Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hot news in cleantech: Solar, cheap at half the price

Cheaper, more efficient solar! NOW! That’s been the name of the game in cleantech over the past week, with three different US solar cell makers touting new technological developments: two claiming they could halve the per Watt cost of solar power; one claiming it could produce 200 per cent the power of conventional solar cells.
Let’s begin with California-based start-up Twin Creeks Technologies, which gained media attention last week (Technology Review says the company had been “operating in secret” until that time) with the claim that its manufacturing equipment could produce solar cells for 40 cents per watt, about half today’s leading 80 cents per watt. As reported on CleanTechnica, the company claims that wafers produced on its Hyperion manufacturing system are less than one-tenth as thick as conventional wafers. Twin Creeks also says that these 20-micrometer-thick wafers can be produced with less raw material – 90 per cent less silicon, for starters – and less capital-intensive manufacturing equipment. This all translates to solar panels that sell for nearly 50 per cent less than conventional panels, as well as new generations of inexpensive semiconductors. It also reduces companies’ exposure to silicon price swings, says Twin Creeks. Meanwhile, the extreme slenderness of the Si cells has the added bonus of making them bendable, rendering the “traditional glass sandwich” unnecessary. Instead, the “ultra-thin modules can be wrapped in a flexible encapsulant, reducing both weight and cost,” says Twin Creeks.
The company’s primary plan, says Technology Review, is to sell manufacturing equipment, rather than produce solar cells. “I expect that by this time next year, we’ll have a half a dozen to a dozen of these tools in the field,” says Twin Creeks CEO Siva Sivaram. The technology has been tested in a small, 25MW-per-year solar-cell factory the company built in Mississippi, and while one of its advantages is that it can be added to existing production lines, it does require one change, says TR: the implementation of an alternative anti-reflection technology to that used in the conventional production process. For those who would like a more detailed description of how the Twin Creeks solar cell manufacturing process works, Technology Review has that covered.
Now to the second company that aims to cut the cost of solar cells in half: Colorado-based Ampulse Corporationdescribed by CleanTechnica as another solar industry up-comer, this week revealed it has made radical changes to the production process of solar cells it claims can push the prices of solar power to less than $0.50 per watt. Ampulse aims to do this by reducing the use of silicon wafers – accountable for about half the cost of a typical solar panel – while still using silicon as the core material in its thin-film crystalline silicon (c-Si) PV cells, says CleanTechnica. It does this by growing the silicon on an inexpensive, textured metal foil by using a chemical vapor deposition process. This requires less heat than the manufacturing of traditional silicon wafers, and also results in a much thinner wafer, less than 10 microns. Ampulse also bypasses the sawing phase of manufacturing, which usually results in a loss of half of the refined silicon.
According to Ampulse CEO Steven Hane, solar panels using the company’s wafers will cost less then 50 cents per watt, with an efficiency of 15 per cent. But not just yet. The company is installing a new pilot manufacturing facility in National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Process Development Integration Laboratory (PDIL), but is already planning stages of a full-scale production line. As well as NREL, it has development agreements with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and almost $US1.5 million in funds dedicated to further research.
And back to California now, to another would-be solar cell trailblazer, Solar3D, which this week announced the completion of a “detailed simulation analysis comparing its breakthrough solar cell with conventional solar cells,” which it says turned up the rather dramatic finding that its solar cell “can produce 200 per cent of the power output of conventional solar cells.” The company says its “innovative single wafer silicon solar cell is based on a 3-dimensional design with two very powerful and unique patent-pending features: wide angle light collection and high conversion efficiency.” The wide angle feature is kind of self-explanatory – it creates greater surface area to capture more light at sunset and sunrise and in winter months – while the 3-dimensional design increases electricity generation efficiency by trapping sunlight inside photovoltaic microstructures, which are etched into the wafer, where photons bounce around until they are converted into electrons.
Solar3D says its analysis – which CleanTechnica points out is neither based on a working prototype, nor is it independently verified – indicates that, while a typical 17 per cent efficient solar cell performs more like a 5 per cent efficient cell when the sun is not directly overhead, its Solar3D cell can maintain its high 25 per cent efficiency for a longer period of time and can generate 200 per cent of the power output of conventional solar cells. This translates to an estimated 40 per cent reduction in the payback period of a fully installed Solar3D panel array, the company says. “With Solar3D cells, utility solar farms can be smaller in size and easier to operate without the need for mechanical systems to track the sun,” says the company’s CEO, Jim Nelson. “Space limited applications, such as rooftops, can finally generate enough useful power to successfully compete against other sources of electricity. We believe that our 3D design is a game changer.” The company is currently working on a prototype 3D solar cell.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Erratic power cuts prompt people to opt for solar energy

COIMBATORE: With no answers to the power crisis in the district, more people and industries are opting for alternative sources of energy. The manufacturers of solar panels have been witnessing a dramatic increase in sales in recent months. "We did not expect a 100% increase in sales, considering the cost of solar panels," said K Muthumani, proprietor of Omega Solar in Uppilipalayam, Coimbatore. People are beginning to realize the importance of green energy, he said. Besides, they are fed up with the power cuts, he added.

