Floating solar panels could unlock clean power without wasting land

Read the full story at Canary Media.

Many countries bet on solar panels when engaging in the switch to cleaner energy. But the technology requires much larger areas than conventional fossil fuel plants to generate the same amount of electricity. An emerging solution to save space is to float the panels on bodies of water, an approach dubbed ​“floatovoltaics.” Scientists believe this new approach could help solar energy to scale globally and fight climate change, but its environmental impacts are largely unexplored.

The world’s first commercial floatovoltaic system was installed on an irrigation pond at a California winery in 2008. Since then, bigger plants with capacities in the hundreds of megawatts have been built on lakes and hydropower reservoirs in China, and more are planned in Southeast Asia and Brazil.

Busting the solar myth: A call to embrace the circular renewable economy

Read the full story at Utility Dive.

While there are significant global environmental and social incentives to using solar energy, its resource intensity calls into question whether solar is truly “green.”

DOE launches $10 million prize to accelerate community solar in underrepresented communities

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) today launched a slate of initiatives to support the deployment of equitable community solar projects and recognized projects exemplifying best practices in community solar. Community solar allows any household to access the benefits of renewable energy, with an emphasis on those that cannot access rooftop solar. The Community Power Accelerator™ and its $10 million prize will leverage $5 billion in private-sector financing commitments to help community-based organizations and other mission-aligned project developers access financing and build community solar projects, particularly in disadvantaged and underrepresented communities. The Department is also launching a new campaign to highlight the connections between solar energy and its long-term benefits, beginning with community solar. Community solar will play a vital role in supporting the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 Initiative to ensure that every community benefits from the clean energy transition and in achieving the President’s goals of a 100% electric grid by 2035 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Accelerating equitable community solar deployment with the Community Power Accelerator

President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act established tax credits for solar energy projects, including a 20% bonus credit for solar power projects that sell their electricity to low-income households. This tax credit could support up to 18 GW of additional community solar projects over the next 10 years, enough to power over 2.5 million homes. The critical challenge is ensuring that all types of organizations and communities have access to the funds to develop community solar and that the projects deployed deliver “meaningful benefits” to communities and subscribers, like electricity bill savings, community ownership and wealth-building, resilience, equitable workforce development, and low- and moderate-income household access.

Today, DOE’s National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) launched the Community Power Accelerator™ to bring together investors, philanthropic organizations, developers, community-based organizations, and technical experts to work together to get more equitable community solar projects financed and deployed. The Accelerator will support developers with technical assistance and a Learning Lab to build a pipeline of verified, credit-ready projects that will connect with investors seeking to fund community solar in disadvantaged communities. Financial institutions and philanthropic organizations participating in the Accelerator have committed $5 billion in private sector financing for projects that are credit-ready.

The Accelerator includes the following programs:

  • The Community Power Accelerator Prize is a new $10 million competition that will provide pre-development funds to organizations to build the expertise, experience, and capacity required to develop community solar projects at scale.
  • An online platform, developed by DOE and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, that will enable community-based organizations, intermediaries, and other mission-aligned project developers to connect with investors and philanthropic organizations seeking to fund a more diverse and community-based pipeline of community solar projects.
  • A Learning Lab and technical assistance program will prepare community-based organizations, small or new solar developers, and others to develop, finance, and build “credit-ready” community solar projects—projects that are ready for financing.

Recognizing best practices in community solar

During the NCSP Annual Summit, DOE announced the winners of the Sunny Awards for Equitable Community Solar, an awards program that recognizes best practices in community solar projects and programs that increase equitable access and ensure benefits—such as greater household savings, good-paying jobs, and enhanced energy resilience—go to subscribers and their communities.

Five teams were selected for Grand Prize awards. Across the board, these five winners will help households achieve a projected combined total savings of $4.3 million on their energy bills. The projects provide clean energy access for 7,300 low- to moderate-income households and demonstrate best practices in increasing resilience, expanding community ownership, building a more equitable workforce, and leading community engagement.

