Harvesting the sun for power and produce: Agrophotovoltaics increases the land use efficiency by over 60 percent

Harvesting the sun for power and produce: Agrophotovoltaics increases the land use efficiency by over 60 percent

Until now, acreage was designated for either photovoltaics or photosynthesis, that is, to generate electricity or grow crops. An agrophotovoltaics (APV) pilot project near Lake Constance, however, has now demonstrated that both uses are compatible. Dual use of land is resource efficient, reduces competition for land and additionally opens up a new source of income for farmers. For one year, the largest APV system in Germany is being tested on the Demeter farm cooperative Heggelbach. In the demonstration project “Agrophotovoltaic — Resource Efficient Land Use” (APV-Resola)” led by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, solar modules for electricity production are installed directly above crops covering an area of one third hectare. Now the first solar harvest of power and produce has been collected on both levels.

“The project results from the first year are a complete success: The agrophotovoltaic system proved suitable for the practice and costs as much as a small solar roof system. The crop production is sufficiently high and can be profitably sold on the market,” explains Stephan Schindele, project manager of agrophotovoltaics at Fraunhofer ISE.

“Agrophotovoltaics (APV) has the potential to open up new space that is urgently needed for the PV expansion in Germany. At the same time APV can mitigate the conflicting interests between agriculture and open space PV systems for viable land. Before market readiness, however, other sectors and differently sized systems still must be tested. Also, the technical integration must be further advanced, for example, the implementation of storage,” remarks Prof. Hans-Martin Henning, Institute Director of Fraunhofer ISE.

Winter wheat, potatoes, celeriac and clover grass were the first crops to be tested. The south-west orientation and the extra distance between the five meter high rows of bifacial glass-glass PV modules ensured that the crops were exposed to uniform solar radiation.

Solar module shading reduces crop yield — total balance positive

The results from the first harvest were, for the most part, promising. “The crop yield of clover grass under the PV array was only 5.3 percent less than the reference plot,” reports Prof. Petera Högy, agricultural expert at the University of Hohenheim. The yield losses for potatoes, wheat and celeriac are between 18 to 19 percent and therefore somewhat higher.”

“From the perspective of agricultural science, agrophotovoltaics is a promising solution for increasing both the land use efficiency and the share of renewable energy provided by the agricultural sector,” stresses Prof. Iris Lewandowski, Head of the Department of Biobased Products and Energy Crops, University of Hohenheim. The experts agree that it is important, however, to gather more experience over the next few years and analyze other crops before making final conclusions.

Solar Array Produces More Than Average

The 720 bifacial solar modules produce solar electricity not only on the front side but on the back of the photovoltaic modules with solar radiation reflected from the surroundings. Under favorable ambient conditions, e.g. snow cover, twenty five percent additional electricity yield can be achieved. From an energetic stand point, the dual use principle of agrophotovoltaics is much more efficient than solely planting energy crops, accounting, after all, for 18 percent of agricultural land use in Germany.

With an installed power of 194 kilowatts, the photovoltaic array can supply 62 four-person households with electricity. In the first twelve months, the array produced 1266 kilowatt-hours electricity per installed kilowatt, one third more than the average value of 950 kWh/kW in Germany.

The power production from the experimental field matched well to the daily farm load. About 40 percent of the electricity produced on the farm was used directly to charge the electric vehicles and process the harvested crops. In summer, the load demand could be almost completely met by the photovoltaic system. Thomas Schmid and the other Demeter farmers aim to increase their self-consumption up to 70 percent by optimizing their consumption behavior and installing an electricity storage system. The surplus PV electricity is fed into the Elektrizitätswerke Schönau, an electric utility company based on 100% renewable energy and a partner in the project.

Agrophotovoltaic — Resource Efficient Land Use (APV Resola) Project

Since the idea of agrophotovoltaics was first initiated by Prof. Adolf Goetzberger, who founded Fraunhofer ISE in 1981, several large APV plants have been installed worldwide. On the other hand, only a few of these APV plants are designated as research sites. In the “APV Resola” project, researchers are investigating the economic, technical, societal and ecological aspects of the technology in a pilot plant under real conditions for the first time. The research project is supported by funds from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Research for Sustainable Development (FONA).