Until a few years ago, the cost of a solar panel was exorbitant. Not many people resorted to solar energy then as they felt the return on investment would not be worth the wait.
However, the recent power crisis has forced many to look at solar energy as an option. People are more willing to invest in a panel that would produce 500 watts of energy to light residences, said Muthumani.

Earlier, the panel for each watt cost Rs200. But today, the price has come down to as low as Rs80, said R Gautam, proprietor of Next Generation of Solar Solutions. "People invested in solar water heaters, but the demand for panels was minimal. We used to sell 100 watts per month, but now we sell about 500 watts every day for residential use. Industries purchase anywhere between 1,000 watts and 20 kilo watts of energy," he said.

Photovoltaic cells are imported from Germany. Cheaper versions are imported from China. The panels are assembled and marketed here. With the extended power cuts, Muthumani said that the UPS has not been very useful. However, he revealed that the UPS can be charged with solar energy.

"I was having sleepless nights and was upset with the erratic power supply," said R Palanisamy, a retired veterinarian and resident of Kamraj Nagar, who has opted for solar energy. To light four LED bulbs, four fans and nine CFL bulbs, 300 watts are needed. This would cost Rs1.2 lakh, he said. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bangaloreans, get ready for 'Rock the Sun' concert

After grooving to DJ David Guetta’s music, Bangalore is now gearing up to ‘rock the sun’ all thanks to Swizz designer Cédric Carles’ innovation. The city will witness a music concert that is powered by solar energy and we get Cédric to tell you about the show… “3S, a mobile sound unit that I have put together will be used to support the concert. The unit can be operated without using the electric grid as it is completely dependent on solar energy.”
The battery that needs to be charged for three-four hours comes with a 10-hour back up. “What’s more is that we can use it even as it is getting charged,” add French musicians Eric and Marylise, of the band Vialka, who will be performing at the concert.
The concert is an environmental awareness initiative and it couldn’t be better timed given that 2012 has been declared the ‘International year of sustainable energy’. “Environmental concerns are increasing with each passing day and I thought what better way than music to have today’s youth warm up to the idea of renewable energy resources,” says Cédric. He is meeting up with several musicians and DJs to explain the concept as well. The unit can be used for presentations and lectures too. “I am now thinking of adding a projector to the unit to support the screening of films,” he adds. 3S that takes a little over ten minutes to assemble is ideal for a gathering of 100 people. “This is my first attempt at amalgamating art, technology and social cause so, I have built a system with a small capacity. I will update the unit soon,” adds Cédric. For future use, 3S will be placed at Jaaga, a community space dedicated to local art, culture and technology.
Cédric will next be travelling to Japan for a similar cause. “I generally modify the design of the unit by making use of local resources to make sure that it suits the needs of the respective cities,” he adds. The concept has already gained popularity in Switzerland, France, Haiti, Greece, Italy and Brazil. It is endorsed by the United Nations Foundation. In India, Swissnex, a global network that focuses on the growth of science and technology, is supporting the cause. Wanting to have the final word, Cédric says, “We are here to share the fact that solar energy is just a starting point from where many ideas can be explored!”
Rock the Sun concert is at 7.30pm, this evening at Alliance Francaise, Vasanthnagar. Entry is free for all.

Mono Steel Completes 10-Megawatt Solar Plant in India’s Gujarat

Mono Steel (India) Ltd., a sponge iron-maker, completed a 10-megawatt solar power plant in India’s Gujarat state, according to the project contractor.
The plant has a 25-year contract to sell power to Gujarat state, according to a statement from Mumbai-based Waaree, which built the unit and supplied the photovoltaic panels.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Indian Solar Summit 2012 Making India's National Solar Mission a Reality

The International and Indian solar communities are gearing up for the latest policy announcements for Phase III of the Gujarat Solar Policy. 

Government officials have declared that an updated policy will be launched at the Indian Solar Summit, which is being organized by Solar Media and the Confederation of Indian Industries. 

As part of the event, all conference attendees, media and Government officials will attend the Official inauguration of the Charanka Solar Park, conducted by Chief Minister Sri Narendra Modi. The Solar Park currently has over 200MW completed solar power, with a further 300MW yet to be allocated. 

