Solar Magazine https://solarmagazine.com Solar Energy News, Developments and Insights Thu, 17 Jan 2019 02:48:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 148567400 December Caps a Bright, Busy Year for Off-Grid Solar in Sub-Saharan Africa https://solarmagazine.com/december-caps-a-bright-busy-year-for-off-grid-solar-in-sub-saharan-africa/ https://solarmagazine.com/december-caps-a-bright-busy-year-for-off-grid-solar-in-sub-saharan-africa/#respond Mon, 07 Jan 2019 11:10:39 +0000 https://solarmagazine.com/?p=1858 Smart, off-grid solar energy power generation and distribution continues to gain traction across Sub-Saharan Africa, attracting interest from national and multilateral development agencies, international investors, government authorities and domestic banks and financial services providers. A string of news announcements emerged in December, capping off what has been an active, busy 2018 in the fast-growing, emerging […]

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Smart, off-grid solar energy power generation and distribution continues to gain traction across Sub-Saharan Africa, attracting interest from national and multilateral development agencies, international investors, government authorities and domestic banks and financial services providers. A string of news announcements emerged in December, capping off what has been an active, busy 2018 in the fast-growing, emerging markets sector, highlighting the latest efforts to realize national and U.N. renewable energy and climate change goals.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta in early December announced plans to scale up renewable energy investment in order to achieve a 100 percent “green” energy goal by 2020. Off-grid, mobile pay-as-you-go home solar power first took root and began to grow rapidly in Kenya. It’s estimated that some 9 million Kenyan households can now access off-grid renewable energy, and that number is expected to continue to grow.

Primary School Children in Kenya Holding Solar Lights
Primary school children in Kenya holding solar lights (made by Greenlight Planet). | Photo: Corrie Wingate

The 100 percent-by-2020 renewable power goal is seen as a means of creating jobs and improving lives and livelihoods, as well as achieving rural and national electrification and U.N. Paris Agreement climate change and Sustainable Development Goals. Kenya’s aiming to triple the number of people connected to the power grid to reach 60 percent of the population, according to the World Economic Forum.

Furthermore, Kenya stands a good chance of greatly improving working and living conditions in rural areas if it proves able to realize these goals, as well as possibly stemming the rising tide of urban migration and urbanization and reducing the flow of Kenyan international immigration. The news from Kenya set the stage for a series of solar and renewable energy announcements this month, all of them inextricably intertwined with efforts to spur sustainable development, lower greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Rising off-grid solar investment

The U.K. government in early December announced it would invest another ₤100 million (~US$126 million) via its Renewable Energy Performance Platform (REPP) in projects “to catalyze growth” in Sub-Saharan Africa’s renewable energy sector. The fund was created in 2015 to help project developers “overcome barriers to finance.”

U.K. Government: £100 Million for Renewable Energy Projects in Africa
Photo: Twitter @beisgovuk

Spanning solar, wind, biomass, hydroelectric and geothermal power generation, the REPP program had provided funding for 18 renewable energy projects in a variety of Sub-Saharan African countries at the time of the announcement. They included: Burundi, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania, according to a news report.

The new €100 million of funding will help finance as many as 40 new renewable energy projects or programs in Sub-Saharan Africa over the next five years, the U.K. government said. REPP is part and parcel of the U.K.’s commitment to invest €5.8 billion (US$7.36 billion) internationally for climate finance by 2020.

“This £100 million will help communities harness the power of their natural resources to provide hundreds of thousands of people with electricity for the first time,” U.K. minister for Energy and Clean Growth Claire Perry said in a statement. “Building these clean, reliable sources of energy will also create thousands of quality jobs in these growing green economies,” she added.

Geographic and downstream off-grid solar expansion

Off-grid solar companies active in Sub-Saharan Africa continued to raise capital to expand geographically, as well as add to or improve the range of off-grid electric and electronic products they offer. Zola Electric, formerly Off Grid Electric, on Dec. 11 announced it had secured a US$32.5 million credit facility to finance its activities in Tanzania over the next five years.

Netherlands’ development bank FMO was the lead arranger of the credit facility, a senior loan of US$5 million from FMO’s Access to Energy Fund. That comes along with a US$12.5 million equity investment. Investment company Symbiotics added another $15 million.

Zola Electric offers smart, “solar plus storage” systems for off-grid households and businesses across Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the company. The new financing will enable the company to provide access to sustainable, emissions-free electricity to an additional 145,500 Tanzanian homes, management says. Tesla, Total and GE Ventures have invested in the company, as well.

Another leading smart, mobile pay-go “solar plus storage” technology provider, d.light on Dec. 17 announced it had raised US$41 million in equity financing from a group of investors led by Inspired Evolution, an investment advisory company that specializes in Africa’s energy sector. FMO contributed to this financing, as well, as did government investment funds Norfund and Swedbank.

Founded in 2007, d.light provides solar power to more than 88 million people in 62 countries, according to management. The company’s products and services extend to include portable solar lanterns that double as mobile phone rechargers, LED lighting, small home appliances and a flat-screen television.

All told, d.light has raised more than US$100 million in equity and debt financing over the past two years, according to the company. Some of d.light’s earliest investors took advantage of the latest round of equity funding to make their exit, management noted.

Deriving the greatest value from off-grid “solar plus storage” systems

Enabling customers to derive the greatest value, or productive use, of the solar-fueled energy they now have access to emerged as a main theme in Sub-Saharan countries and worldwide this past year. That includes coupling off-grid, solar power generation with internet access, as well as home entertainment.

A self-funded startup, Senegal’s OniriQ’s Solar and Digital Home Systems combine a 50-Watt solar panel, LED lamps, a 24-inch television set and an internet connection all in one set-top box. “The competitive landscape for domestic off-grid energy is quite crowded in Africa, but the majority of companies are specialized on distribution. We observed that the top 10 companies specialising in hardware development focused on electrifying rural houses but neglected all the digital uses,” OniriQ CEO Rodolphe Rosier told Disrupt Africa.

“So we decided to develop an all-in-one product in partnership with an internet provider. We wanted to be able to provide digital contents as well as electricity. That led us to rethink SHS [solar home systems] entirely from a connectivity perspective.”

Decentralized solar power generation and distribution is gaining traction in the West African country of Benin, as well. Sponsored and supported by the U.N., Millennium Challenge Account Benin launched its second call for project proposals Dec. 18.

Known as the Clean Energy Facility Off-Grid, the call for project proposals aims to raise capital to extend sustainable energy access across rural areas of Benin. Proposals need to address any one or more of four key criteria: off-grid energy for public infrastructure, decentralized energy production and distribution, household energy systems and energy efficiency. The fund will finance a maximum of 75 percent of a project’s budget, up to a maximum of $20 million, according to a news report.

Growing recognition of off-grid “solar plus storage” as a force of positive change in Sub-Saharan Africa

PEG Ghana receiving an award for the Best Off-Grid Energy Solution Company of the Year at the 2018 Ghana Energy Awards illustrates just how high a profile distributed “solar plus storage” and other sustainable, renewable energy generation and distribution technology, and companies, has taken on.

PEG Ghana Team in Africa
Photo: Vadoinafrica

PEG Ghana sells home solar energy systems on credit to low-income households. PEG Ghana also runs the PEG Boafo CSR program, which provides health care and education, as well as solar lighting, in communities across the country. The company also runs The Gift of Light program whereby people living abroad or in Ghana’s urban centers can purchase and have PEG Ghana deliver and install solar home energy systems for friends and residents living in the country.

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“The off-grid solar energy space, and the financing DWM [Developing World Markets] has provided, responds to the unavailability and the unreliability of conventional systems. Estimates vary, but we read 1.3 billion people around the world who are literally off-grid – they’re just not in the neighborhood where the grid reaches. Then there are perhaps another billion who are within reach of the grid, but they haven’t connected to the grid or grid power isn’t reliable,” Managing Director Peter Johnson told Solar Magazine in 2017.

In all these cases, the conventional has failed to achieve the expected goal, so there’s an unconventional solution, which now a combination of innovative technology and financing is providing.

DWM set a sustainable energy and development milestone in 2017 by bridging the worlds of international investing, microfinance and developing-world solar energy and climate change project finance with the origination, placement and investment of the proceeds of a four-year, $60.8 million ORCA (Off-Grid Renewable (Energy) Climate Action) note. Investing the proceeds in 11 select off-grid solar energy value chain participants active in Africa, Asia and Latin America, pioneering debt securities issuance by DWM and others will help developing world communities and countries “leapfrog” a generation of power generation and distribution and help lay the foundation for forging more open, equitable and environmentally sustainable economies and societies for decades to come. comment

* Cover photo credit: Corrie Wingate

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California-based Solar Finance-Installation Company’s Revenues Soar 3,000 Percent in Three Years https://solarmagazine.com/california-solar-finance-installation-company-revenues-soar-3000-percent-3-years/ https://solarmagazine.com/california-solar-finance-installation-company-revenues-soar-3000-percent-3-years/#respond Wed, 02 Jan 2019 13:04:44 +0000 https://solarmagazine.com/?p=1848 Freedom Forever doubled its revenues in 2018, breaching the $100 million mark for the first time in the company’s seven-year history. Revenues have soared 3,000 percent in the past three years. The Temecula, California-based residential solar finance and installation company has installed 26MW of emissions-free power generation capacity on more than 10,000 homes in California, […]

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Freedom Forever doubled its revenues in 2018, breaching the $100 million mark for the first time in the company’s seven-year history. Revenues have soared 3,000 percent in the past three years.

The Temecula, California-based residential solar finance and installation company has installed 26MW of emissions-free power generation capacity on more than 10,000 homes in California, Arizona and Nevada in 2018 to date, riding the wave of homeowner demand more ambitious state renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets by expanding into Colorado in November, as well.

Freedom Forever Offering Flexible Residential Solar Photovoltaic (PV) System Ownership Financing Packages“At the core of Freedom Forever’s business model is the fundamental belief that our customers come first. Our ongoing success is a direct result of the consumer-driven, service-oriented approach we follow, which is designed to make renewable energy an attractive proposition for homeowners by maximizing their return on investment,” CEO Brett Bouchy said. “As we look forward to 2019, we see continued room to grow as we bring our services to a broader market in more states, and as more homeowners become aware of both the cost-savings possible with solar energy and the role that renewables have in ultimately countering climate change.”

Solar Magazine spoke with Bouchy to find out more about the company’s success, how the company has managed to grow at such an extraordinary rate, and if management sees that as sustainable.

Distinguishing itself from the competition

Expanding Freedom Forever’s local dealer network and enabling them to offer flexible residential solar photovoltaic (PV) system ownership financing packages with guaranteed performance are keys to the company’s success, Bouchy explained in an interview.

While many companies in the residential solar sector have embraced a PPA [power purchase agreement] leasing model, Freedom Forever knows that the future of residential solar is in ownership.

“We have focused on providing a wide range of innovative financing options that make ownership attractive to homeowners. We also work closely with our customers to ensure that they receive all the tax benefits and financial incentives available. Of course, we also offer PPA plans and other lease options for those customers that prefer them,” Bouchy told Solar Magazine.

Bouchy singled out Freedom Forever’s 25-year performance guarantee as a key facet of its residential solar finance and installation offerings.

Freedom Forever is the only solar power company that guarantees the output of the customer’s solar power system – that sets us apart from the competition…and gives our customers peace of mind that other companies can’t match.

Fundamentally, what sets Freedom Forever apart from competitors is its customer-centered approach to doing business, Bouchy added. “We seek to establish a long-term business relationship with the customer, rather than looking at selling them a solar power system as a one-time transaction. Freedom Forever provides a service to our customers that resembles something more like a consultant. That creates long-term and reliable relationships with our customers. As our customer’s needs change, we will be there to ensure that they continue to get the most out of their investment in solar power,” he elaborated.