The project goal is to develop APV system technology into a market-ready product. “In order to provide the necessary proof-of-concept before market entry, we need to compare further techno-economical applications of APV, demonstrate the transferability to other regional areas and also realize larger systems,” explains Stephan Schindele. For example, different possible applications shall be explored in combination with fruit, berries, hops and wine crops and with the various technologies such as energy storage, special films with organic solar cells and solar PV water treatment systems. “Besides investment from industry and research policy, appropriate political measures supporting the technology are of vital importance for a successful market entry,” adds Stephan Schindele. Already in 2014, Fraunhofer ISE and the Wuppertal Institute, supported in tandem by the University of Hohenheim, made a joint statement proposing that agrophotovoltaics be considered separately in invitations for tender while in the test phase.

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HLS Freecycle

HLS Freecycle

Got extra stuff? Don’t trash it, donate it! Donation drop-off begins at 10 am. Hosted by the Harvard Law School Green Team

Bonus: Donate holiday decorations for early admission to the Freecycle (11 am)

Examples of items and goods to donate:

  • Toys and games
  • Books and binders
  • Printer paper
  • Folders and hanging files
  • DVDs and CDs
  • Lamps
  • Pens and pencils

Questions? Email sustainability@harvard.edu

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Dairy Tomorrow — NZ dairy sector launches new strategic vision

Dairy Tomorrow — NZ dairy sector launches new strategic vision
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New Zealand’s dairy sector has launched its ‘Dairy Tomorrow’ strategy, a joint sector-led initiative involving DairyNZ, Federated Farmers, DCANZ and Dairy Women’s Network.

A new strategic vision for the sector, Dairy Tomorrow is intended to lead to a longer term conversation about what New Zealand’s future farm and food systems could look like, according to DairyNZ Chief Executive Tim Mackle.

“Our shared vision is to improve lives with every drop of New Zealand milk, whether those are the lives of our dairy people, our communities or our consumers,” said Dr Mackle.

“We believe sustainable dairy farming has a critical role to play in New Zealand’s future prosperity and wellbeing — a future with a focus on farming within environmental limits while maintaining our profitability and success on the global market.”

The Dairy Tomorrow strategy has six commitments and 22 corresponding goals. The commitments are as follows:

  1. We will protect and nurture the environment for future generations.
  2. We will build the world’s most competitive and resilient dairy farming businesses.
  3. We will produce the highest quality and most valued dairy nutrition.
  4. We will be world leading in on-farm animal care.
  5. We will build great workplaces for New Zealand’s most talented workforce.
  6. We will help grow vibrant and prosperous communities.

Dr Mackle noted that some goals have firm time frames in place while others are more aspirational.

“We want to begin straight away collaborating on strategies and actions toward achieving swimmable waterways and finding new opportunities to reduce or offset our greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. “These actions will be ongoing priorities.

“At the same time we’ve put some deadlines in place for implementing new initiatives, including to develop cutting-edge science and technology solutions and to implement a new framework for world-leading on-farm animal care.”

Barry Harris, acting chair for DairyNZ, said the commitments and goals within the strategy will help prepare the sector for the future, stating, “Overall they reflect what is important to the farmers and stakeholders who contributed to the development of the strategy.

“We heard very clearly that farmers want options and solutions to help them farm sustainably. Maintaining our international competitiveness is essential, and leveraging new digital and other technologies will be essential to that.

“We also want to ensure that New Zealand dairy remains a valued part of the diet. That requires us to be open and transparent about our performance. We know the demand for high-quality dairy will always exist, so long as we can prove our production chain is sustainable.

“Another key theme is the importance of people to the sector. We need to focus on bringing talented people into the dairy sector, providing them with a great work environment and helping them to develop their careers.”

John Wilson, chairman of Fonterra, stated that Dairy Tomorrow “balances the need for sustainable farming while also recognising that dairy provides strong returns to our communities and New Zealand’s economy”. He thanked DairyNZ Chairman Michael Spaans for unifying the sector through the development of the strategy.

Zelda de Villiers, chief executive of the Dairy Women’s Network, added that Dairy Tomorrow “makes progress where we know more is needed”, setting out “a strategic vision for what we want to achieve together as a sector over the coming decade and beyond”.

“I believe that we are already well on our way to being world leading,” said de Villiers. “But collectively, these goals will mean we will improve our productivity and competitiveness while ensuring we have the trust of our communities, and that Kiwis value us as a sector.”

