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(Em)Powering Communities: SolarKiosk

Posted in Models, Movements by Jessica Bird on February 15th, 2013

 Source: TransitionsFF

CIMG0790
Photo from SolarKiosk.

From ‘SolarKiosk: mobile modular power for really remote areas” on Good.is

For those who’ve grown up constantly plugged into the power grid, it’s almost impossible to think of life without an endless supply of outlets, power cords, and technology. But for an estimated 1.5 billion people around the world, power—from cutting and burning firewood to lighting kerosene lamps, paraffin, and candles—doesn’t come easy. According to the United Nations Foundation, almost 3 billion people rely on traditional biomass for cooking and heating, about 1.5 billion have no access to electricity, and 1 billion more have access only to unreliable electricity networks. Smoke from polluting and inefficient cooking, lighting, and heating devices kills nearly two million people a year and causes a range of chronic illnesses and other health impacts.

In an effort to tackle health and development-related obstacles in developing countries, a company based in Germany and Ethiopia is bringing clean energy to “off-grid areas” around the world. Housed in a metal hut topped with a solar panel-filled roof, the designers have named their creation a “SolarKiosk,” a small-scale power source for communities without electricity. Each SolarKiosk is expected to provide enough power for villagers to charge their mobile phones and car batteries, run a computer, or power up a solar fridge. Goods sold from the Kiosk include solar lanterns, mobile phones, and cards to top-up cellular devices. Considering that the Kiosk’s fridge may be the community’s only one, it could be used to house everything from medication to chilled drinks. The kiosk could also provide television, music, and internet depending on the locale. The creators project that a larger-size SolarKiosk could even produce enough energy to run a telecom tower reliably, while also providing security and maintenance. It will even be possible to connect multiple kiosks to create a local grid.

The world’s first SolarKiosk set up shop on July 15 [2012] near Lake Langana in Ethiopia. Designed by Graft Architects, the project not only provides clean energy solutions to “off-grid” countries, but once installed, becomes a power-generating shop and business hub, providing jobs to community members and education on how solar products work. It also becomes a glowing, solar-powered light source at night. Each kiosk comes in a lightweight, DIY kit, making it is easy to transport and build a kiosk in off-road, rural areas—the package could even be carried to its target location on the back of a donkey. With the exception of pre-manufactured electrical components, the kiosk’s parts can be constructed from a range of local materials including bamboo, wood, adobe, stone, metal, or even recycled goods. Post-assembly, the entire structure is firmly anchored in the ground. […]

NB. The second SolarKiosk was installed in Teppi, Ethiopia, in November last year. – [JB]

>>> You can read the full article on Good.is.
>>> You can learn more about SolarKiosk on their website.


Funding small-scale solar projects for widespread gains

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on May 3rd, 2012


Photo by Rajiv Patel (Rajiv’s View) via flickr CC

From “Solar rooftops sought in poor communities” by Bernice Yeung:

San Diego is home to more than 2,600 solar residential rooftops – more than any other California city – but in the neighboring lower-income community of National City, there are only about a dozen.

A bill before the California Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce this month seeks to equalize renewable energy installation in the state by promoting small-scale solar rooftops in the disadvantaged communities. The bill targets neighborhoods with high unemployment rates and those that “bear a disproportionate burden from air pollution, disease, and other impacts from the generation of electricity from the burning of fossil fuels,” the bill said. Bill author Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Mountain View, said the legislation would create jobs and build “cleaner, safer, and healthier neighborhoods.”

[…]

The legislation would require the state to install enough systems to produce 375 megawatts of renewable energy – or about 1,000 small-scale projects – in disadvantaged communities between 2014 and the end of 2020. Utility companies are required by a 2011 state law to achieve a 33 percent renewable portfolio standard by 2020. The renewable energy systems supported by Fong’s bill would take the form of rooftop solar installations on apartment complexes and commercial buildings, and each project would be limited to producing 500 kilowatts of power, a project the size of a typical Costco rooftop. Advocates say passage of the bill could improve both the health and economy of these low-income communities.

Through a program known as “feed-in tariff,” the owner of the solar panels would be able to earn revenue by selling back unused energy to the local utility company. Additionally, the bill promotes the hiring of local workers to install the solar panels. And because reliance on carbon dioxide-emitting power plants used during periods of high energy demand – called peaker plants – could be decreased with an increase in renewable energy creation, there are health implications to the bill, said Strela Cervas of the California Environmental Justice Alliance, which sponsored the legislation.

[…]

Read the full article by Bernice Yeung on California Watch.


Solar Mosaic: Invest in Solar Projects Anywhere

Posted in Models, Movements by Jessica Bird on February 28th, 2012

Source: Solar Mosaic


Photo: © Solar Mosaic

One of the biggest barriers to converting to solar power has always been the initial outlay involved in the installation of panels, and connecting to the grid where necessary. In the last ten years the concept of a Solar Lease, similar to that of a car lease, has led to the expansion of the industry with traditional investors being banks, energy companies, and private equity firms. US organisation Solar Mosaic, based in Oakland California, have opened up the idea of solar leasing so that anyone can invest in solar projects to help local communities and “Bank on the Sun”; “Mosaic is a platform where people come together to create local clean energy in their communities and around the world.”