Offering a range of affordable home solar PV system ownership financing options and consistently installing high-quality residential solar PV systems lie at the core of Freedom Forever’s strategic approach to the market. The company sources the components of its residential solar energy systems from major equipment distributors, such as Consolidated Electrical Distributors. It also has direct sourcing relationships with PV panel, inverter and railing systems manufacturers.

Furthermore, Freedom Forever recruits its authorized dealers through word of mouth and social media. “Since we do all of our installations ourselves, we do not recruit other installers,” Bouchy explained.

Freedom Forever Authorized Dealers Recruitment Through Word of MouthThe declining cost of home solar ownership

Bouchy declined to directly compare the total cost of residential solar energy system ownership and installation in the states where it has a presence. “What we do know is that solar across the board is becoming more affordable and the return on investment for owning a solar energy system is on the rise.”

A variety of fundamental, broad-based factors – technological, economic, political, social and environmental – are shaping, and spurring, residential home solar market growth across the U.S.

We see two technological factors: the rapidly increasing efficiency of solar panels, along with their rapidly dropping cost, as the prime drivers of PV solar growth.

“Along with those, there is increasing public awareness of the need to end our dependence on fossil fuels. Lastly with talk of a green ‘New Deal’ in the incoming Congress, we believe that politically the future looks brighter than ever for PV solar.”

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Does Freedom Forever’s management team believe the company can sustain the extraordinary rate of growth it has been experiencing? “Yes, we believe our rate of growth is sustainable. As prices for solar panel systems come down, and utility rates continue to rise, we expect to see explosive growth in the residential solar market. As a nation, we are rapidly moving towards a more sustainable energy future. We believe it’s possible for Freedom Forever to serve customers in all 50 states within six years,” Bouchy said.

The company is taking steps to realize that goal in 2019. It intends to expand into six new U.S. state markets in 2019.

Assessing prospects for home solar expansion across the U.S.

Freedom Forever management examines and assesses a variety of factors when choosing a new market to expand into. “We look at the average price of electricity to residential customers in that area, and a large market size that is keen to save money via renewables,” Bouchy explained.

A big focus is to look for a solar-friendly regulatory environment with a long-term policy outlook that promotes the growth of alternative energy use. While we are not commenting on the specific states at this time, we look forward to announcing our plans in 2019.

How do utility and state regulatory attitudes, policies, interconnection and other balance-of-system (BOS) costs figure into Freedom Forever’s expansion plans?

Freedom Forever’s 25-Year Performance Guarantee – Key Facet of its Residential Solar Finance and Installation Offerings“It’s no secret that many utility companies do not favor residential solar. In states without clear net metering policies, utilities can choose how much they will reimburse customers for the energy generated by their solar power systems,” Bouchy responded.

“In those cases, we see utility companies setting rates that can potentially wipe out some of the savings from going solar. Regulatory attitudes vary from state to state, but overall we see the state-level regulatory attitudes becoming more and more pro-solar. Interconnection costs also vary, this time from utility company to utility company. Again, this puts us at the mercy of those utility companies in states without a robust regulatory infrastructure.”

“All of those above factors weigh in on our decision process when looking at states to expand into. Naturally, states like Massachusetts that have robust regulatory policies, plus generous state tax credits and incentives that combine to produce high internal rates of return (IRR) are ideal candidates for expansion.” comment

Photos: courtesy of Freedom Forever

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Solar Fields of Green: Researchers Find Symbiosis at the Food-Water-Energy Nexus https://solarmagazine.com/solar-fields-of-green-researchers-find-symbiosis-food-water-energy-nexus/ https://solarmagazine.com/solar-fields-of-green-researchers-find-symbiosis-food-water-energy-nexus/#respond Fri, 28 Dec 2018 14:45:17 +0000 https://solarmagazine.com/?p=1841 Researchers around the world are discovering a variety of benefits resulting from installation of photovoltaic (PV) solar energy systems on farms and ranch lands, as well as the use of solar energy to power pumps for irrigation systems. Researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) in Corvallis discovered some surprising benefits associated with installation of solar […]

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Researchers around the world are discovering a variety of benefits resulting from installation of photovoltaic (PV) solar energy systems on farms and ranch lands, as well as the use of solar energy to power pumps for irrigation systems.

Researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) in Corvallis discovered some surprising benefits associated with installation of solar PV panels installed in a field on the OSU campus. “The major concern of farmers for installing solar panels in their farms is that panels occupy vast areas, which is true. [However,] our research shows that by having solar farms we can have more food, water and energy,” Elnaz Hassanpour Adeh, a PhD researcher at OSU’s Nexus of Energy, Water and Agriculture Lab (NEWAG), told Solar Magazine. “We experience longer growing season, three times more water-efficient biomass, and 90 percent more biomass.” That’s in addition to the emissions-free electricity the solar energy system is producing for OSU.

Sheep Graze Under the 35th Street Solar Array at Oregon State University
Sheep graze under the 35th Street Solar Array at Oregon State University. | Photo: Mark Floyd, Oregon State University

In Minnesota, others are finding that building solar energy systems based on eco-friendly design and construction principles can help revive and sustain dwindling populations of crop and plant pollinators, including bees and butterflies. Adopting these practices conveys other environmental benefits, as well, including reducing storm-water runoff and erosion by making use of native, perennial vegetation rather than the non-native species, gravel or turf grass typically used at solar energy sites.

Smallholder farmers, their families and communities in developing and lesser developed countries are benefiting from investments in solar energy, as well. Analyzing two solar energy-irrigation systems projects in Senegal, a UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) research team found that they yield an outsize return on investment (ROI), as well as increase crop yields and quality, and farmers’ incomes significantly.

A chance observation leads to surprising agri-voltaics research results

An accidental observation made while walking through the PV-equipped, OSU field led Adeh and NEWAG Lab colleagues, with the guidance and support of lab founder and Adeh’s Major Professor Chad Higgins, to undertake what would be her PhD research project. “We were crossing the field with these solar panels…It was hot summer, and we realized the grasses were greener under the panels, so we started to think about measuring the soil moisture and grass biomass and quantifying the results,” Adeh said in an interview.

The solar panels were installed in 2013, Adeh and NEWAG Lab colleagues began their research project, which was carried out with funding from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, in 2015. “I measured parameters for the growing season, which was May to September 2015. Our weather station data are available for two years,” she explained.

What they found surprised them. Grass biomass was 90 percent greater in areas covered by PV panels, there was a greater variety of grasses growing under them and they were three-times more water-efficient than those growing in areas not covered by PV panels. In addition, grasses under the panels were experiencing longer growing seasons.

Adeh’s research is part and parcel of an expanding range of research OSU’s NEWAG Lab is undertaking.

The focus on the NEWAG Lab at OSU is on the water, energy and food nexus, so this research is part of a greater vision. [It] was an experiment to find basics related to Agrivoltaics – Agriculture under photovoltaics. We think this research needs to include economics and law, [as well as applied science and engineering].

Community solar, agriculture and ecosystems in Minnesota

Shared, community solar has been growing by leaps and bounds since the state government enacted uncapped, Community Solar Gardens legislation in 2013 and investor-owned utility Xcel Energy launched its Solar Rewards Community for Minnesota program in 2014.

Just 14MW of solar power capacity had been installed statewide in Minnesota as of year-end 2014. As of end August this year, more than 400MW of community solar power capacity is up and running, and growth is expected to continue.

Looking address landowners’ concerns about the effects large-scale solar energy installations would have on property values and the environment, Minnesota passed legislation establishing eco-friendly solar site management practices in 2016. Rather than following standard, boilerplate site design and construction practices, solar project developers plant native, perennial plant species that benefit pollinators, such as birds, bees and other insects, as well as reduce storm-water runoff and erosion. Five other states – Illinois, New York, Maryland, Vermont and South Carolina – have followed suit.

Minnesota electric cooperative Connexus Energy won over the local community and authorities and gained approval to build a utility-scale solar PV installation in Ramsey after highlighting the ecological benefits, and local, economic opportunities, building the project based on “pollinator-friendly” design principles would have. Testifying in front of local authorities, pollinator experts and ecologists pointed out that the solar energy system would open up work opportunities for local seeders and apiarists, as well as provide ecological benefits for the surrounding area.

A “Pollinator-Friendly” Photovoltaic Site Offering Refuge for Declining Species Such as Rusty Patched Bumblebees
A “pollinator-friendly” photovoltaic site | Photo: Bolton Bees

Adopting “pollinator-friendly” solar energy site design and construction practices may help solve some vexing problems for farmers, ranchers, ecosystems and society – the mysterious honey bee “Colony Collapse Disorder” experienced in the U.S. over the past decade, as well as declining numbers of other signature species that play important roles in crop and plant pollination, such as the Monarch butterfly. Adopting these practices gives solar project developers a competitive advantage when seeking approval from landowners, other community members and local authorities, according to Rob Davis, director of the Center for Pollinators in Energy.

Solar-powered irrigation systems in Senegal

Smallholder farmers and ranchers in developing and lesser developed countries, such as Senegal on Africa’s west coast, face a very different set of environmental and socioeconomic conditions, issues and challenges. That said, the basics of growing crops for food, materials, and energy, remain the same, and farmers and ranchers in Senegal are tapping into the same solar energy vital to growing crops and raising livestock in order to increase yields, enhance the value of their agricultural products, and improve their livelihoods, communities and ecosystems, as well.

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A research team that investigated the financial, economic, social and environmental effects of two, international solar irrigation systems projects in Senegal funded by the Italian Agency for Cooperation and Development (AICS) found that farmers and farming communities were earning higher incomes and local jobs were being created as a result of using solar PV energy to power more modern, drip and flood irrigation systems. Financially, both projects have high, positive net present values (NPV) and internal rates of return (IRR) and pay for themselves in just two years.

Proponents have been pushing international development agencies and others to invest in solar-powered irrigation systems development projects in developing and lesser developed countries for many years. Those efforts began to bear fruit around 2009, when solar PV costs began to decline sharply, FAO points out. There’s a lot more to carrying out a solar energy development project, and fully realizing its potential benefits, than purchasing equipment, however.

That lead FAO to develop and launch INVESTA (Investing in Energy Sustainable Technologies in the Agri-food Sector), a methodology that enables researchers to comprehensively and holistically asses the costs and benefits of renewable energy and energy efficiency practices with an eye towards revealing their hidden socioeconomic and environmental costs. Research teams have used INVESTA to evaluate renewable energy and energy efficiency investments in the milk, vegetable, rice and tea value chains in Kenya, the Philippines, Tanzania and Tunisia, efforts that are part and parcel of the multilateral Powering Agriculture – An Energy Grand Challenge for Development initiative.

Solar irrigation: Across-the-board benefits, a word of caution

Applying INVESTA to evaluate Professionals Without Borders and Green Cross’s Energy to Stay solar irrigation systems development projects, Serge Noubondieu from Rome’s Sapienza University, in collaboration with members of FAO’s energy team and the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA), revealed the attractive investment and sustainable development prospects these projects hold, as well as the actual benefits these projects they are yielding already.

Cumulative Economic Costs and Benefits of the Intervention “Professionals Without Borders” After 10 Years
Cumulative economic costs and benefits of the intervention “Professionals Without Borders” after 10 years | Source: Costs and benefits of solar irrigation systems in Senegal (FAO) – Figure 4
Financial and Economic CBA of the Interventions “Energy to Stay” (Solar Pumps and Californian Irrigation System)
Financial and economic CBA of the interventions “Energy to Stay” (solar pumps and Californian irrigation system) | Source: Costs and benefits of solar irrigation systems in Senegal (FAO) – Table 3.3

The two projects had positive economic and financial outcomes. From an environmental perspective, the replacement of fossil fuel powered electricity generators by solar systems for irrigation led in both case studies to a reduction of greenhouse gases emissions.

