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Alternative Energy / Solar Energy

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  • Solar Power Threatening Future for U.S. Electric Utilities

    A persistent warning light is flashing for U.S. electric utilities. The utilities -- big and small, for- and not-for-profit -- are facing serious disruptive technology. The old business models are in danger. The unlikely disruptive technology that is causing the trouble is rooftop solar power.Back in the energy turbulent 1970s, solar was a gleam in the eye of environmentalists who dared to dream of renewable energy. It looked like a pipe dream. Very simple solar had been deployed to heat water in desert homes since indoor plumbing became the norm. Making electricity from the sun was many orders of magnitude…

  • New Efficient Materials Promise a Photovoltaic Revolution

    A new model for solar cell construction may ultimately make them less expensive, easier to manufacture, and more efficient at harvesting energy from the sun.For solar panels, wringing every drop of energy from as many photons as possible is imperative. This goal has sent researchers on a quest to boost the energy-absorption efficiency of photovoltaic devices, but existing techniques are running up against limits set by the laws of physics.As reported in the journal Nature, existing solar cells all work in the same fundamental way: they absorb light, which excites electrons and causes them to flow in a certain direction.…

  • Ceramic Converter Tackles Solar Cell Problem

    Coating a solar cell component in ceramics makes it more heat resistant, which could boost overall efficiency of the cells, say researchers.The component converts heat from the sun into infrared light, which can be absorbed by solar cells to make electricity—a technology known as thermophotovoltaics.Unlike earlier prototypes that fell apart before temperatures reached 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit (1,200 degrees Celsius), the new thermal emitter remains stable at temperatures as high as 2,500 F (1,400 C).The cross-section micrograph of the thermal emitter shows the ceramic-coated tungsten retained structural integrity after being subjected to 2,500 F (1,400 C) for one hour. (Credit: Kevin…

  • IKEA Tries to Simplify Solar

    Swedish furniture giant IKEA is now selling solar panels at its stores in the UK as part of the company’s renewable energy ambitions.For about $9,200 each, customers at IKEA’s UK branches can buy solar panels that are advertised as capable of returning consumer investments. According to the company, homeowners who buy IKEA solar panels see their investment returned in about seven years. Related article: Suntech Solar Reels as Directors Quit Over Cash Flow"We know that our customers want to life more sustainable ...We want to make a greener, more sustainable way of life attractive and easy for as many people…

  • Suntech Solar Reels as Directors Quit Over Cash Flow

    Giant Chinese solar manufacturer Suntech Power has seen three of its directors quit this month in frustration over what they say is the lack of clear strategy after the company went bankrupt earlier this year. On 21 August, directors Susan Wang, Julian Worley and Zhizhong Qui tendered their resignations.The former directors said in a shared statement that they were concerned about the company’s negotiations with bondholders, cash flow and the lack of a clear business plan. They also cited concern about the potential erosion of internal controls that was making it difficult for employees to function effectively, according to the…

  • Germany Proves Sunshine is not Necessary for a Booming Solar Industry

    Germany just broke its monthly solar power generation record once again. In July, the grey-skied country logged 5.1 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity from solar power, slightly better than the 5 TWh of electricity generated by wind turbines it produced in January.As Inhabitat points out, “The accomplishment proves once again that a lack of sunshine is no obstacle to scaling up solar energy — and if the Teutons can produce record amounts of solar power under grey skies, then the potential for countries with sunnier weather and more land mass (like the United States) is limitless.”This recent milestone is one…

  • US Energy Department Claims the Cost of Solar Power will Fall 75% by 2020

    Not one to shy away from overstatement, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is not a writer we would normally quote extensively; well-renowned as the Telegraph newspaper is, for which he frequently writes in the Business section, but his article last week on solar power trumping shale gas even had us sitting up and taking notice.True, many of the figures quoted in his article come from firms involved in the solar industry and as such we can expect them to put a positive gloss on the numbers, but we wouldn’t count the US Energy Department to be biased and they are quoted as saying…

  • Researchers Discover Random Disorder is Best for Polymer Solar Cell Structure

    Rigid organization works well for solar cells made of silicon crystals, but disorder is better for those made from plastic polymers, say researchers.“People used to think that if you made the polymers more like silicon they would perform better,” says study co-author Alberto Salleo, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford University. “But we found that polymers don’t naturally form nice, well-ordered crystals. They form small, disordered ones, and that’s perfectly fine.”Scientists have spent decades trying to build flexible plastic solar cells efficient enough to compete with conventional cells made of silicon. To boost performance, research groups…

  • The EU Resolves its Solar Trade Dispute with China

    China and the European Union have come to an amicable decision that solves their recent dispute over Chinese solar panels in the European market.Instead of imposing anti-dumping duties on Chinese solar products entering Europe, the European Commission has accepted the proposal by the Chinese exporters for a price undertaking by which they will sell their products based on a minimum import price.“We are confident that this price undertaking will stabilize the European solar panel market and will remove the injury that the dumping practices have caused to the European industry. We have found an amicable solution that will result in…

  • New Solar Steam System Could Help 2.5 Billion People

    A new sterilization system uses nanomaterials to convert 80 percent of the energy in sunlight into heat, and could be a boon for more than 2.5 billion people who lack adequate sanitation. The technology, described online in the early edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offers two ways that solar steam can be used for sterilization—one setup to clean medical instruments and another to sanitize human waste. “Sanitation and sterilization are enormous obstacles without reliable electricity,” says Naomi Halas, director of the Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP) at Rice University. “Solar steam’s efficiency at converting sunlight directly into…