The Solar Mosaic website explains how their platform works:

1) Invest in a Project
Choose a solar project to invest in. Each project has been carefully vetted by Solar Mosaic to ensure that your investment creates local clean energy, green jobs and benefits a site host that is financially secure and has a good roof.

2) Your Project is Installed
After you and all your friends invest in the project, the project will be installed. You’ll receive updates as your project is funded, installed and connected to the grid.

3) Get Paid Back
As your investment produces clean solar electricity, the building owner will save thousands of dollars on their utility bills. Low monthly lease payments along with other incentives will go towards paying you back. All of our current projects operate under a zero-interest loan model, meaning that if you put $100 in, you’ll get $100 back over the number of years specified in the project.

 

What’s in a name?
Tile mosaics are works of art where many pieces come together to form a whole. In the same way, Solar Mosaics are solar projects where many people come together to fund a solar installation.

Mosaic is a place where you can create and fund solar projects
The solar economy is undergoing unprecedented growth. We’ve created Mosaic so you can invest in solar power anywhere and take part in the solar revolution.

Mosaic is helping to build the new energy economy
We’re a new way of financing and unleashing solar for communities across the world. Mosaic’s mission is to democratize the financial and environmental benefits of solar.

The projects are powered by people like you
Together we can create a world powered by 100% clean energy. We are excited to have you join Mosaic. Sign up and invest today.

 

Solar Mosaic have also produced an interactive guide to help in the development of your own solar project.

Read more about Solar Mosaic and their current projects on their website.


Solar Energy from Existing Structures: Free Calculator

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on November 11th, 2011

Source: Renewables International


Image from SEES Manual


From New software calculates a city’s potential by Sven Ullrich & Craig Morris:

Researchers at the University of Göteborg in Sweden have come up with a new computer program to analyze the potential of solar power generation and solar heat for entire cities. The program supports a wide range of data formats.

Called Solar Energy from Existing Structures (SEES), the new software collects, stores, analyzes, and graphically displays geographical data for roofs to determine their suitability for solar arrays. It calculates both the angle of solar incidence and shading from trees and nearby structures. In addition to this data, the roof angle and climate data are included with a resolution of up to an hour. The program shows building roofs in their actual environment. In the model, the sun shines on the building’s three-dimensional surroundings to correctly reveal shading, which can also be calculated for individual months and the year as a whole.

Read the full article by Sven Ullrich & Craig Morris on Renewables International.


Solar-Powered Drip Irrigation

Posted in Models, Research by Kate Archdeacon on August 29th, 2011

Source: Nourishing the Planet: Worldwatch Institute
From “Innovation of the Week: Harnessing the Sun’s Power to Make the Water Flow” by Janeen Madan:

Nearly 2 billion people around the world live off the electricity grid. Lack of access to energy can take a huge toll, especially on food security. Without energy for irrigation, for example, small-scale farmers must rely on unpredictable rainfall to grow the crops they depend on for food and income.

In the Kalalé district of northern Benin, agriculture is a source of livelihood for 95 percent of the population. But small-scale farmers lack access to effective irrigation systems. Women and young girls spend long hours walking to nearby wells to fetch water to irrigate their fields by hand. The Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF), a U.S. nonprofit, has introduced an innovative solar-powered drip irrigation system that is helping farmers—especially women—irrigate their fields. The pilot project launched in partnership with Dr. Dov Pasternak of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRASAT), has installed solar panels in Bessassi and Dunkassa villages.  This cost-effective and environmentally sustainable project is improving food security and raising incomes by providing access to irrigation for small-scale farmers, especially during the six-month dry season.

Read the full article by Janeen Madan for Nourishing the Planet.


Retrofitting Solar Panels to Existing Structures: High Speed Rail

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on June 15th, 2011

Source: guardian.co.uk

From “High-speed Euro train gets green boost from two miles of solar panels” by Damian Carrington:

A two-mile-long Belgian rail tunnel, built to shelter trains from falling trees, will from Monday provide a double environmental benefit by hosting a unique solar power project. The high-speed line running from Paris to Amsterdam passes Antwerp and a nearby ancient forest. To avoid the need to fell protected trees, a long tunnel was built over the line which has now been topped with 16,000 solar panels. The electricity produced is equivalent to that needed to power all the trains in Belgium for one day per year, and will also help power Antwerp station.

“For train operators, it is the perfect way to cut their carbon footprints because you can use spaces that have no other economic value and the projects can be delivered within a year because they don’t attract the protests that wind power does,” said Bart Van Renterghem, UK head of Belgian renewable energy company Enfinity, which installed the panels. “We had a couple of projects lined up around London with train operators and water utilities, but they have been put on hold.” Van Renterghem said this was due to the UK government’s controversial review of subsidies for large-scale solar power projects, which will lower the returns available.