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Savo Ilic

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Bribie Island sludge management facility gets an upgrade

Bribie Island sludge management facility gets an upgrade

Hydroflux Huber recently completed an upgrade of the Bribie Island sewage treatment plant’s entire sludge management facility. A key part of the upgrade involved installing HUBER Q-PRESS Rotary Screw Presses to replace the old belt press technology.

The HUBER Q-PRESS Rotary Screw Press is a sludge dewatering system using for mechanically dewatering sludge produced from wastewater treatment. Suitable for use on municipal and industrial sludge streams, it includes the following features:

  • A screw drive rotating the auger at 0.2–1 rpm.
  • A sludge feed connection.
  • A filtrate discharge connection.
  • An auger with increasing shaft diameter and decreasing gap between flights.
  • A screen basket with different spacing.
  • A sludge cake discharge chute.
  • Pneumatic cylinders for maintaining a continuously adjustable pressure of the discharge cone.

The volume between basket, shaft and flights continuously decreases, and the pressure thus increases, as the sludge is moved through the basket. The auger pushes the increasingly thicker sludge towards the annular clearance, defined by a circular opening and an adjustable discharge cone therein. The cone is pressed against the opening by pneumatic cylinders, thus maintaining a defined sludge pressure at the discharge end. A brush on the flights cleans the rotating screen from the inside and a motorised rotating spray bar backwashes it periodically from the outside.

Cake is discharged through the cone and filtrate collects within the main case and is discharged via gravity to the filtrate outlet flange. The feed to the Q-PRESS can be run under slight pressure (up to 500 mBar), which provides additional dewatering capability. The feed pump is to be provided with a VSD. In addition, the screw speed can be automatically adjusted based on the inlet pressure.

At Bribie Island, Hydroflux Huber managed the process, mechanical, electrical and civil design as well as the site installation works, site testing, performance testing and training. The upgrade also included ancillary services such as the control system and SCADA integration, polyelectrolyte batching and dosing, and solids transfer.

Luis Bastos, director of Hydroflux Huber, said there were a number of reasons why HUBER screw presses were chosen for the upgrade of the sewage treatment plant.

“First, disposing of sludge is expensive in terms of transport so reducing the amount of sludge helps drive down costs,” he said.

“Second, HUBER technology is very slow speed — the average is 0.5 rpm — so it is very low in energy demand and, because of the low screw speed, it is high in operational reliability with virtually no maintenance.

“Third, it sits within a compact and fully enclosed system so it is WHS-compliant.

“Fourth, it has very low operational costs and it requires minimal operator attention.”

Performance testing demonstrated significantly higher performance than the existing belt press, with cake solids in excess of 18% dry solids. The capture rate was consistently 95% or better, as Hydroflux Huber equipment is sized to achieve high capture without the need for secondary filtration. This was achieved even though the feed solids was generally only between 6000 and 8000 mg/L.

“While there are over 1200 of these unique sludge dewatering machines being used in many applications worldwide. The installation at Bribie Island is the latest in Australia, which is evidence of their outstanding performance in local conditions,” said John Koumoukelis, director of global business development at Hydroflux.

“The latest generation of these screw presses — the HUBER Q-PRESS — is proving very popular in both the Australian and international markets. This is because not only does it reduce sludge volumes and disposal costs by up to 80%, but also because it is more efficient and can be operated at even higher solids throughputs than older technologies such as belt presses.

“Our customers are choosing these over centrifuges because of their performance — with the lowest energy demand compared with centrifuges, we spin at 0.5 rpm compared with 3000 rpm of centrifuges — and significantly less maintenance compared with centrifuges.

“When you add in the fact of complete stainless steel fabrication, it is little wonder that in our view these are the best screw presses in the Australian market.”

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The responsibility of corporates to take on the food waste challenge in Australia

The responsibility of corporates to take on the food waste challenge in Australia
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It is no surprise that food waste in Australia is a significant issue. As the population grows, so too does its food needs, and with this increase in food production comes an inevitable increase in food waste.

In fact, each year we are wasting one-third of the food that is produced for human consumption, totaling 1.3 billion tons of food. This food waste has one of the largest environmental impacts on the planet. Corporate companies have a key role to play in taking on responsibility to reduce food waste, given their contribution to the problem and ability to make changes that impact the whole community.