– Stefania Bracco, FAO consultant and Adjunct Professor of Quantitative Methods for Social Sciences at the University of Turin, Italy, told Solar Magazine.

From a social point of view, the projects resulted in an increase in household income and in employment creation.

Pictures of the “Energy to Stay” Solar Irrigation System
Pictures of the “Energy to Stay” solar irrigation system | Source: Costs and benefits of solar irrigation systems
in Senegal (FAO)

The benefits of investing in solar-powered irrigation come with risks, and new investments may suffer as a result of previous success, however, Bracco pointed out. “Solar irrigation systems can be positive investments since they show good financial returns, reduce GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions, avoid fuel purchases, may improve access to energy and reduce time needed to supervise irrigation operations, and create employment, including technical support services. However, they are not suitable in areas where water is a scarce resource because they can increase water use,” she cautioned. comment

* Cover photo credit: Oregon State University

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11th Guangzhou International Solar Photovoltaic Exhibition (PV Guangzhou 2019) https://solarmagazine.com/11th-guangzhou-international-solar-photovoltaic-exhibition-2019/ https://solarmagazine.com/11th-guangzhou-international-solar-photovoltaic-exhibition-2019/#respond Thu, 20 Dec 2018 08:56:22 +0000 https://solarmagazine.com/?p=1838 Date: August 16th-18th, 2019 Venue: China Import & Export Fair Complex Address: No. 380, Yuejiang Zhong Road, Haizhu District, Guangzhou, China Review of PV Guangzhou 2018 On a show floor of 25,000㎡, over 350 exhibitors gathered for the show, including JA Solar, Hanergy, LONGi, Yingli Solar, LU’AN Solar, AKCOME, SOFARSOLAR, Growatt, Toyray Solar, SAJ, Goodwe, CSG PVTECH, […]

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Date: August 16th-18th, 2019
Venue: China Import & Export Fair Complex
Address: No. 380, Yuejiang Zhong Road, Haizhu District, Guangzhou, China

PVGuangzhou 2019 - China Import & Export Fair ComplexReview of PV Guangzhou 2018

On a show floor of 25,000㎡, over 350 exhibitors gathered for the show, including JA Solar, Hanergy, LONGi, Yingli Solar, LU’AN Solar, AKCOME, SOFARSOLAR, Growatt, Toyray Solar, SAJ, Goodwe, CSG PVTECH, Solis, UNIEXPV, IVNT, Afore, Kingfeels, Wei Yang Technology, Fivestar Solar, Horad, Sangong Intelligent Equipment, AUTO-ONE, APsystems, SAKO, Sunrise, Aerpal, ALLGRAND BATTERY, NPP Power, VSASVNTEK, Intefly, ALLTOP Photoelectric, Remote Power, Titanergy, Amerisolar, Solar-log, Sopray, Hank Electronic, and etc.

Preview of PV Guangzhou 2019

As the largest and most influential PV trade show in South China, PV Guangzhou 2019 is going to cover an exhibition floor of 40,000 sq.m, with 600 quality exhibitors displaying state-of-the-art PV technology. With an ever-expanding global database of up to 500,000 entries and over 300 media partners worldwide, we are very confident to make 2019 another banner year for PV Guangzhou!

Exhibits

  • Raw Material
  • PV Panel/Cell/Module
  • Inverter/Controller/Storage Battery
  • PV Bracket/Accessories
  • Production Equipment
  • PV Application/Solar lighting
  • Mobile supplies
  • Others
Guangdong Grandeur International Exhibition Group
Contact Person: Ms. Mandy Tsang
Tel: 0086 20 2903 7372
Mobile/Whatsapp/Wechat: 0086 15918775956
E-mail: mandyt_1@163.com; grand.gz@grahw.com
Website: www.pvguangzhou.com/index.php?lang=en

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China (Chengdu) International Solar Photovoltaic Exhibition (PV Chengdu 2019) https://solarmagazine.com/china-chengdu-international-solar-photovoltaic-exhibition-2019/ https://solarmagazine.com/china-chengdu-international-solar-photovoltaic-exhibition-2019/#respond Thu, 20 Dec 2018 08:45:34 +0000 https://solarmagazine.com/?p=1836 Date: March 7th – 9th , 2019 Venue: Western China International Expo City Address: No. 88, Fuzhou Road East Section, Tianfu New District, Chengdu, Sichuan China, From PV Production Powerhouse to the Biggest Solar Energy User After claiming over 60% of global PV panel market share according to International Energy Agency, China now strives for the leading […]

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Date: March 7th – 9th , 2019
Venue: Western China International Expo City
Address: No. 88, Fuzhou Road East Section, Tianfu New District, Chengdu, Sichuan

PVChengdu 2019 - Western China International Expo CityChina, From PV Production Powerhouse to the Biggest Solar Energy User

After claiming over 60% of global PV panel market share according to International Energy Agency, China now strives for the leading position in solar power consumption, setting an installed capacity goal of 60GW for 2020 in the 13th Five-Year Plan for Electricity Development released in December, 2016.

Preview of PV Chengdu 2019

PV Chengdu 2019 is envisioning an exhibition floor of 20,000 sq.m, with 300 quality exhibitors displaying state-of-the-art PV technology. PV Chengdu is organized by Guangdong Grandeur International Exhibition Group, who has rich experience in organizing PV Guangzhou for 10 years and have exhibitors like JA Solar, Hanergy, LONGi, Yingli Solar, LU’AN Solar, AKCOME, SOFARSOLAR, Growatt, Toyray Solar, SAJ, Goodwe, CSG PVTECH, Solis, UNIEXPV, IVNT, Afore, Kingfeels, Fivestar Solar, Horad, AUTO-ONE, APsystems, SAKO, Sunrise, ALLGRAND BATTERY, NPP Power, Intefly, ALLTOP Photoelectric, Remote Power, Titanergy, Amerisolar, Solar-log, Sopray, Osaka Vacuum, and etc.

Exhibits

  • Raw Material
  • PV Panel/Cell/Module
  • Inverter/Controller/Storage Battery
  • PV Bracket/Accessories
  • Production Equipment
  • PV Application/Solar lighting
  • Mobile supplies
  • Others

Contact Us

Guangdong Grandeur International Exhibition Group
Contact Person: Ms. Mandy Tsang
Tel: 0086 20 2903 7372
Mobile/Whatsapp/Wechat: 0086 15918775956
E-mail: mandyt_1@163.com; grand.gz@grahw.com
Website: www.pvguangzhou.com/index.php?lang=en

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Stanford University’s Electricity Will Be Completely Carbon-Free 24 Years Ahead of California’s 100-percent Goal https://solarmagazine.com/stanford-university-electricity-carbon-free-24-years-ahead-of-california-100-percent-goal/ https://solarmagazine.com/stanford-university-electricity-carbon-free-24-years-ahead-of-california-100-percent-goal/#respond Mon, 10 Dec 2018 11:48:01 +0000 https://solarmagazine.com/?p=1799 Individuals and organizations across California continue to lead the transition to a cleaner, healthier energy future. A world-renowned research university located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Stanford University recently announced the signing of a 25-year, solar power purchase agreement (PPA) that in just three years will result in renewable, emissions-free energy meeting all the […]

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Individuals and organizations across California continue to lead the transition to a cleaner, healthier energy future. A world-renowned research university located in the heart of Silicon Valley, Stanford University recently announced the signing of a 25-year, solar power purchase agreement (PPA) that in just three years will result in renewable, emissions-free energy meeting all the university’s electricity needs – more than two decades ahead of California’s recently instituted goal of 100 percent, carbon-free energy by 2045.

Stanford University Central Energy Facility
Photo: Sustainable Stanford

Stanford University’s solar power PPA with developer Recurrent Energy based on construction and operation of the Stanford Solar Generating Station #2 is expected to meet 53 percent of the university’s electricity demand when it comes online in 2021. Recurrent is building the 63-megawatt-AC (MWac)/88 MW-peak (MWp) solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant at a greenfield site spanning over 400 acres (161.87 hectares) near Lemoore, Kings County in Central California.

This project, together with Stanford University’s existing 67-MWp solar PPA and its 5-MWp rooftop installation, will produce enough clean renewable electricity each year to equal the university’s annual electricity consumption…[T]he project will power the equivalent of 15,750 homes with clean electricity.

– a spokesperson for Recurrent Energy told Solar Magazine.

Stanford’s clean energy-sustainability team was surprised by just how cheap solar power has become in California, Stanford University’s Executive Director of Sustainability and Energy Management Joe Stagner told Solar Magazine. Stanford Energy Systems Innovations (SESI) thought it got a great deal when it contracted directly with an independent solar power producer and its first utility-scale solar power project came online in December 2016 at a cost of just over USD0.05 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Solar power prices in California have dropped even further since.

Solar electricity at below USD0.025 per kilowatt-hour

In its latest open solicitation, the SESI project team received a few offers for geothermal power above USD0.06 per kWh and wind power offers below USD0.04 per kWh. The project team also received “quite a few solar offers, all at or below USD0.025 per kWh,” Stagner recounted. He wouldn’t say by how much, but Recurrent Energy’s offer came in below that.

We were very surprised we could get solar power at 2.5 cents per kWh…With prices coming down so far, so fast, it feels like the days when [natural or shale gas] fracking arrived on the scene and grid operators out west were migrating to natural gas, [which seemingly all of a sudden was] a cheap, plentiful resource.

Stanford’s announcement came just as representatives from the 195-plus nations party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Paris Climate Agreement were meeting in Katowice, Poland in an attempt to identify and agree on ways to spur governments, commerce, industry, other types of organizations and individuals worldwide to take actions to stem the rising tide of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and other greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible. The signing of the utility-scale solar PPA with Recurrent Energy that will enable the university to go completely carbon-free in terms of electricity was pure coincidence, Stagner said in an interview.

COP24: A Two-Week Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland
Katowice Climate Change Conference – December 2018 | Photo: UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

The university has already reduced its energy-related greenhouse gas emissions 65 percent below peak levels thanks to the entire university community’s commitment and ability to follow through and realize the goals of an ambitious, long-term and system-wide clean energy and emissions reduction planning process. The Stanford Solar Generating Station #2 may be likened to the long-term planning process’s capstone – the solar power plant is expected to bring the university’s greenhouse gas emissions down 80 percent below peak levels, four years ahead of the goal set out in the current version of the university’s long-range clean energy and sustainability plan.

Stanford University can be likened to a town or small city that’s running 24x7x365. More than 30,000 students attend the university, which spans more than 1,000 buildings and 8,080 acres (3,271 hectares). The university’s clean energy, emissions reduction and environmental sustainability efforts go back a long way.

Waste heat recovery, electric geothermal heat pumps and other green campus innovations

Stanford deployed an initial district energy heating system based on steam heat over half a century ago, Stagner told Solar Magazine. That expanded to include chilled water and has evolved from there. A natural gas-fueled co-generation, or combined heat and power (CHP) system replaced the previous generation steam-heat and chilled-water system just over 30 years ago as university students, faculty and the community committed to enhancing the environmental, and economic, sustainability of university energy use and production.

That’s really when we [SESI] started our efforts, in 2008. Stanford’s energy and sustainability team completed an analysis of university-wide energy use, distribution and production in 2009-2010. The university’s board agreed to move forward with a comprehensive, long-range planning process to electrify the entire university campus in 2011.

While carrying out its university-wide energy assessment, the Stanford program team “got this whole picture of energy use, and when we compared our annual heating and cooling hour by hour, we found an incredible 75 percent overlap. We found that with 75 of the air we were producing as much heat and sending out it to the buildings for their use as we were receiving heat back from the buildings and discharging to the atmosphere as waste, via evaporative cooling, my jaw really hit the desk. I knew right then we had this great opportunity looking at us to recover this waste heat and use it for the university,” Stagner explains in a university video.