The UK government argues that solar technology is too expensive, but Van Renterghem said he had seen the cost of cells halve in the last two to three years thanks to economies of scale in Germany, France and Belgium. The new Blackfriars station in London, which will span the River Thames, will host the largest single collection of solar panels in the UK when it opens in spring 2012. The roof of the new station will have 4,400 panels and a capacity of 1MW, enough to provide 50% of the station’s electricity. However, the development is not dependent on the level of government subsidy for solar power as the £7.3m bill was paid by the transport department’s environment fund.

Read this article by Damian Carrington on The Guardian.


Self-Repairing Photovoltaic Cells

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on September 23rd, 2010

Source: Environmental Research Web


Photo: Patrick Gillooly

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have fabricated the first synthetic photovoltaic cell capable of repairing itself. The cell mimics the self-repair system naturally found in plants, which capture sunlight and convert it into energy during photosynthesis. The device could be 40% efficient at converting solar power into energy – a value that is two times better than the best commercial photovoltaic cells on the market today.

During photosynthesis, plants harness solar radiation and convert it into energy. Scientists have been trying to mimic this process in synthetic materials, but this has proved difficult because the Sun’s rays damage and gradually destroy solar-cell components over time. Naturally occurring plants have developed a highly elaborate self-repair mechanism to overcome this problem that involves constantly breaking down and reassembling photodamaged light-harvesting proteins. The process ensures that these molecules are continually being refreshed, and so always work like “new”.

Michael Strano and colleagues have now succeeded in mimicking this process for the first time by creating self-assembling complexes that convert light into electricity. The complexes can be repeatedly broken down and reassembled by simply adding a surfactant (a solution of soap molecules). The researchers found that they can indefinitely cycle between assembled and disassembled states by adding and removing the surfactant, but the complexes are only photoactive in the assembled state.

Read the full article by Belle Dumé.


Solar is Cost-Competitive with Nuclear: Report

Posted in Movements, Research by Kate Archdeacon on August 24th, 2010

Source: Worldchanging

From “Scaling Up Solar: The Global Implications of a New Study that Says Solar Power Is Cost Competitive with Nuclear Power” by Olivia Boyd:

The sunshine of North Carolina, a state on America’s Atlantic seaboard, has long been a draw for tourists seeking a little southern warmth on the region’s beaches. But holiday companies are not the only ones trumpeting a good local deal. The price of the state’s solar-generated electricity has fallen so far that it is now cheaper than new nuclear power, according to a report published in July by researchers at the state’s Duke University. The authors say their figures indicate a “historic crossover” that significantly strengthens the case for investment in renewable energy – and weakens the arguments for large-scale, international nuclear development.

Solar power is usually branded as a clean but expensive energy source, incapable of competing on economic grounds with more established alternatives, such as nuclear. The outspoken pro-nuclear stance adopted by a raft of iconic environmental figures – James Lovelock, Stewart Brand, Patrick Moore – has helped to instill in policy making circles the sense that this is the only power source that can restructure our energy supply at the pace, scale and price required by the pressures of rapid climate change. This study, which was co-authored by former chair of Duke University’s economics department John Blackburn and commissioned by NC Warn, a clean-energy NGO with a firm anti-nuclear bent, challenges that view. “This report should end the argument for risking billions of public dollars on new nuclear projects,” says Jim Warren, NC Warn director.

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UK Solar Feed-In Tariff (FiT): Ongoing Debate

Posted in Opinion by Kate Archdeacon on March 17th, 2010

Source: Environmental Research Web


Image: borya via flickr CC

FiT for purpose? by Dave Elliott:

The debate on the UK’s new Feed-In Tariff (FiT) has been quite lively, with the Guardian’s George Monbiot arguing that, with solar PV being still very expensive, the way the FiT provided the support needed was economically regressive.

It does look that way at first glance – those that could afford to invest say £10,000 in PV might get £1000 p.a. back for the electricity they generated and used, paid for by all the other consumers, who would be charged extra via their electricity bills. It’s been suggested that this would lead to a £11 p.a. surcharge on bills by 2020.  However, in a rebuttal to Monbiot’s analysis, Jeremy Leggett from Solar Century said “the average household levy in 2013, when tariff rates are all up for review, is likely to be less than £3” and he added “this is far less than the average saving from the government’s various domestic energy efficiency measures over the same period. So there is no net subsidy. The levy is not ‘regressive’ at all”.

The extra cost is certainly small, since the expected size of the FiT scheme is small, only maybe leading to 2% of UK electricity by 2020, so maybe this is not a major issue. But it is good to see that the government has now announced a “green-energy loan” scheme (part of its new “Warm Homes, Green Homes” strategy) under which energy-supply companies and others (e.g. the Co-op) may offer consumers zero or low interest loans for installing new energy systems, to be paid back out of the resultant energy savings. Details have yet to be agreed, but up to £7 bn may be made available over the next decade in this way – although it seems it will start off slowly, from 2012 onwards.

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