The impact of food waste on the environment does sound daunting, but the future is not bleak. Reducing food waste actually sits in the top 10 solutions to climate change, providing us an opportunity to actively reverse the damage being done. Given that each year food waste creates over three gigatonnes CO2 equivalent, which is more than that produced by Russia and India, doing so is of great importance. With input from one of the largest contributors — corporates — we can take one big step forward for reducing food waste. Starting by reducing food waste in the supply chain, companies are not only helping the community, they are also gaining significant financial benefit. It has been estimated that for every dollar invested in food loss and waste reduction, there is a median return of $14, giving companies a return on their investment.

Taking on this challenge cannot be done in solitary. At Sodexo, our goal is to work alongside corporates to support their food waste management. We are uniquely positioned to help. With a supply chain of over 150,000 enterprises, 427,000 employees and 100 million consumers, there are many ways we can make a difference and revolutionise the way our industry deals with food waste. We developed the Better Tomorrow 2025 Strategy with this in mind. Nine measurable commitments were developed in accordance with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to guide our journey to 2025. For each of our roles as an employer, a service provider and a corporate citizen, we have made a commitment to make a positive measurable difference for individuals, communities and the environment.

Of these nine commitments, we hold three issues close to our heart that need to be addressed with urgency: hunger, gender and waste. Beyond our own operations, we work closely with companies to support their sustainability commitments in the on-site services we deliver.

Utilising equipment and processes that reduce organic waste and non-organic waste through recycling and sorting solutions for food waste can be integrated into facilities management — that being said, we do face challenges in Australia. There can be limitations within companies and regional areas that may not have separate collections or solutions for waste management. This means, even if waste management is a focus, there is no infrastructure in place to support companies to do so. That is why we have shifted the focus towards prevention. Cutting pre-consumer waste by managing portions, menu planning and reviewing internal routines, to name a few, considers all aspects within a company to avoid creating waste in the first place.

To help companies understand exactly what needs to be done to help reduce corporate food waste, we have identified two key priorities. The first priority requires companies to encourage their consumers about food waste, in order to raise awareness of the issue of food waste in Australia. Furthering this, it is important to note that facing this is not the responsibility of one person alone. The second priority highlights that reducing food waste is the responsibility of everyone in society: consumers, corporates, governments, NGOs and employees working together.

Assisting a corporate company to reduce food waste is simpler than it sounds. Take, for example, composting. Up to 70% of waste on-site is made up of food and garden waste, the majority of which can be composted in a Biobin. By taking food scraps from the kitchen and combining this with brown materials from landscaping and offices, such as paper, woodchips and cardboard, companies can take a simple step to reduce the amount of materials they are sending to landfill.

For companies looking to begin tackling their food waste issues, they can start by implementing tools, equipment and/or processes that target waste directly. For example, Sodexo’s Food Platform uses a tool for menu planning based on customer demand to optimise food production and reduce otherwise avoidable food waste. We have established a global program, WasteWatch — powered by LeanPath — which helps to identify causes and define action plans to prevent waste. Sites implementing WasteWatch can reduce food waste by 45% in two to six months.

Through value-added on-site services, corporates and communities can be given the support they need to spark their own endeavours. Take, for example, Sodexo’s WasteLESS week. This annual awareness intervention engages clients and consumers through training and awareness on waste issues and the impact they have on the environment, often yielding short-term initiatives that turn into permanent solutions. WasteLESS week challenges everyone involved to change their habits and make a difference for our collective environmental impact.

As a founding partner of non-profit organisation the International Food Waste Coalition, Sodexo brings organisations together worldwide to reduce food waste throughout the food services value chain. Collaboration is the most effective way to reduce food waste at each stage of the process. From agricultural production to transport, from storage to processing, from retailers to restaurants, customers and even post-consumer, cooperation between stakeholders plays a vital part in the challenge to reduce food waste.

At the end of the day, the opportunity for corporates to reduce food waste is based on one simple thing: taking action. Companies need to make corporate waste management a focus if they want to be proactive about reducing their environmental impact. Without acknowledging the impact businesses of all sizes are having on the environment through food waste, it cannot be properly addressed.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/HighwayStarz

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Magna-Power Electronics DC power supplies

Magna-Power Electronics DC power supplies

Magna-Power Electronics designs and manufactures robust programmable DC power supplies ranging from 1.25 to over 2000 kW. The products are suitable for feeding power to national laboratories, universities, defence, utilities and a wide range of industrial sites.