Instead of exhausting heat into the atmosphere when cooling and then using natural gas to heat water and air for space heating, Stanford’s energy and sustainability team decided to make use of it, as well as ambient heat in the atmosphere and in-ground, store it and make use of that thermal energy at night to heat buildings and water.

One of the program team’s first major challenges was how to replace the natural gas-fired co-generation system. “It was obvious that we were never going to eliminate our [greenhouse gas] emissions if we continued to rely on natural gas, so we had to find alternatives. Clean electrification emerged as a clear, better choice,” Stagner recounted.

Stanford University’s Electricity – 100% Carbon-Free GoalHeat (thermal energy) recovery and use was the first key and still core element of SESI and Stanford’s success in realizing its own, as well as California’s, clean energy and sustainability goals. Heating, cooling and powering Stanford’s 200 largest buildings probably accounts for over 90 percent of the university’s energy use, Stagner pointed out. Discharged waste heat and lake source geothermal energy exchange feed three very large heat pumps that heat and cool buildings simultaneously, Stagner continued.

“An interesting way to think about this is the collection of heat and moving it away from a building, like refrigeration or air-conditioning,” Stagner continued in our interview. “You’re sucking heat out of the building using electric motors and compressors and exhausting it outside.” In Stanford’s case, that thermal energy is then used to heat spaces and water, however.

“There’s a lot of cooling and heating going on simultaneously, or within a short time of each other on a daily basis. We store and use heat in a very efficient, electrification process and in that way get the fossil fuels out. It’s not only very efficient, but saving and using all that waste heat is also a lot more economic.”

On-site solar power generation: Incredibly cheap and efficient

These and other, more recent green campus innovations and advances by SESI, university and project partners serve as technological keystones paving the way to the success Stanford has had, and expects to continue having, with regard to realizing its clean energy and climate change action goals. The recent focus has shifted from energy efficiency towards finding clean, renewable energy sources of on-site power generation. Solar energy plays the feature role.

Stanford contracted with SunPower for its first utility-scale solar power plant back in 2014 after California began conducting clean energy lotteries that opened the door for large energy consumers to bypass distribution utilities and purchase electricity services directly from independent power producers. Part and parcel of this initial deal, SunPower installed 5 MW of rooftop solar PV systems on the Stanford campus.

Stanford University Teamed up With SunPower For a Rooftop Solar Project
Photo: Stanford University

Coming online in Dec. 2016, the Stanford Solar Generating Station #1 meets about 50 percent of the university’s electricity demand at present. The rooftop solar PV system adds another 3 percent, Stagner noted. Stanford has been purchasing electricity from California’s electricity grid market to meet the remaining 47 percent of its electricity load.

On average, emissions-free, renewable energy has accounted for about 27 percent of grid power in the Golden State, or one-fourth of the university’s remaining power needs, however. Stagner pointed out. That brings Stanford to around 65 percent of the way towards realizing its 100 percent carbon-free electricity goal – until Recurrent completes construction of the Stanford Solar Generation Station #2 in 2021, if not sooner.

A growing university, with growing energy demand

Stanford University continues to grow, however. According to SESI’s current calculations, the new solar power facility in Kings County will serve about 55 percent of the university’s projected, annual electricity load of some 330 million kWh when it comes online in 2021.

Recurrent Energy came out on top upon SESI completing its review of all the offers it received for its latest utility-scale solar power solicitation. “We issued an open solicitation to all the major suppliers. Their [Recurrent’s] proposal turned out to be the most economic, they came in with the lowest cost PPA and the proposed site was in the best location,” Stagner explained. “Rather than Southern California [where a lot of California’s solar power generation takes place], Recurrent is building the plant in Central California, which is closer to Stanford.”

Furthermore, “Recurrent’s track record made it an easy choice for us. They’re a large corporation with demonstrated success [designing, engineering, building and operating utility-scale solar power plants]. We’re confident in their ability to build and operate the solar power facility over the PPA’s entire, 25-year term,” Stagner said.

Given present day costs and other conditions, Stanford estimates that SESI powered with off-site and on-site PV generation will save the university more than USD420 million over a 30-year life cycle. On-site PV generation also conserves freshwater – reducing consumption 18 percent – which also results in cost savings. Then there are the emissions reductions, which SESI and the university expect will amount to an 80 percent reduction from peak levels as a result of the Kings County solar power plant coming online and reaching full production capacity.

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Reproducible results?

Does Stagner believe other universities and campuses can reproduce Stanford’s results? “Sure…More and more people are discovering that moving to electric heat generation and cheap solar power works everywhere, even in cold climates,” Stagner said.

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The first step towards complete electrification is heating and cooling, he continued. “Ways of generating emissions-free electricity and cooling are now cost-effective and obvious. Hot water is the key challenge, but electric heat pumps are really unlocking that. Instead of throwing heat away, you can use it for space heating and to heat water. Then, you can use a heat pump to suck heat out of the ground, a lake, reservoir or the air to augment that and not only heat water and spaces but electrify the entire process. We call it combined heating and cooling, in contrast to using fossil fuels in a combined heat and power (CHP) system,” Stagner explained.

Timely as it is, the coincidence of Stanford signing of the solar power PPA that will bring it to 100 percent carbon-free electricity and the UN climate change conference taking place in Katowice was purely a chance occurrence. Back five years ago, SESI, university leaders and the community were having a lot of discussions revolving around the question of whether or not the university should go completely renewable in one leap or not.

“We decided to do half then and then wait and see how the technology evolves,” Stagner said. Five years later, with a new administration, Stanford is on the cusp of being completely carbon-free with regard to electricity.

California recently passed legislation that sets a goal of being 100 percent carbon-free by 2045. We’re doing our share, and 24 yrs early.

Stagner and the SESI team believe the number of colleges and universities going down the same, or a similar, carbon-free electricity pathway will only increase. “We’re seeing it happen all over – UC Davis [the University of California, Davis], Ball State University in Indiana. And we’ve had inquiries and visits from universities around the world, as well as France’s ambassador to the U.S. and members of the White House National Science and Technology Advisory Council.” comment

Last edited: December 13, 2018 @ 08:30 PM ET

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Siemens Provides Sustainable Energy for Galapagos Island https://solarmagazine.com/siemens-provides-sustainable-energy-for-galapagos-island/ https://solarmagazine.com/siemens-provides-sustainable-energy-for-galapagos-island/#respond Thu, 06 Dec 2018 08:25:59 +0000 https://solarmagazine.com/?p=1795 Hybrid project based on biofuel and solar energy inaugurated on the Galapagos island of Isabela First of its kind local energy system, developed for carbon-neutral operation Remotely monitored from the Siemens-Mindsphere Application Centers in Munich and Austin, Texas After only ten months of planning and ten months of construction, the hybrid power plant installed by […]

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  • Hybrid project based on biofuel and solar energy inaugurated on the Galapagos island of Isabela
  • First of its kind local energy system, developed for carbon-neutral operation
  • Remotely monitored from the Siemens-Mindsphere Application Centers in Munich and Austin, Texas

After only ten months of planning and ten months of construction, the hybrid power plant installed by Siemens on the Galapagos island of Isabela was inaugurated. The aim of the project was to convert the current power generation structure, which is based on fossil fuels, to a hybrid system with several primary energy sources. The system is designed to run carbon-neutral with biofuel and solar energy and supplies almost 900 households on the by far largest Galapagos Island with electricity.

Hybrid Power Plant for Galapagos Island’s Sustainable Development
Photo: Siemens

Siemens implemented a 952 kWp photovoltaic system, a battery storage system with an output of up to 660 kW and a generator power plant with a total output of 1625 kW. “We are proud to contribute to the protection of the Galapagos Islands with our climate-neutral technology,” said John Kovach, head of Distributed Energy Systems at Siemens. “We have delivered the first local energy system of its kind, enabling our customer to achieve important long-term environmental goals.” The system is remotely monitored by the Siemens-Mindsphere Application Centers in Munich and Austin, Texas, for effective on-site service. The contract for the project was awarded by the Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy of Ecuador (MEER). The Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) supported the project financially and Lahmeyer International acted as project consultant. The plant is operated by the local energy supplier Elecgalapagos.

The energy landscape of the Galapagos Islands is currently threatened by an unstable, CO2-intensive supply, which is largely based on the generation of electricity from thermal energy. In view of its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Ecuadorian government’s “Zero Fossil Fuels on the Galapagos Islands” programme aims to convert the archipelago’s energy supply completely to renewable energies. This policy focuses on more efficient energy consumption, the use of wind and solar energy and the replacement of fossil fuels with pure vegetable oils. It is planned to use the oil of the native plant Jatropha Curcas as biofuel, which will be provided by domestic production on the mainland.

For further information on Division Energy Management, please see www.siemens.com/energy-management

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Taking a Cross-Disciplinary Approach to Catalyze Solar, Sustainable Energy Access in Rwanda, Sub-Saharan Africa https://solarmagazine.com/cross-disciplinary-to-catalyze-solar-sustainable-energy-access-rwanda-sub-saharan-africa/ https://solarmagazine.com/cross-disciplinary-to-catalyze-solar-sustainable-energy-access-rwanda-sub-saharan-africa/#respond Thu, 22 Nov 2018 11:37:40 +0000 https://solarmagazine.com/?p=1782 Researchers from Colorado State University (CSU) are working with counterparts from the University of Rwanda to build an African Center of Excellence in Energy for Sustainable Development that aims to develop the capacity for Rwanda to realize its own, as well as UN, universal energy access, renewable energy, climate change and sustainable development goals. The project, […]

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Researchers from Colorado State University (CSU) are working with counterparts from the University of Rwanda to build an African Center of Excellence in Energy for Sustainable Development that aims to develop the capacity for Rwanda to realize its own, as well as UN, universal energy access, renewable energy, climate change and sustainable development goals.

World Bank Team Visits UR’s Centres of Excellence
World Bank team visits UR’s Centres of Excellence. | Photo: University of Rwanda (UR)

The project, funded by the World Bank, is part and parcel of a broader-based, international development plan to build similar sustainable energy educational and training institutes in 10 countries across the region, an initiative that is already under way. Essentially, the initial focus is on developing Rwanda and southeast African nations’ ability to roll out practical, cost-effective, “solar plus storage” microgrids in rural villages and communities.

The cross-disciplinary nature of the CSU Energy Institute’s Smart Village Microgrid team addresses a fundamental issue associated with sustainable energy and development efforts: How to foster productive use of modern, clean energy services by people who in many instances have never had access to electricity before.

Electrification’s ultimate measure of success in developing nations – and its real contribution – is to both meet basic humanitarian needs and underpin economic development. But most electrification programs focus on expanding supply with limited investment devoted to enabling end uses that drive productivity improvements and meet critical needs.

– highlight the authors of Closing the Circuit: Stimulating End-Use Demand for Rural Electrification, a recently released study from the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and Sustainable Energy for Economic Development (SEED).

Missing half the sustainable energy development equation

Nearly half the nearly USD4 billion the World Bank approved for energy access investment from 2000-2008 went towards expanding the available supply – generation capacity – of electricity. Investment to implement “downstream,” productive use accounted for just 0.7 percent globally and zero percent in Africa, where all such investment went towards providing technical assistance, RMI and SEED point out.

How to stimulate local, productive use of newly installed electricity access is an issue researchers from CSU and partners have been wrestling with since an initial CSU project team discovered it some six to eight years ago, CSU Energy Institute Senior Scientist Daniel Zimmerle  told Solar Magazine.

