Solar Has Won

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In Australia the amount of energy being produced by sustainable systems caused the price to fall so low it went in to the negative. This will not be the last time we see this. As more places adopt renewable energy into their power grids the old models of industry will be forced to change – meaning a better world for consumers, producers, and the environment!

Last week, for the first time in memory, the wholesale price of electricity in Queensland fell into negative territory – in the middle of the day.

For several days the price, normally around $40-$50 a megawatt hour, hovered in and around zero. Prices were deflated throughout the week, largely because of the influence of one of the newest, biggest power stations in the state – rooftop solar.

“Negative pricing” moves, as they are known, are not uncommon. But they are only supposed to happen at night, when most of the population is mostly asleep, demand is down, and operators of coal fired generators are reluctant to switch off. So they pay others to pick up their output.

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Solar Roads Could Provide Electricity

There are six days left for the Indiegog campaign for Solar Roadways and they have already met their goal! The $1,000,000 goal has been reached and passed – which is quite impressive! The idea behind the successful campaign is to turn roads from heat-producing to energy-producing. A network of roads equipped with solar panels can revolutionize energy networks.

Solar Roadways is a modular paving system of solar panels that can withstand the heaviest of trucks (250,000 pounds). These Solar Road Panels can be installed on roads, parking lots, driveways, sidewalks, bike paths, playgrounds… literally any surface under the sun. They pay for themselves primarily through the generation of electricity, which can power homes and businesses connected via driveways and parking lots. A nationwide system could produce more clean renewable energy than a country uses as a whole.

Thanks to Stu!

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Solar Power Rising in the Gulf

2013 saw great things happen on the Arabian Peninsula in relation to energy production. The region has invested heavily in installing solar power plants and reducing their own reliance on oil (so they can export more). In fact, the UAE is looking to start export in renewable energy!

For the Gulf’s solar industry, 2013 was a year of firsts: In addition to the opening of Abu Dhabi’s Shams 1 plant, Dubai’s first solar power plant became operational, and Kuwait and Oman decided to build their first as well. In Saudi Arabia, one energy analyst found the cost of generating electricity from solar there had become as cheap as generating electricity from oil-fired power plants.

Saudi’s solar goals appear to be the most gung-ho in the region: The kingdom has announced that it plans to throw down $109bn on solar energy and get one-third of its power from the sun by 2032. This target is “too ambitious”, said Hussam Khonkar of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, but added the technology to do so is available.

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In One year, Rooftop Solar Power Doubled in California

In one year California was able to increase power output from solar panels installed on roofs from 1,000 MW to over 2,000 MW. This is impressive and hopefully this trend continues in the very sunny and warm state!

To put this in perspective, it took California over 30 years to build 1,000 MW of rooftop solar, hitting that landmark in early 2013. Today, California is closing out the year with more than 2,000 MW of rooftop solar systems installed statewide. The California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) latest figures report 1,917 MW of rooftop solar, but those numbers exclude basically all of Pacific Gas and Electric’s 2013 installations, by far the largest market in the state, as well as a significant number of installations in other utility territories.

Read more at Solar Industry.

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In Plant Photosynthesis, Scientists See Clues for Improving Solar Energy Cells

Solar cells optimized to suit local light conditions, or made more efficient by using a broader part of the solar spectrum, are among the imaginative applications foreseen from ground-breaking new insights into plant photosynthesis pioneered in Canada.

Indeed new, more fully detailed knowledge of how plants and other living organisms convert sunlight into energy and carbon dioxide into biomass may offer clues to addressing both the global energy crisis and global warming, says Dr. Gregory Scholes, among the world’s most renowned scientists in plant photosynthesis.

Dr. Scholes, distinguished professor of Chemistry at the University of Toronto and 2012 recipient of the John C. Polanyi Award from Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), will describe his work in a special public lecture Nov. 26 supported by the Royal Canadian Institute (RCI) for the Advancement of Science, NSERC, and Toronto’s Ryerson University.

“This new bio-inspired understanding will help scientists devise artificial light gathering systems that can far exceed existing solar cells in functionality, and so pave the way to new, environmentally-friendly energy technologies,” says Dr. Scholes.

“We can imagine, for example, solar cells that optimize themselves to suit the local light conditions or that make better use of the solar spectrum by efficiently capturing and processing light of different colours.”

Studies of nature’s “photosynthetic machines” have involved such organisms as fronds in kelp forests (which can grow 15 cm – 6 inches – in a single day), algae growing 20 meters – 60 feet – underwater even in winter when over 1 metre of ice covers the water – and bacteria from the South Andros Black Hole, Bahamas, which have evolved to short circuit photosynthetic light harvesting and thereby warm their local environment.

All have helped science identify some fascinating chemical physics and determine that a chain of reactions involved in photosynthesis starts with hundreds of light-absorbing molecules that harvest sunlight and ‘concentrate’ the fleetingly stored energy at a biological solar cell called a “reaction center.”

And that happens with incredible speed. After sunlight is absorbed, the energy is trapped at reaction centers in about one billionth of a second.

New understanding of the photosynthetic process can also help alleviate the biggest looming threat to humanity — climate change — since photosynthesis makes use of the sun’s energy to convert the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) into useful biomass.

More than 10 quadrillion photons of light strike a leaf each second. Incredibly, almost every visible photon (those with wavelengths between 400 and 700 nanometers — 1 nm equalling 1 billionth of a metre) is captured by pigments and initiates the steps of plant growth.

Says Dr. Scholes: “Photosynthetic solar energy conversion occurs on an immense scale across the Earth, influencing our biosphere from climate to oceanic food webs. Energy from sunlight is absorbed by brightly coloured molecules, like chlorophyll, embedded in proteins comprising the photosynthetic unit.”

“While photosynthesis does not generate electricity from light, like a solar cell, it produces energy – a “solar fuel” – stored in molecules,” he adds. “Solar powered production of complex molecules is foreseen as an important contribution to energy management in the future.”

Concludes Dr. Scholes: “Nature has worked out with astonishing efficiency some the riddles of fundamental importance that vex our species today,” he adds. “If we are hunting for inspiration, we should keep our eyes open for the unexpected and learn from the natural sciences.”

Via the Royal Canadian Institute for the Advancement of Science.

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