Applications for the DC power supplies include aiding in the manufacture of electric vehicles, simulating solar arrays for the development of inverters, steering magnets for particle accelerators, powering radar systems, driving traction controllers for locomotive development and cutting-edge energy research at universities.

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ARENA announces funding for Hunter Valley biofuel facility

ARENA announces funding for Hunter Valley biofuel facility
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The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is providing $11.9 million in funding to assist Australian biofuel company Ethtec with the development and demonstration of its groundbreaking biofuel technology.

Ethtec has developed what is claimed to be an innovative and cost-effective approach to the production of bioethanol from a range of feedstocks typically identified as waste or low-value products, including those produced by the sugarcane, cotton and forestry industries. ARENA’s funding will help complete the company’s pilot demonstration plant, which will produce ethanol from a range of non-food waste plant matter left over from crop harvesting and forestry.

The $30 million facility will be located in the Hunter Valley, NSW, and is expected to produce 270,000 litres of biofuel per annum. The facility will also allow for additional improvements to the Ethtec technology and facilitate its broader rollout.

“Ethtec’s facility in the Hunter Valley will demonstrate a new and innovative process for the production of bioethanol, gaining pivotal research and development experience that will lead to the commercialisation of the process and position Australia as a leader in advanced biofuels,” said ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht.

“The global demand for biofuels is expected to triple by 2050, with most of the growth to be met by ethanol, so technological breakthroughs that make producing ethanol from waste more efficient is game changing,” he added. Indeed, demand for ethanol in Australia is expected to increase by approximately 500 million litres each year over the period to 2030.

Ethtec Chief Scientist Dr Russell Reeves said ARENA’s support is pivotal to the project, which has also secured $11.9 million in matching funding from leading industry partner Jiangsu Jintongling Fluid Machinery Technology. The facility will also partner with researchers from the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources at the University of Newcastle and receive support from Muswellbrook Shire Council.

“An ethanol fuel industry based on lignocellulosic biomass can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transport and industrial sectors, create opportunities for regional and rural communities, make crop and forest production more economical and assist in land rehabilitation,” Dr Reeves said.

“With the support of the Australian Government, we are hoping to engineer a more cost-competitive process for producing ethanol that will make use of existing biomass materials and create a world-leading facility for advanced biofuels.”

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/uxozavr

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Giant Battery Set for Testing in the Australian Outback

Giant Battery Set for Testing in the Australian Outback


Billionaire Elon Musk’s giant battery being built in the Australian outback will be energized in coming days and begin testing, indicating Tesla Inc. is on track to meet a 100-day self-imposed deadline to install the system.

Tesla power packs have now been fully installed on a site near a wind farm north of Adelaide and will be tested to ensure the battery meets standards laid down by the energy market operator, the South Australia state government said in a statement Thursday.

“Congratulations to the Tesla crew and South Australian authorities who worked so hard to get this manufactured and installed in record time,” Musk tweeted on Thursday.

The entrepreneur is building the system to help the state avert crippling electricity blackouts that have spurred a nationwide debate about security of energy supply in Australia. The futurist chief executive made a bet on Twitter in March that he could install a 100-megawatt storage facility within 100 days or it would be free, and the clock started ticking at the end of September when the contract was signed.

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Musk’s battery system is designed to overcome one of the main obstacles to greater reliance on renewable power sources — they can store up power produced while the wind blows or sun shines, and then release it steadily to the grid later when generation stalls.

“The world’s largest lithium-ion battery will be an important part of our energy mix,” South Australia’s Premier Jay Weatherill said in the government statement. “It sends the clearest message that South Australia will be a leader in renewable energy with battery storage.”

Musk has high hopes for the wide-scale roll-out of solar and battery-based energy storage after acquiring SolarCity Corp. last year. Tesla sees the combination of those two clean energy technologies as key to its overall effort to accelerate the transition to renewables and wean the world off fossil fuels.

Though Palo Alto, California-based Tesla is best known for making electric cars, the company sells its lithium-ion batteries to utilities eager for cost-effective ways to integrate renewable sources of power like solar and wind into their electric grids. Tesla also markets a home battery called the Powerwall to residential consumers.