  • Shungnak-Kobuk Community Solar Battery IPP (Shungnak, AK): This solar and battery project led by the Shungnak and Kobuk tribes in the Northwest Arctic Borough region in Alaska aims to stabilize the cost of electricity and allow the communities to take charge of their energy future.
  • Faribault Community Solar (Faribault, MN): The Faribault Community Solar project is a cooperatively-owned community solar array serving mostly low-to-moderate income residents in southern Minnesota.
  • Community Power: Jobs and Savings for LMI Households (Brooklyn, NY): Community Power delivers energy savings to 500 households, provided workforce training, and offered paid jobs to public housing residents.
  • District of Columbia’s Solar for All (Washington, DC): Solar for All is a program designed to reduce electricity bills for households in Washington, DC, through single-family and community solar projects.
  • JOE-4-SUN Ashland (Ashland, MA): JOE-4-SUN Ashland is a 6 MW community solar project that saves low-to-moderate income households over $400 per year on electricity costs and brings the benefits of clean, renewable energy to a superfund site.

Connecting the dots on solar energy: Generating power for generations

DOE also launched a new campaign to highlight the many benefits of solar energy to individuals and communities and provide a resource hub so that the public can learn about how solar will positively impact the nation’s future. The Inflation Reduction Act lowers the cost of solar energy for consumers and businesses while creating good paying jobs as deployment and manufacturing capacity grows across the country. Over the next few years, millions of households are expected to join the nearly 4 million American households that have gone solar—either through installing solar on their rooftops or by joining a community solar program. The Connect the Dots on Solar Energy campaign will focus on making connections between solar energy investments and their enduring, long-term benefits.

About the National Community Solar Partnership

NCSP is working to increase community solar installed in the United States to 20 GW, enough to power the equivalent of five million households by 2025 and create $1 billion in energy bill savings to consumers across America. NCSP has over 1,300 partners who leverage peer networks and technical assistance resources to overcome barriers to expanding community solar access.

Learn more about DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office and the National Community Solar Partnership.

Source: U.S. Department of Energy

Solar-powered system converts plastic and greenhouse gases into sustainable fuels

Read the full story from the University of Cambridge.

Researchers have developed a system that can transform plastic waste and greenhouse gases into sustainable fuels and other valuable products — using just the energy from the Sun.

DOE announces $8 million to integrate solar energy production with farming

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced $8 million for six solar energy research projects across six states and the District of Columbia that will provide new economic opportunities for farmers, rural communities, and the solar industry. The funding supports agrivoltaics—the co-location of agricultural production and solar energy generation on the same land—and aims to reduce barriers to utility-and community-scale solar energy deployment while maximizing benefits for farmers and local communities. By increasing access to solar energy, the new projects reflect the Biden-Harris Administration’s continued commitment to ensuring that every community unlocks the public health and cost-saving benefits of a clean energy future and support President Biden’s goals to decarbonize the electricity sector by 2035 and achieve a net-zero emissions economy by 2050. 

“DOE’s research into agrivoltaics provides an incredible opportunity to pair solar energy generation with safe and robust crop production—ensuring rural communities reap the full economic benefits of a clean energy future. With these exciting projects, we’re supporting sustainable agriculture and investing in the technologies that enable us to make our climate goals a reality—a win-win for our planet and hardworking farmers coast to coast.” 

U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm

Agrivoltaics is defined as crop production, livestock grazing, and/or pollinator habitat under solar panels or between rows of solar panels. In the United States, less than 2% of solar energy projects are co-located with crops or pollinator habitats. In a recent report, researchers at DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory highlighted the ecological and agricultural benefits that could result from improving agrivoltaic practices. The Foundational Agrivoltaic Research for Megawatt Scale (FARMS) funding program seeks to develop replicable models for agrivoltaics that can provide new economic opportunities while potentially reducing land-use conflicts. DOE is focused on making agrivoltaic practices across the country easier to adopt, lowering the cost, and maximizing benefits for farmers, rural communities, and the solar industry. 

The projects selected for FARMS build on ongoing DOE-funded research, which is focused on conducting research, analysis, and dissemination of agrivoltaics best practices. The six projects will examine multiple configurations of solar system design, crops and cultivation methods, and soil and environmental conditions. Researchers will work with agricultural extensions and develop resources to spread the best practices to farmers and communities. 