Falling costs and improving performance have resulted in residential and small-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) energy, and increasingly battery-based energy storage, systems becoming commodities – standard systems can be purchased easily almost anywhere in the world, Zimmerle explained in an interview. That begged the question as to why they weren’t being systematically rolled out in off-grid, rural villages and communities in Africa and worldwide in efforts to achieve rural, national and UN universal sustainable energy access goals.

CSU researchers found that lack of financing and support for villagers to purchase, rent or lease downstream electrical equipment and devices and put newly installed electricity access to productive use was at the root of the conundrum. “We realized that it wasn’t a technical problem; there was something else going on,” Zimmerle said.

Purposely cross-disciplinary

It turned out that the cost of purchasing electrical equipment, appliances or devices was a barrier for many rural residents. “You might be talking about a couple or few bucks (US dollars) a month, but that might be more than a village resident, or even a small business owner, can afford,” Zimmerle explained.

The CSU Energy Institute team is purposely cross-disciplinary in nature as a result, as are those of its project partners in Rwanda. Zimmerle has worked with scientists, engineers and students with expertise and experience spanning a wide range of disciplines – agriculture, agronomy, economics, international development, natural resources management, sociology and others – in carrying out solar and sustainable energy project work across the region.

Furthermore, with existing electricity use sporadic and exceedingly low, “aggregating demand wouldn’t even move the needle” towards creating the electricity load needed to realize economies of scale and drive the cost of electricity low enough to make it affordable for villagers to purchase on a consistent, regular basis, Zimmerle pointed out.

An inclusive, modular and incremental approach to expanding sustainable energy access

As a result, the Energy Institute team and partners are taking a modular, incremental approach in order to stimulate local electricity demand and productive use. On the demand side, this approach entails working with villagers to identify problems and hurdles preventing them from making productive use of energy access, then developing, pilot-testing and eventually implementing solutions at larger scales. On the supply side, it entails building out small-scale, pilot “solar plus storage” mini-grids, then scaling those up as productive use and electricity demand increases.

We decided to take a less ‘techno-centric’ approach to sustainable energy, one that looks at electricity access as a catalyst for village socioeconomic development. We focus on helping villagers figure out ways to put electricity to use where it helps most, then work with them to come up with and implement solutions.

A CSU Energy Institute spin-off, MeshPower runs some 70 rural community solar-storage mini-grids in Rwanda and another in Uganda. In partnership with MeshPower and Energy 4 Impact (E4I), the CSU Energy Institute research team is conducting something of a controlled experiment in stimulating local energy demand in the Rwandan village of Gitaraga.

“Energy 4 Impact came in helped organize local entrepreneurs – welders, haircutters, tailors and seamstresses – who pay a daily fee for mini-grid electricity access. MeshPower put in a bigger, AC system to support that,” Zimmerle explained. The results are “very preliminary, but they look promising,” he said.

The MeshPower/CSU Team Visits Rwanda for Microgrid Project Development
The MeshPower/CSU team visits Rwanda for microgrid project development. | Photo: Colorado State University’s Center for the New Energy Economy

Unanticipated problems and insights into the electricity price elasticity of demand

In addition to providing the project team with insights into the degree and extent to which villagers’ electricity use responds to cost – the price elasticity of demand in economics parlance – the pilot test also is revealing some unexpected quirks and problems, Zimmerle continued. “Incomes are very patchy in these places – some days villagers  have money to spend on electricity, other days they don’t.”

One local bar owner figured he could save money by unplugging the refrigerator he and project team partners installed so that he could sell chilled beverages, then plugging it in again in line with the daily pattern of customer traffic. That strained the refrigerator to the point where it broke down. Having installed a replacement, researchers are investigating if the refrigerator was of poor quality, if international manufacturing standards don’t allow for periodic plugging and unplugging, or if it just technically feasible to design and manufacture a refrigerator that can continue to operate effectively given such usage patterns.

“This was a problem we just didn’t anticipate, and it’s indicative of the types of socioeconomic and communications problems that crop up in these situations, as well as the types of issues that need to be addressed [when carrying out sustainable energy projects]. People in these situations use a very different equation to value electricity,” Zimmerle said.

Energy Institute and project partners are working to identify and develop innovative, practical solutions to these problems. One senior designer on the project team is developing a mobile refrigeration unit based on an old-fashioned, window-mounted air conditioner that villagers can transport to and from agricultural fields so as to extend the marketable life, enhance the quality and speed the time to market of the crops they produce, Zimmerle offered as an example.

Hearkening back to the US’ rural electrification drive

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It turns out that the cross-disciplinary, strategic approach being taken by CSU is fundamentally the same as that used in the United States when it successfully carried out its own rural electrification program. “In the 1930s, only 10 percent of people in the rural United States had access to electricity compared to 90 percent in urban areas,” RMI and SEED point out in their report.

By 1956, rural electrification rate in the US had surged to reach 96 percent as a result of coupling investments to increase electricity generation and distribution capacity with those aimed at stimulating productive end-use on the part of residents and businesses. “Rural electricity cooperatives, in addition to stringing power lines and sourcing power generation, provided financing for appliances and equipment such as electric washing machines, refrigerators, water heaters, electric ranges, and milking machines,” the report authors highlight.

Along with initiatives such as those being undertaken by CSU, the University of Rwanda, MeshPower and E4I, a growing number of young, ambitious mobile pay-go solar-storage systems start-ups have adopted similar approaches, and they’re expanding rapidly across Sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to small, smart-metered mobile pay-go home solar systems, they’re selling, installing and servicing a growing range of energy-efficient AC and DC electricity devices, appliances and equipment in rural communities – solar lamps that double as mobile phone chargers, LED lighting, electric fans and even small TVs and refrigerators.

Elizabeth Mukwimba, a Solar Customer in Tanzania Using Smart Meter
Elizabeth Mukwimba, a solar customer in Tanzania. | Photo: CIDSE

Zimmerle put in stark contrast the difference in energy usage among countries such as the US, where affordable grid access is taken for granted, and developing or lesser developed countries, where many people have never had access to reliable, affordable energy.

About 160,000 people live in Fort Collins (CSU’s home) right now, and our utility’s peak load is around 330 megawatts (MW). The entire generation capacity in Rwanda is roughly somewhere between 220-240 MW, and that’s for some12 million people – about a 100:1 difference.

Zimmerle pointed out that Rwandans benefit greatly from living in a country where the climate is just about perfect for humans to thrive. Generally speaking, Rwandans don’t need to spend all that Fort Collins residents do on energy for space heating, or lighting for that matter. “That reduces their energy consumption, but just think about all the stuff we do with electricity without even thinking about it – for lighting, refrigeration; heating, ventilation and air conditioning, food distribution, transportation and for entertainment. In Rwanda they actually can produce more electricity than they’re using. They just need greater energy access and ways to use it productively.” comment

* Cover photo credit: Solar Electric Light Fund

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Digital Data “Tokenization” and the Drive to Develop Decentralized Solar, Renewable and Hybrid Energy Transaction Networks https://solarmagazine.com/digital-data-tokenization-decentralized-solar-renewable-hybrid-energy-transaction-networks/ https://solarmagazine.com/digital-data-tokenization-decentralized-solar-renewable-hybrid-energy-transaction-networks/#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 12:03:08 +0000 https://solarmagazine.com/?p=1773 There has been lots going on at nexus where distributed solar, other renewable and conventional power and energy intersects and overlaps with blockchain-based, distributed ledger technology. Nothing in the way of “real world,” industrial-strength platforms has evolved yet, but a wide range of players – from multinational power and energy industry leaders to ambitious, industry-shaking […]

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There has been lots going on at nexus where distributed solar, other renewable and conventional power and energy intersects and overlaps with blockchain-based, distributed ledger technology.

Distributed Solar and Other Energy Intersects and Overlaps With Blockchain-Based Distributed Ledger Technology

Nothing in the way of “real world,” industrial-strength platforms has evolved yet, but a wide range of players – from multinational power and energy industry leaders to ambitious, industry-shaking blockchain systems developers – are bringing new methodologies and tools to bear in efforts to address weaknesses and faults inherent in blockchains based on “proof of work,” such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, and build the foundation of open, equitable, peer-to-peer, “decarbonized” power and energy networks.

The list of new projects and development partnerships announced in the past month or so spans the globe and ranges from blockchain-distributed energy systems development partnerships among market-leading private industry participants and public power industry institutions – EPEX Spot, GE, Singapore’s SP Group and US regional Independent Systems Operator PJM Interconnection, for example – to leading, as well as not so well known, blockchain-distributed energy systems developers, including the Energy Web Foundation (EWF), LO3 Energy, Power Ledger and WePower.

Solar Magazine carried out a brief round-up of recent news and developments, zooming in on several that for one reason or another appear to be particularly noteworthy. We also zoomed in on “tokenization” – two distinct methods of parsing and enhancing the security of digital data contained in databases and records. Originally applied and now used widely in the electronic payments and healthcare sectors to meet more stringent data privacy laws and regulations, as well as streamline and enhance the processing efficiency and scalability of transaction processing and administration, both tokenization methodologies have rapidly been gaining currency among blockchain-distributed energy systems developers.

Comparison Between the Sharing Economy Today and Tomorrow
Click here to view the full-size image. Source: Hacker Noon

LO3 Energy and EPEX Spot

Blockchain and distributed, peer-to-peer computing purists have strong iconoclastic tendencies – they would like to remove centralized public institutions – be they central banks, private banks or electric utilities – from the associated markets and economic systems in which they have played, and continue to play, fundamental, as well as privileged, roles. The underlying, informing and guiding ideal is to make markets and socioeconomic systems genuinely open, inclusive, equitable and completely secure by eliminating the need to place your trust in any centralized institution – public or private – when engaging in any type of transaction that involves an exchange of something of value.

Essentially, blockchain purists assert this can be done by crafting open, equitable rules of peer-to-peer market governance and participant behavior, transcribing them into software code and embedding them in blockchain-based, digital ledger systems that are constantly updated and exact copies of which are instantly distributed to all market participants. Realizing the “purist” ideal is proving to be a step beyond what’s viable from a variety of perspectives – technologically in terms of scalability and transaction processing speed, in terms of the amount of energy required to process transactions as systems scale, and in terms of achieving economies of scale that can drive transaction costs down to an ideal cost of zero.

Blockchain-distributed energy systems developers have been turning to tokenization – actually two distinct methods of digital data cryptography – to resolve these issues, as well as use combinations of tokenization and encryption to develop secure, “tamper-proof” blockchain-based, transaction network platforms. We briefly discussed how and why tokenization, in both senses of the term, is being used by blockchain-distributed energy systems developers in running down some of the recent, seemingly noteworthy news and developments that took place in the past month or so.

Secure, “Tamper-Proof” Blockchain-Based, Transaction Network Platforms

EPEX Spot, the European power exchange and LO3 Energy on Oct. 12 announced they would work together to further develop LO3’s Exergy, a global, energy data standardization initiative and blockchain data exchange and warehouse. Using standardized data related to electricity production, use and transmission, Exergy will enable energy producers and consumers – from utilities to individuals – to take ownership of their digital energy data and create digital assets that can be monetized, i.e. traded on digital markets, such as EPEX Spot.

Our current Exergy design use concepts are similar to data tokenization for representing available data and tracking who has access to that data. Blockchain is a powerful tool for establishing trust in a current state or truth between distrusting entities. In these cases we are interested in solving two issues: the provenance of the data and who has permission to access the data.

– LO3’s Chief Blockchain Architect Cian Montgomery  told Solar Magazine.

“Blockchain is not a good storage or transmission medium for data. So in order to deal with data on an industrial level, a multi-part system must be employed. One to transmit, store, and provide access to the system. The other a Digital Ledger (Blockchain) to track the available data, the provenance of the data, and keep records of who is permitted to access the data. This representation in the DLT (Digital Ledger Transaction) is often called data tokenization as there is an identifier (often a hash) that represents the data in question.”