For Musk, delivering the battery ahead of deadline would back up an earlier win where Tesla delivered a large battery project in Southern California in 90 days to alleviate the risk of winter blackouts.

Tesla has missed almost every aggressive product milestone it set for itself in the past decade and its mass-market electric sedan has been hit by production delays.

©2017 Bloomberg News

Lead image credit: depositphotos.com

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Why the Bifurcation of an Industry’s Supply and Demand is Bad for Everyone

Why the Bifurcation of an Industry’s Supply and Demand is Bad for Everyone


“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina.  In the solar industry, strong markets are alike in that they have incentives, subsidies and/or mandates to drive growth and adoption but also a fair amount of political and economic risk and every weak or collapsing market is alike in that it no longer has incentives, subsidies and/or mandates to drive it and its political and/or economic risk has become a reality.

A weak market is the mirror image of a strong one that is, everything is seen in reverse. In solar, a leading market share receives more notice than the low-to-negative margins that go along with it. For example, solar lease etc., company Sunrun is being touted for passing SolarCity in terms of its market share even as it racks — pardon the pun — up losses. The company reported losses from operations of $130.7 million and net losses of $180.9 million for nine months of 2017.  True, the company lost less money than it did in 2016, however this should not be spun as a positive.

In the solar industry, low prices are celebrated as progress with the result that the expectation for ever lower prices is firmly set.  As margins all along the value chain are tight any disruption such as an increase in raw material prices or a new tariff, can tip the scale from barely profitable to loss. 

In theory, a healthy domestic market would have supply participants to serve its demand participants so that the equilibrium price can be achieved. Buyers want the cheapest available price and typically do not care if that price falls below cost, and sellers want to dominate the market at some margin that supports their ongoing operations and leaves a cushion to cover shocks in the market such as rising raw material costs, labor costs and for other save-for-a-rainy-day reasons.

Or, why the Section 201 solar trade case is no big deal to China. “, “sponsorPage” : null, “footerText” : “Brought To You By”, “authorLineLabel” : “By”, “showBylineLabel” : null, “showDatelineLabel” : null, “showPublicationDateLabel” : null, “authorSnippetLabel” : “By”, “showNativeInfoTooltipText” : true, “showNativeAdSynopsis” : true, “showByline” : true, “showDateline” : true, “showPublicationDate” : true, “hasAuthor” : true, “displayMultipleAuthors” : false, “showAuthor” : true, “showAuthorSnippet” : false, “showSubHeadline” : false, “showLiveFyreComments” : false }”>[Native Advertisement]

Energy markets, globally, are incentivized, subsidized and/or mandated.  Perfect supply/demand markets are typically small and rural and are extremely rare. Government intervention in energy markets – globally – has created a situation where an even playing field in terms of supply and demand and a perfect competitive landscape is impossible.

An example from solar: In the mid-to-late 2000s the market in Europe consumed ~80 percent of PV modules.  In 2011, Europe consumed >60 percent of PV modules. During this period, the U.S. and other markets experienced supply constraints and prices increased.

More recently, the market in China for PV deployment has dominated and in 2017 will account for >53 percent of PV deployment and >50 percent of module supply. Making a long story short, China’s supply dominance came about because it used a strategy of aggressive pricing to dominate the global market. In the beginning, China was an export market. Now, China consumes most of its own supply and has no reason to put up with pesky little problems such as tariffs and minimum prices from markets much to small and no longer profitable enough to bother with.

This means that other markets are now experiencing a supply constraint and higher prices. A theoretically healthy market with a (relatively) balanced supply and demand value chain would be in more control of its price and the supply of product available to it.

However, theory and real life almost never intersect. Figure 1 offers data on PV shipments from 2002 through 2017. 

Figure 1: Country Shipments of PV 2002-2017 EstimateWhat does the supply/demand imbalance mean?

What it means is country-specific. Here are a few examples.

In the U.S., the supply/demand imbalance means that module shortages are common and will become more common as China’s PV deployment continues accelerating. The tariff situation has given manufacturers from all countries a reason to raise prices as well as a reason to reprioritize market focus away from the problematic U.S. market. Installers, developers and distributors will have fewer product choices and even less control over the price they pay. End users may not realize they have fewer product choices, but they will.

In India, increasing prices for modules primarily imported from China is putting the squeeze on developer margins and exposing India’s labyrinth PV development realities and its vulnerability.