Updates on the Phase III policy and changes to the allocation process will be announced during the conference element of the summit, which will be held in Gandhinagar on 20th & 21st April at the Mahatma Mandir Convention Centre. 

Solar Media's Event Director, Stewart Bundock said: "In addition to being a celebratory occasion, the official inauguration of the Charanka Solar Park, really puts India on the map. There are very few places in the world that can match India's ambition and desire to become a genuine global solar power." 

International solar executives are travelling to the event from North America, Europe, China and Australia – all are eager to hear the new announcements and get become involved in what will be an exciting new phase for the Gujarat Solar Mission. 

Further information on the event can be found at or call Gopesh Nair on +91 991 361 4828 or Laura Pleasants on +44 20 7871 0123 for further information. Email: 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Solar power generation in Tamil Nadu to cross 3,000 MW by 2015-16

Chennai, Mar 16: Natham R Viswanathan, minister for non-conventional energy development said, Tamil Nadu will soon come out with a new policy on solar power to generate 3,000 MW by 2015-16 in RENERGY 2012.
Saying that the State has received only 22 MW out of the 1,000 MW capacity under the Phase I of National Solar Mission, he requested the centre to address the inequality by recognising the huge potential for solar power in Tamil Nadu.
The state was planning to roll out the country’s largest rooftop solar power programme by powering 300,000 houses and 100,000 street lights through solar power. According to Viswanathan, the state government will promote small rooftop solar power systems as well as encourage wind-solar hybrid installations.
RENERGY 2012, an international conference on renewable energy organised by the Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency (TEDA) was held on Monday. Several wind power companies that participated in Renergy 2012, a renewable energy event, have said that despite having 6,300 MW of wind power capacity – about 40 per cent of the total installed capacity in the country – Tamil Nadu has still a lot of good sites to offer.
CLP India, a Hong Kong-based company is the largest foreign investor in India’s power sector, has 99 MW of wind assets in Theni, Tamil Nadu. The company wanted to add capacity here, but power evacuation issues have caused the company to wait and watch.
Manikaran Power is yet another company which is planning a major push into the renewable energy sector, with plans for 500 MW of wind assets.
In spite of short-term challenges in Tamil Nadu that include evacuation and delays in payment, the State continues to be an attractive proposition for wind farms. This is because the State still has some of the best wind sites.
Speaking at a panel discussion at Renergy 2012, both Mr Giri and Mr Sunil Jain of Green Infra, said that land acquisition was the easiest in Rajasthan. They also said that while Tamil Nadu was okay, Maharashtra and Karnataka were pretty bad.
Indian Wind Power Association Chairman K Kasturirangan said that the Centre should continue the two decade-old tax rebate regime for investments made in setting up wind mills.

Friday, March 2, 2012

TN to light up 3L houses with solar power, targets 1,000MW

CHENNAI: In a move expected to inject some life into the state solar policy, the Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency (Teda ) has identified 2,000 government buildings where 1KW solar photovoltaic panels can be set up on the rooftops to generate energy.
The proposal is yet to be sanctioned by the state government. Among the shortlisted government offices, 1,000 are in Chennai. With this and the proposed solar powered houses and streetlights, Teda expects 1,000MW of solar power to be availableby year-end.
The state government plans to light up three lakh houses and one lakh street lamps with solar power. Of this, Teda aims to set up 60,000 houses and 20,000 streetlights this year. "We have proposed to the government to encourage residents across the state to install solar panels atop their houses, especially in multi storied buildings," said Teda general manager Srinivas Shankar.
The agency also plans to encourage residents to install solar water heaters like the ones in public health centres. Bangalore is among the cities with a large number of its residential buildings using solar water heaters.
Officials said the solar power policy,which has been in cold storage for a long time, is expected in a few months though the state government had announced in May 2010 that it would be released by January 2012.The delay has made industries looking at the state to wait and watch. "Once the policy is announced, we will enter the state in a big way," said officials from L&T and Zynergy. They werespeaking at a press conference to announce Renergy 2012, a renewable energy international conference and expo to be held at Chennai trade centre on March 12 and 13.
Centre for Wind Energy Technology executive director S Gomathinayagam said the Centre has funded the Scottish Development Agency to conduct a feasibility study on offshore wind energy generation in thecountry.
In its draft report, the agency has identified the Gulf of Kutch and Dhanushkodi as probable locations for installing offshore windmills. Gomathinayagam, who will be heading the technical committee on offshore wind energy generation, said there will be a meeting on March 2 to discuss the reportfrom the agency.