Working with EPEX Spot provides an opportunity for LO3 to use its TransActive Grid platform to connect local energy marketplaces to wholesale markets, Montgomery explained. “In order for this to happen, the usage data from all the TransActive Grid participants needs to be aggregated to drive forecasting and settlement information. This information has to be permissioned for use in the market and the authenticity of the data must be established to prevent bad actors or cheating in the integration.”

LO3 Energy’s TransActive Grid Platform

Energy Web Foundation partners with PJM Environmental Information Services (PJM-EIS)

On Oct. 25, the Energy Web Foundation (EWF) and PJM Environmental Information Services (PJM-EIS) announced a strategic initiative that calls for EWF to develop and test a reference implementation of its EWF Origin open-source, blockchain-based renewable energy and carbon markets development toolkit that PJM-EIS can implement market-wide as part of the Generation Attribute Tracking System (GATS) it administers for its parent organization, PJM Connext LLC, itself a subsidiary of US regional grid ISO PJM Interconnection.

The pilot, according to project partners, “will allow PJM-EIS to investigate the potential benefits of blockchain technology to improve the security, transparency and transaction costs of GATS.” A pay-for-use subscription service, GATS creates and tracks digital certificates for every megawatt-hour of electrical energy a generator produces. The data tracked includes environmental and emissions attributes of the generation source, along with ownership of credits as they are traded or used to meet government renewable energy standards, the partners explained.

“EWF’s goal with the collaboration is to demonstrate how large numbers of distributed energy assets — in the tens or hundreds of thousands — can participate in renewable energy certificate markets, operating at a price point where it is economically feasible to bring even small rooftop solar installations to these markets. EW Origin can do this by standardizing and automating processes such as physical asset registration, asset authentication through digital signatures, secure data logging, REC creation and validation, REC ownership registration, and REC retirement,” EWF explained.

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Tokenization, in both senses of the term, plays a key part in EWF’s open-source, blockchain-distributed energy data standardization and transaction systems development plans. In the first, most prominent use of tokenization, the Energy Web Token performs two main functions: to secure the network (as a deterrent to and safeguard against cyberattacks), and as a means of validator-node compensation, EWF’s Peter Bronski explained.

When it comes to the other type of digital data tokenization, it can be helpful to distinguish between what Bronski called “literal tokenization” as opposed to “conceptual tokenization.” In the former, a digital token corresponds directly to some “real-world unit of measurement, such as a kilowatt-hour of electricity or a renewable energy credit (REC),” Bronski explained. With “conceptual tokenization, blockchain tokens and real-world parameters have implications for one another, but they aren’t connected 1:1.”

Bronski cited fractional ownership of a community solar energy system “as a great use case” of tokenization in its literal sense. “Allocating subscribers or owners of specific panels or a percentage of generation, assigning solar generation and associated RECs to those owners, or subscribers, etc. in theory becomes an easier, more streamlined process,” he said.

More broadly speaking, tokenization “ultimately comes down to data,” Bronski added. “What data do we have? How secure and verifiable is that data? What are the ways in which we can parse, automate and leverage that data to bolster renewables and DERs (Distributed Energy Resources)?”

EWF recently released a white paper – The Energy Web Chain: Accelerating the energy transition with an open-source, decentralized blockchain platform – that goes into this topic in much more detail.

The Energy Web Chain

Following is a brief rundown of several other recent news announcements and reports of significance.

– WePower “tokenizes” a year’s worth of Estonian grid data, “a world first for energy blockchain technology.”

In partnership with Elering, Estonia’s transmission grid operator, WePower recently announced the successful completion of a pilot project that put all Estonian transmission grid consumption and production data on to its Ethereum-based blockchain. Hourly data from 700,000 households was aggregated by zip code, per hour, to reduce it to a manageable size, according to a technical report of the project.

– Singapore Power unveils blockchain market for renewable energy trading

Singapore’s energy utilities provider launched a blockchain-based marketplace for trading RECs. Designed and built in-house, the blockchain platform provides “security, integrity and traceability of each REC transaction,” according to a news report. City Developments Limited (CDL) and DBS Bank are the first REC buyers to sign up to use the platform. Solar power developers Cleantech Solar Asia, LYS Energy Solutions joined previously as sellers, while Katoen Natie Singapore, which expects to launch a solar facility in Singapore country soon, has as well.

– Australia’s Power Ledger launches blockchain energy asset generation drive

Power Ledger founder and CEO Jemma Green has a grand vision of the role the company’s POWR tokens can play in the global drive to deploy solar and other renewable energy resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and realize the goals of the UN Paris Climate Agreement. “Just as the US dollar is the denomination of the oil industry, we see the potential for the POWR token to become the denomination for the photovoltaic and renewable energy industry,” Green stated in a blog post.

Power Ledger’s POWR Token
Image: Use The Bitcoin

Power Ledger’s upcoming Asset Generation Events (AGEs) illustrate how tokenization can be used to digitally “fractionalize” shares in a solar or renewable energy project, opening them up to masses of people globally who might invest as little as USD1, or even less. “The aim for AGE is to fund new, large-scale renewable energy assets that go on to become customers of the applications that Power Ledger develops,” Green explained.

“The aim is to prioritize long-term POWR token holders who wish to participate in AGE…POWR holders benefit because they can use AGE to escape crypto volatility and earn income distributions.”

The underlying value of the AGE token isn’t linked to blockchain utilization, as is the case with Ethereum, or utilization of the platform, as is the case with most ERC20 tokens, Green pointed out. “The value of the AGE token is related to the value of distributions generated by a renewable energy asset. It’s a legal fraction of an economic benefit, the token nature of AGE is secondary. We believe in the future it will be a requirement for most financial products to be tokenized due to the additional benefits to investors, such as liquidity and the record-keeping accuracy of the blockchain. Accuracy is important and this point is clear when you look at recent issues with share registries; these situations have shown how vulnerable ordinary investors are to the back office foibles of legacy registry systems.”

– GE explores using blockchain to build Virtual Power Plants

Looking to play a leading role in the energy decentralization, “decarbonization” and digitization trends, GE is exploring ways of using blockchain technology to help build virtual power plants, which network and aggregate sets of distributed energy resources so that they can be run as though they were a single, centralized power plant, according to a news report. GE Power Digital in October joined a group of industry peers to carry out a research project launched by Deutsche Energie-Agentur (DENA) that will evaluate the use of blockchain applications in the energy industry. Due to be published in Spring 2019, subjects reportedly include asset management, data management, market communication, energy trading, and financing and tokenization use cases. GE already has integrated IBM’s Hyperledger blockchain systems framework into its Predix industrial Internet platform, the news report notes. comment

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UK’s BBOXX Emerges as Key Player in Togo’s Solar-Fueled Electrification Drive https://solarmagazine.com/bboxx-emerges-as-key-player-togo-solar-fueled-electrification-drive/ https://solarmagazine.com/bboxx-emerges-as-key-player-togo-solar-fueled-electrification-drive/#respond Wed, 14 Nov 2018 12:10:10 +0000 https://solarmagazine.com/?p=1763 UK-based mobile-pay-go solar energy start-up BBOXX is taking a big step up in class as it expands in Togo as a key partner in the Togolese government’s solar energy-fueled national electrification drive. Just 27 percent of Togo’s population (~7.5 million) has access to reliable, safe sources of electricity, USAID estimates. That drops to anywhere from […]

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UK-based mobile-pay-go solar energy start-up BBOXX is taking a big step up in class as it expands in Togo as a key partner in the Togolese government’s solar energy-fueled national electrification drive.

Just 27 percent of Togo’s population (~7.5 million) has access to reliable, safe sources of electricity, USAID estimates. That drops to anywhere from 6-21 percent in the countryside. Togo’s government aims to raise national electrification to 50% by 2020, 75% by 2025 and 100% by 2030. Solar energy figures to play a leading role in realizing these goals.

Power Africa Togo Electrification Fact Sheet
Togo Energy Sector Overview | Click here to view the full-size image. | Source: Power Africa Togo Fact Sheet

Launched in August 2017 with a USD975,000 grant from the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) African Sustainable Energy Fund (SEFA), Togo’s Project CIZO is a strategic plan that aims to meet 50 percent of the West African nation’s electricity needs with solar power by 2030. The European Union (EU) added between €20 million-€25 million in capital via AfDB in mid-October, one of the goals being to install off-grid, home solar energy systems in 550,000 Togolese households by 2030.

“We have been operating in Togo as part of the CIZO initiative since December 2017. So far, we are making very good progress,” BBOXX CEO and co-founder Mansoor Hamayun told Solar Magazine. “To date, BBOXX has improved the lives of 20,000 people in Togo through installing solar home systems across the country. The company’s business activity has created more than 100 jobs in rural areas.”

Togo’s CIZO solar-powered electrification drive

Two structural pillars support and guide Togo’s CIZO project:

  • Implementation of a national IT platform to aggregate the instant payment functionality (DESCO, MNO) and the collection of data on the energy needs of their consumption habits and their solvency;
  • Building capacity to provide sales, installation and maintenance of solar kits in rural areas.

Furthermore, support from AfDB’s SEFA and other international development banks and agencies will enable a national network of mobile payments agents to be created. Recruitment and training of agents will help build the foundation for so-called PAYGO operations by making mobile, electronic banking and payments services available in remote rural communities, according to SEFA. In addition, solar energy training and education academies will be established across Togo, thereby providing a ready supply of certified, Togolese technicians.

Togolese Solar Mamas Successfully Install a Solar System - Making Their Village Clinic Off-Grid
Togolese Solar Mamas successfully install a solar system, making their village clinic off-grid. Photo: Lar Bolands

Togo’s government aims to foster construction of 300 mini solar power plants across the country and distribute 500,000 household solar energy kits at a 30 percent discount to the market price as Project CIZO proceeds. EU and AfDB support should help realize that goal, as well as facilitate achievement of Togo’s broader-based national electrification and sustainable development goals.

It’s estimated that Project CIZO will cost the Togolese government approximately the equivalent of some USD1.76 billion. The government intends to raise USD318 million and raise the remainder from private investors.

The EU’s CIZO funding falls within the framework of the G20 Compact with Africa, a sustainable development initiative launched in March 2017. The intent is to recruit participation of Togolese banks in CIZO, thereby facilitating the nationwide solar electrification drive by encouraging private-sector lending to home solar and mini solar power plant customers. Ultimately, the EU aims to provide energy access to 2 million Togolese within five years.

BBOXX’s recipe for success in Togo

A Power Africa partner, BBOXX has agreed to distribute 300,000 home solar kits across the country to introduce solar power in Togo, according to USAID. BBOXX is confident it will fulfill, if not exceed, expectations as a company and in helping Togo realize CIZO’s goals.

“On average, people completely off the grid in the developing world spend USD14 per month on candles, batteries and kerosene. Those on unreliable grids spend USD150 per month and another USD150 for a one-off connection grid. BBOXX customers completely off the grid spend USD6 per month for a solar home system which provides them with energy for lighting, small appliances and mobile phone charging,” Hamayun said in an interview.

He added that BBOXX pay-go home solar energy systems come with the added benefit of having been proven reliable and come with comprehensive customer service. And in addition to generating emissions-free, renewable energy with zero in the way of fuel costs, customers pay for smart-metered energy as it’s used and they are able via mobile payments services.

The young company’s business model has been implemented and proven successful in other African countries facing similar rural electrification challenges, Hamayun pointed out. BBOXX got its start, and has been proving its ability to build and operate a mobile, pay-go home solar network based on marketing, distribution and sales of digitally networked home solar power kits, devices and small household appliances in Rwanda, where it has been operating since 2013.