And China … well, with its domestic market capable of consuming all domestic production, why would it bother with problematic markets that are becoming less profitable?

Lead image Credit DepositPhotos.

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Spread Solar for the Holidays: Four Gift Giving Ideas for 2017

Spread Solar for the Holidays: Four Gift Giving Ideas for 2017


It’s that time of year again: holidays! Until 2018 begins, we try to set aside some extra time for family, eat delicious meals together, exchange gifts and generally close out the year with good wishes and good intentions for the next year.

While Renewable Energy World is a business-to-business publication for the global renewable energy industry, we occasionally get press releases and notifications about interesting inventions that are designed for the general public. And as the holidays approach, we like to bring them to you. 

Our 2017 gift guide is full of interesting ideas about how to give the gift of solar energy. The reason we focused on solar this year is because the solar industry does a great job of alerting us about new products and services designed for the industry and the world at large. That said, if you produce a renewable energy consumer product or have recently launched a crowdfunding campaign that you’d like us to know about, please send a press release to REW-PR@PEnnWell.com.

Now onto the gift ideas:

Light up Your Campsite with Solar and Give Solar Lights to Puerto Rico

Founded by a Brian Plavnicky, a guy who wanted to make a social impact “without joining the peace corps,” Revel Gear makes renewable energy products that combine solar and LED lighting for the outdoors while also helping people in need of energy and light. Revel Gear launched via a kickstarter campaign this year and is now accepting orders for some products and pre-orders for others.  

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For example, you can buy the Hut Buddy, a combination 20-ft. LED string light and solar battery pack, right now. Then when you use it, post a photo of it in action and trigger a donation.

When a customer posts a photo of a Revel Gear product on social media, the company donates either renewable energy or renewable energy and lighting on their behalf. Plavnicky said recently the company has been focused on Puerto Rico, sending existing products and prototypes to people without power on the island whose grid was devastated by a hurricane this fall.

Support the First Clean Energy Credit Union

Launched by a group of clean energy enthusiasts, including multiple solar installation companies from Amicus Solar Cooperative, which were fed up with the high fees banks were demanding of installers that wanted to offer financing to their customers, the Clean Energy Credit Union is a new financial and lending institution specifically for clean energy.

The loans are focused solely helping people afford solar electric systems, electric vehicles, home energy efficiency retrofits, electric-assist bicycles, net-zero energy homes, etc. Clean Energy Credit Union is a not-for-profit financial services cooperative and a federally chartered credit union. As a cooperative, it’s democratically owned and controlled by its members on a one-vote-per-member basis.

Listen to the podcast with Blake Jones, founder of the credit union, hosted by Renewable Energy World’s Jennifer Delony to learn more.

The crowdfunding campaign has concluded but the group still needs tax-deductible donations to get started and explains how to donate on this page.

Charge Your Phone with a Pocket-Sized Solar Charger

Sunslice, the world’s smallest solar charger, found us on the Renewable Energy World Facebook page, which you can “like” here. The wallet-sized product unfolds into a large square solar charger that can be put in the sun and then used to charge up a smartphone in a couple hours, according to the company. The company also says that at 3 watts, the product has the best size-to-power ratio. It’s worth look, here.

Discover Your Home’s Solar Potential on Facebook Messenger

Speaking of Facebook, PowerScout, a startup backed by the U.S. Department of Energy, launched the first Facebook Messenger chatbot for residential solar power this month.

Powered by artificial intelligence, the PowerScout chatbot can evaluate a home’s roof and let the homeowner know how much they can save with solar. Once a homeowner enters an address, PowerScout uses automated computer vision models to evaluate the home’s solar potential and then produces an estimate of potential savings and quantity of solar panels required.

Homeowners in some states can then use the bot to get quotes from PowerScout’s network of local solar installers. The quotes service is available in CA, NY, NJ and MA, and PowerScout can estimate savings in 15 states: AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, MD, MA, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OR, PA, SC, VT, according to the company.

PowerScout isn’t a gift per se, but it’s an innovation that could help drive the solar industry forward and reduce those enormous soft costs related to customer acquisition. And anythng that makes solar cheaper and easier to be deployed is a gift to us all. 

Happy Holidays from all of us at Renewable Energy World!

Lead image credit: Revel Gear.

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