  • Iowa State University (Ames, IA): This project will study horticulture and beekeeping at solar sites, produce decision support tools, and provide agrivoltaics training programs for farmers and other stakeholders. (Award Amount: $1.6 million)  
  • Rutgers University (Piscataway, NJ): This project team will conduct crop and grazing trials at two solar array testbeds, study community perceptions of agrivoltaics, and create a regional agrivoltaics network for agricultural extension staff in the Northeast, beginning with their partnership with Delaware State University, a historically black land-grant university. (Award Amount: $1.6 million)  
  • Solar and Storage Industries Institute (Washington, D.C.): This project team will partner with the agriculture and utility sectors to identify barriers to implementing agrivoltaics and produce case studies and guides for solar developers, farmers, and decision-makers. (Award Amount: $500,000) 
  • The Ohio State University (Columbus, OH): This project will conduct grazing and forage (hay) production trials using precision agriculture technologies and study the impacts on soil health at an operating utility-scale solar site. (Award Amount: $1.8 million) 
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks (Fairbanks, AK): This project will research agrivoltaics specifically adapted to the food and energy needs of high-latitude underserved communities. (Award Amount: $1.3 million) 
  • University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ): This research will pilot grazing and climate-smart agriculture under a traditional utility-scale solar site to maximize energy, food, and water benefits in the arid Southwest. (Award Amount: $1.2 million) 

By selecting awardees with large extension networks, DOE aims to enable more collaboration among farmers, rural communities, and the solar industry. The six projects will conduct robust outreach to and engage with regional rural and farming communities, including Hispanic, Tribal, and immigrant farmers.  These investments will advance diversity, equity, and inclusion—supporting President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative to ensure that the clean energy economy benefits all Americans, especially those in underserved and underrepresented communities. DOE analysis estimates that the United States will need to quadruple the amount of solar energy installed per year by 2030 to achieve the Biden-Harris Administration’s goal of a 100% clean economy by 2050.

Explore DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office projects in the Solar Energy Research Database and learn more about DOE’s research into agrivoltaics

Can solar power provide more than clean energy?

Read the full story from Argonne National Laboratory.

Climate change contributed to many deadly and costly disasters in recent years. As the U.S. looks to combat climate change, solar energy is increasingly seen as a large part of the answer. However, ground-mounted solar facilities occupy large areas of land. What will that land and soil be like after 30 or more years of use for generating clean power?

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory are partnering with collaborators from other national laboratories and state, academic and private institutions to examine that question. DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office recently selected Argonne to lead a new project to better understand the changes that will occur in soils. The team will study what happens when past harmful practices such as pesticide use and annual tilling are stopped, the land under and around solar panels is allowed to rest and, in some cases, is planted with native grasses and wildflowers. The project is a part of the Deploying Solar with Wildlife and Ecosystem Services Benefits (SolWEB) funding program.

Corporate solar adoption rates soar

Read the full story at Environment + Energy Leader.

Led by tech and retail giants, American companies are installing record-levels of solar to power their operations and now account for 14% of all installed solar capacity in the United States, according to the Solar Means Business 2022 report released recently by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

France to require all large parking lots to be covered by solar panels

Read the full story at Electrek.

In France, solar just got a huge boost from new legislation approved through the Senate this week that will require all parking lots with spaces for at least 80 vehicles – both existing and new – to be covered by solar panels.

Why the feared wave of solar panel waste may be smaller and arrive later than we expected

Read the full story at Inside Climate News.

Researchers say improvements in solar panels mean we need to change expectations about when they’ll need to be repurposed or recycled.

Native-run solar firm aims to lower heating emissions and costs

Read the full story at Sahan Journal.

An Anishinaabe-run nonprofit based on the White Earth Nation Reservation, 8th Fire Solar, produces and installs solar thermal panels, a lesser-known sun-powered technology used to help heat homes and buildings.  

The firm is part of a growing effort to expand solar power on tribal lands in Minnesota, which advocates say taps into belief systems that call for working in concert with nature, while saving people money and pursuing tribal energy independence.