new opportunities: Hybrid power plants can also be small, such as solar and batteries in a home or business. Such hybrids have become standard in Hawaii as solar power saturates the grid. In California, customers who are subject to power shutoffs to prevent wildfires are increasingly adding storage to their solar systems. These “behind-the-meter” hybrids raise questions about how they should be valued, and how they can contribute to grid operations.

Hybrids are just beginning, but a lot more are on the way. More research is needed on the technologies, market designs and regulations to ensure the grid and grid pricing evolve with them.

While questions remain, it’s clear that hybrids are redefining power plants. And they may remake the U.S. power system in the process.

Joachim Seel, Senior Scientific Engineering Associate, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Bentham Paulos, Affiliate, Electricity Markets & Policy Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Will Gorman, Graduate Student Researcher in Electricity Markets and Policy, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.