BBOXX’s Pulse cloud-based task management platform

In Togo, BBOXX’s mobile pay-go, home solar PV-battery energy storage systems are already supplying sustainable, emissions-free electricity to 26,000 households. Its home solar energy kits and low-power, energy-efficient household electrical and electronic products are being sold in some 20 local shops, employing around 100 Togolese, according to the company.

“As a company, we place a great deal of emphasis on formal training of employees, ranging from customer service, digital skills and technical training,” Hamayun said in an interview. “This is how we ensure that our distributed workforce has the necessary knowledge and skills to do their jobs effectively. We want to empower our employees to achieve even more and we are heading in the right direction.”

Being awarded Great Place to Work certification added credibility and legitimacy to this. It also boosted employee morale and aids BBOXX’s recruitment and hiring efforts, Hamayun pointed out. “We know this approach works, as in Rwanda, where we have operated since 2013, we have been awarded with the ‘Great Place to work Certification’ – a globally-recognised stamp of approval for an excellent workplace culture.”

BBOXX Togo Employee With Solar Panel
Photo: BBOXX

Technologically, Pulse, BBOXX’s cloud-based task management platform, plays a core, key role in the company’s expansion efforts. “We face the challenge of managing scale as customers, products and employees are dispersed across a range of remote locations,” Hamayun said. Pulse streamlines BBOXX’s business processes and enhances customer service, which makes for an efficient, smoothly run operation, he explained.

“Pulse ‘gamifies’ and ‘digitalizes’ our entire sales and service management, automating tasks for sales agents, technicians, call centres and our supply chain,” Hamayun said. The cloud-based platform incorporates “Big Data” analytical capabilities, “allowing us to have an accurate picture of performance quickly and uses machine learning to enable predictive analytics. For example, Pulse uses product monitoring to predict failure and allows the operational team to proactively support customers, automatically schedules field tasks for staff and much more,” he added.

Some big boosts

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BBOXX received a big boost in late October when France’s EDF announced it would partner with BBOXX in its efforts to energize Togo. “By teaming up with BBOXX in Togo, the EDF Group has embarked on a new stage of development of its off-grid activities in Africa, which has been constantly speeded [sic.] up since our Ivory Coast subsidiary, Zeci, was set up less than two years ago,” Valerie Levkov, EDF’s senior vice president in charge of Africa and Middle East, stated for a press release. “We are proud to work with a partner like BBOXX, which shares our commitment to low carbon energies. The partnership that has just been set up fits in with the EDF strategy CAP 2030, whose main purpose is to triple our activities outside Europe.”

Boosting BBOXX’s expansion in Togo further, private equity investment company Bamboo Capital Partners will join with BBOXX and EDF by investing an undisclosed amount in BBOXX’s Togolese DESCO (Distributed Energy Service Company) via its BEAM investment platform. The capital is to finance and accelerate BBOXX Togo’s growth.

BBOXX has also been able to raise capital locally through Union Togolaise de Banque. That “has made financial matters more straightforward for us, and it will boost our expansion across the country,” Hamayun said.

The Government of Togo and state institutions are also facilitating BBOXX Togo’s efforts. The company is working with La Poste, which has the largest distribution network in the country, to sell and distribute its solar home systems and other small electrical, consumer products, such televisions and radios, Hamayun explained. BBOXX is also opening shops within La Poste’s distribution outlets, he added.

Togo Presidential Delegation Visits BBOXX Headquarters
President of Togo visits BBOXX headquarters.

A look ahead

Looking ahead, BBOXX is working to expand the range of energy products and services it offers in Africa. The company has partnered with Axiom Networks to trial Internet services in Rwanda and intends to expand this to include all the African markets in which BBOXX operates. “Axiom provides [the] Internet connections, while BBOXX manages the hotspot installations, the Internet access and the B2C activity,” Hamayun explained.

BBOXX has also entered into a partnership with US multinational GE to provide energy access for small businesses, schools and other organizations in the Democratic Republic of Congo city of Goma. BBOXX deployed the first of GE’s Hybrid Distributed Power (HDP) systems there earlier this year to provide energy service to up to 10 customers, according to Hamayun.

“The first is a local school, Kivu International School. More customers will be added to the mini-grid over time,” Hamayun said. The partnership with GE forms part of BBOXX’s strategy “to improve access to vital utilities for customers with a range of needs, from small solar home systems of 50W in rural communities, to businesses in urban areas with higher energy demands of 0.5kW – 5.0kW, and above. We hope to replicate this service across markets beyond the DRC over time,” he explained. comment

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The Benefits of Adapting the Weighted Efficiency of Solar Photovoltaic Inverters to Local African Climates https://solarmagazine.com/benefits-adapting-weighted-efficiency-solar-pv-inverters-local-african-climates/ https://solarmagazine.com/benefits-adapting-weighted-efficiency-solar-pv-inverters-local-african-climates/#comments Tue, 13 Nov 2018 06:57:38 +0000 https://solarmagazine.com/?p=1758 The Paris Agreement, adopted at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, proposed to limit global warming and climate change by decarbonizing the energy sector. As stated by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in its 2016 report on the world energy outlook, this sector accounts for two-thirds […]

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The Paris Agreement, adopted at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, proposed to limit global warming and climate change by decarbonizing the energy sector. As stated by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in its 2016 report on the world energy outlook, this sector accounts for two-thirds of CO2 and GHG (Greenhouse Gases) emissions. The targets seem ambitious at first, as the accord set to limit the increase in global temperature to under 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, but there are resourceful allies in this global effort.

The luminous energy reaching the Earth’s surface from the Sun is equivalent to 10,000 times the world’s energy needs. Africa, as a latecomer to modern energy developments, has a triple advantage: it can adopt the latest renewable technologies, adapt them to local needs and innovate to create new opportunities. Energy access and climate adaptation is key to Africa’s development. As evidence, many initiatives are taking place on the continent like the Africa Renewable Energy Access Program (AFREA), the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (SEFA) and the Africa Renewable Energy Fund (AREF).

Analyzing PV system behavior and collecting local climate data produces new efficiency models

Solar power has often been criticized as too dependent on intermittent weather conditions, but that is precisely where the opportunity lies. Beyond energy access, the problem of energy efficiency and adaptation to local conditions creates a considerable market prospect. In solar photovoltaic systems, inverters are crucial devices that convert the DC input power from PV modules into AC power used by grid appliances. Solar irradiance and ambient temperature distribution over the entire year influences how this input fluctuates. Inverters achieve different efficiencies under different power inputs. Consequently, PV systems power production is reliant on the weather profile and project designers and developers cannot simply rely on the peak efficiency on the inverter’s manufacturer’s datasheet to estimate the amount of power PV plants can produce.

The standard models used to compare the performance of inverters are the European efficiency and the CEC weighted efficiencies. The first was developed in 1990 by Rolf Hotopp based on climate data from Trier, Germany. The Joint European Research Center (JRC) later incorporated weather from Ispra, Italy. The second formula was designed by the Californian Energy Commission using meteorological data from Sacramento in California for its higher insolation. These values are referenced by basically all inverters on the market in the EU, the US and globally.

These models weigh various input power ranges based on how frequently they occur at the selected sites and how much they contribute to the overall annual energy yield. However, because sites located at different latitudes, altitudes and longitudes will accordingly display different atmospheric conditions, predicting the amount of energy that can be harnessed from PV plants in Africa requires that the Euro and CEC weighted efficiency be reformulated and adapted to local weather patterns.

Cities like Nairobi (Kenya) or Cape Town (South Africa) are economic hubs of the continent within countries that are establishing interesting visions for solar power. But it would be an advantage for them to use standards for solar power conversion that are better adapted to their climates.

Monthly Irradiation Temperature Distribution - Meteonorm
Difference between annual temperature and irradiation profiles at Trier (Germany), Ispra (Italy), Sacramento (California) and Cape Town (South Africa), using monthly data from Meteonorm 7 | Click here to view the full-size chart.

Software like PVSYST are tools used by engineers to design and simulate the behavior of PV systems in meteorological conditions unique to a site. Thanks to the extensive Meteonorm database that PVSYST incorporates, climate data for thousands of sites in Africa and around the world can be obtained to model their distribution over an entire year. The study showed that, whether using monthly, daily or more accurately hourly data, there is a mismatch not only between European or Californian standards and sites located in Africa, but also and obviously between African cities themselves. Since, temperature and irradiance are known to have an effect on the solar cells producing the inverter’s DC input, here is an opportunity to develop African regional efficiency standards. South Africa, through its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) and its Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Program (REIPPPP) is set to be a great leader in the implementation of solar power. The Department of Energy has set a target of 8.4 GW of PV capacity for 2030 in the scope of the IRP.

Kenya is another example, with a delightful vision for 2030, to transform Kenya into a newly industrializing, middle-income country, by for example increasing generation capacity by 23 GW by 2030. According to the Kenyan Energy Regulatory Commission, Northern Kenya (including almost the whole of the North Eastern province) and other arid lands have powerful reliable sunshine throughout the year, a high potential for investment in solar energy and for sale to the national grid.

African cities’ local climates can be used as references as they display different monthly distribution of solar irradiation and ambient temperature compared to the sites considered by the Euro and CEC benchmarks for assessing solar PV inverter efficiency.

When Microsoft Excel functions or MATLAB are used to compile PVSYST results (using hourly data for weather and energy parameters), it becomes evident that the standard Euro and CEC efficiency models do not make accurate predictions when it comes to African climates because they do not prioritize the same energy ranges.

This approach produces new African weighted efficiency formulas, developed based on local African climates that would be incorporated into new regional brands of PV inverters. This adds to the understanding of solar PV technology and creates business opportunities for local solar markets and manufacturers.

Weighted Efficiency Models of Solar PV Inverters For African Countries

Adapting inverter efficiency models to site-specific characteristics could set the stage for new brands

This study was the subject of my master’s thesis at Cape Peninsula University of Technology in South Africa (Faculty of Electrical Engineering), where I showed the discrepancy between the assumptions made by the Euro & CEC efficiency models and climate data for the city of Cape Town. The research yielded a new model more representative of the local meteorology. Hourly (not monthly or daily) data about irradiation, temperature, DC input and AC output were used for an entire year (8,760 hours) for a resolution as accurate as possible.

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As the African Climate Technology Centre, hosted by the African Development Bank supports sub-Saharan countries in deploying low carbon and adopting environmentally responsible technologies for adaptation and climate change mitigation, this study approved by the University’s Department of Electrical Engineering set to simulate them as accurately as possible the way a theoretical grid-connected PV inverter behaves under Cape Town climate conditions to establish the link between the meteorology and the overall energy yield. The aim was to come up with an efficiency model more adapted to an African climate, hopeful sparking the interest of researchers, industries and manufacturers across the continent and even beyond.

With robust and extensive weather data and software platforms, different irradiation classes were ranked by how often they occur at the selected site and what influence they have on the photovoltaic electricity thus produced.

The European efficiency assumes that nearly 80% of the annual yield would be collected at and below 500 W/m2 irradiation levels. The CEC efficiency predicts 95% of that production to be harvested below 750 W/m2 irradiation levels.

But neither of these predictions matches the data obtained for the site of Cape Town. Based on hourly figures analyzed for the local climate, classes of solar irradiances at 500 W/m2 and below, between 500 and 750 W/m2 and above 750 W/m2, each contributes about one third (33%) of annual energy yield. This contribution translates in the way they influence, along with the temperature effect, the variation of the DC power produced by PV modules that will then determine the variation of the PV inverter efficiency.

The ratios between the maximum power available for every hour of the year PMPP and the nominal power given for Standard Test Conditions PSTC (1 kilowatt for a solar irradiance of 1,000 W/m2 with an ambient temperature of 25°C) are calculated for all the 8,760 hours of a characteristic year compiled from nearby weather stations and satellite data. These ratios are influenced by the corresponding weather parameters and it is revealed how much energy each range contributes to the total yield of the PV system.

As a result, the European efficiency prioritizes lower power ranges (50% and below) but, on the site, it is observed that higher power ranges are prioritized (75% and above). Inverters with a weighted efficiency that prioritizes power ranges that do not occur as frequently at the site would lead to inaccurate predictions and potential financial losses.

But interestingly, and somewhat expectedly, the weighted efficiency developed by the Californian Energy Commission with data initially from the city of Sacramento in California is closer to matching the energy contributions as calculated for the South African city.

This is no coincidence since the CEC model was developed as an alternative to the European efficiency, taking into account regions with higher insolation. It is still not a good enough match and shows deviations in the weighting of the different power classes. The most glaring mismatch is evident for the highest power ranges, between 75% and 100% PMPP/PSTC ratios. This interval contributes 28% to the total generated energy of the solar PV plant when the CEC efficiency only predicts 5%. These results are obtained when the inverter is operating at the site based on the CEC model.

Using the results and the inaccuracies observed by testing the PV inverter under both Euro and CEC models, the formulas were corrected in how they weigh specific power intervals to make them more accurate and representative of the atmospheric conditions at the selected site. And thus, a more reliable weighted efficiency was developed.

Although the European and the CEC efficiency were both assumed to be 96% according to the datasheet, applying Euro and CEC weighting factors, given the site’s weather parameters, showed lower figures. But when weights recalculated based on the local climate were integrated, higher and more accurate figures are obtained.

Comparison Between Standard, Measured and Site Specific Weighted Efficiencies
The discrepancy between predicted, measured and corrected inverter efficiency as simulated for the city of Cape Town, with hourly data from Meteonorm for a 1 kW grid-tied system | Click here to view the full-size chart.

This represents a great opportunity for local manufacturers to rebrand their DC-AC power converters with weighted efficiencies more characteristics of the meteoritical attributes of their region and offer more accurate products to customers and PV projects developers. comment

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How Drone Solutions Are Powering the Future of Solar Energy https://solarmagazine.com/how-drone-solutions-powering-the-future-of-solar-energy/ https://solarmagazine.com/how-drone-solutions-powering-the-future-of-solar-energy/#respond Fri, 09 Nov 2018 11:57:27 +0000 https://solarmagazine.com/?p=1743 We explore how resources such as solar energy can benefit from the technology of the future, specifically drone based solutions. We’ll explore how each stage of setting up solar power stations can use drone solutions to bring light to the future we live in, but first, a brief history lesson. Hope is on the horizon To […]

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We explore how resources such as solar energy can benefit from the technology of the future, specifically drone based solutions. We’ll explore how each stage of setting up solar power stations can use drone solutions to bring light to the future we live in, but first, a brief history lesson.

Hope is on the horizon

To put it mildly, the time for renewable resources to become a major contributor to the energy needs around the world is nigh. With the growth in population and GDP driven consumption, the world is bracing up to face a challenging energy mix. Hoping to create an equitable balance between development and environment and ensuring that everyone has access to enough sustainable energy rests in resources such as solar, hydro, wind and geothermal. To be honest, they have a lot going for them like the fact that they never run out, cause lesser deaths, require little maintenance and are steadily becoming cheaper.

In particular solar energy along with wind has emerged to be the darling of environmentalists and new age economists around the world. Remember when we told that new resources spurn new industries? Well, it looks like humanity has taken a “leaf” out of the nature’s playbook and turned to the Sun as the new resource to shed light on the path to the future and cheaper energy around the world.

India Solar Capacity Growth 2013-2017e

Drone based solutions and the future of solar

As with emerging resources one of the key driving factors for their adoption is the decline in cost of capital that goes into monetising these resources, the purpose of this post is to enlighten the reader on how drone solutions can serve as a driving factor to making the planning, building and sustenance of solar energy more profitable and efficient. Solar energy is captured in many forms, primarily it is captured in two ways, utility grade plants and rooftop. We want to focus this post exclusively on utility grade plants, why you may ask? Please see below.

India Rooftop Solar - Utility Solar Ratio

As a drone solution provider in one of the fastest growing energy consumers in the world, we naturally gravitate towards building solutions for large-scale plants, also, there is another crucial factor at play here. With the release of the Digital Sky regulations, aspects of secure scalability such as integrating drone registrations and flight operations management, drones are going to play a significant part of the civilian and commercialisation industry.

Drones are beginning to make a huge difference in the planning, construction, and operational phases. In short drones and the solution built on the data from drones bring a powerful synergy to a sector that needs to grow fast and perform well in the years to come. So how do drone solutions make solar energy more viable? We start from the ground up.

Drone solutions for faster planning

A year of strong growth is predicted for 2018 with new installations expected to surpass the 100 GW mark for the first time, representing 6 percent annual growth, with an increase of about 15% to ~ 113 GW, up from 98.9 GW in 2017. India’s total capacity in particular is expected to grow from 9.5 GW in 2016 to 76 GW by 2021, which means it will be installing 66 GW from 2017–2021, or more than 13 GW annually, on average, using the standard thumb rule of 5 acres needed for every 1 MW of solar energy means about 65,000 acres of solar panels to be set up every year. That requires quite a bit of planning and surveying.

To gather topographical information for a prospective site of a future solar farm, you traditionally have two options: rely on publicly available data (like Google Maps) or conduct new ground surveys, neither of which is ideal for large-scale projects like solar farms. In solar farm prospecting, it’s challenging to generate purchase bids quickly. By surveying land and creating contour maps and digital terrain models with drone solution, this process can be cut down to a few days. The result: faster turnaround times and a leg up on competition.

Drones can also reduce the design cycle of solar energy projects by as much as 70%, and increase team productivity along the way.

Drone solutions help field engineers visualise their project in a paradigm shifting manner, think of them shifting from old hand-drawn portraits to digital photography. These detailed orthomosaics and digital twins take into account factors that a human engineer might did not have access to before like hydrology and shadow analysis, accurate material quantity estimates, manpower needs, and safety assessments, all of which contribute massively to the overall project plan. These solutions enable engineers to design and implement a project 90% faster too!

Use Unmanned Drones to Design and Implement a Solar Power Project 90% Faster
Every pixel on a drone map captures down to 2cm.

Drone solutions for better construction monitoring

Once a suitable project site has been selected and the project is being constructed, drones can be the “eyes” of project managers on-site, saving plenty of time and money on transportation. Project visits in person can become much less frequent, and if a project manager wants to “visit” the project it is as simple as logging in remotely to one of the web-based portals to take a tour or generate reports on construction completion rates and project how long before the plant starts to generate power.

There are two critical ways drones are lowering worker and business risk by improving operational efficiency for solar energy companies.

Saving time:

Drone solutions can “elevate” construction site monitoring and reporting (counting number of rigs, modules mounted etc) to the point of being able to remotely verify if each individual installation is complete, safe, aesthetically acceptable and all components of the installation are robust and permanent.

Unmanned Drones Real-Time Solar Project Monitoring

Saving money:

Digitised assets through drone solutions also mean that if the planned layout and setup of solar panels are in line with as-built conditions, these kinds of insights allow EPC stakeholders to conduct, complete and generate acceptance documentation.

Unmanned Drones for Solar Mounting Systems Measurements
Module mounting measurements

Drone solutions for ensuring performance

With an exponential level of growth, current methods of operation and maintenance are simply not sustainable nor is it economically feasible to deploy poorly trained manpower. Two field engineers spending 30 days, doing handheld IR analysis, spot checks and IV curves on a 100 MW plant just doesn’t make sense. Imagine if you could lift these sensors above the ground and do the same site in 24 man-hours, and discover up to 3,500 anomalies in 423,000 solar panels, now that makes a whole lot of sense.

Unmanned Drones for Solar Panels performance Monitoring - Dust Detection
Dust detection for directing O&M operations

The use of drone solutions can prevent and pre-emptively predict the spread of degradation of solar panels and determine which panels need cleaning or repair. Drone solutions that detect hotspots and drop in energy outputs are able not only to increase the PV plant efficiency but also reduce the cost of its maintenance since they practically require any human participation in work. Drone solutions in this way help teams pinpoint problem areas and fast-track repairs to keep solar operation running at peak efficiency and reduce the number of manpower per MW needed for the upkeep in performance.

Unmanned Drones Degradation and Hotspots Detection of Solar Panels

Future of drones : beyond the horizon

Drone solutions have unimaginable possibilities to revolutionise energy industries by automating the way we plan, build and maintain sustainable energy sources, and completing tasks faster, cheaper, and more safely than humans ever could, or even performing functions that could never have been dreamed of in the first place without drone technology.

Solar energy’s overall share of global power generation remains low, but is about to witness a major increase with the onset of drones into the sector. With technologies like thermal imagery and 3D modelling, drone solutions are set to cause a major paradigm shift as a growing number of companies are accommodating drone based outputs into their workflows, as the world shifts to new resources and companies are built to harness the resources so will solutions that enable this shift, stay tuned to understand in even more depth how drone solutions can be used in each stage of the project lifecycle.


Drone solutions for large-scale solar projects allow us to decrease lifecycle costs and increase capacity utilisation in a manner we have never seen before.
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– Tejus AV , Head-Solar Energy Business, CleanMax Solar

If you are interested to know more about how drone solutions listed above, get in touch with us at info@skylarkdrones.com or just visit our website and in particular the solar section! comment

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Duke Energy Aims to Offer Third-Party-Owned Solar Leases to Business Customers in North Carolina https://solarmagazine.com/duke-energy-to-offer-3-party-owned-solar-leases-business-customers-north-carolina/ https://solarmagazine.com/duke-energy-to-offer-3-party-owned-solar-leases-business-customers-north-carolina/#respond Tue, 06 Nov 2018 12:12:43 +0000 https://solarmagazine.com/?p=1727 An affiliate of Duke Energy, the largest utility and electricity services corporation in the US, recently submitted an application with the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) to enter the commercial, third-party-owned (TPO) solar leasing business. Duke Energy is already the predominant force driving growth in the state’s installed solar energy capacity, which now ranks second […]

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An affiliate of Duke Energy, the largest utility and electricity services corporation in the US, recently submitted an application with the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) to enter the commercial, third-party-owned (TPO) solar leasing business. Duke Energy is already the predominant force driving growth in the state’s installed solar energy capacity, which now ranks second in the US, but the commercial solar market has proven to be a tough nut to crack, not only in North Carolina, but across the US.

Non-Residential Installed Capacity by Ownership Type
Non-Residential Installed Capacity by Ownership Type | Source: Commercial Solar Consumer Finance Trends

A limited liability company wholly-owned by Duke Energy and registered in Delaware, Duke Clean Energy Resources submitted its application for a “Certificate to Engage in Business as an Electric Generator Lessor” with the NCUC on Oct. 26. The company, according to the regulatory filing, “will build, own and operate on-site solar facilities that will allow customers to access renewable energy without a large upfront investment.”

Duke Clean Energy Resources will build, own and operate non-residential solar energy systems of up to 1 megawatt (MW) in power capacity and contract with business customers to off-take the resulting electricity via lease agreements with terms as long as 20 years. “Customers want more solar power for their operations, but the large upfront investment can be an obstacle,” explained Rob Caldwell, president, Duke Energy Renewables and Distributed Energy Technology.

Through DECER, we will be competing to provide customers a turnkey solar solution to meet their renewable energy goals, while managing the ongoing operations and maintenance of the facility.

Making solar energy easier for utility business customers

Duke Clean Energy Resources will offer businesses the opportunity to negotiate the terms and conditions of non-residential, TPO solar leases, which at 1 MW capacity would be roughly 100-times that of a typical residential solar PV installation, according to Duke. Lessees will be able to off-take 100 percent of a solar energy facility’s electricity over a lease’s term, and they will be eligible for any rebates and net-metering options Duke Energy offers.

The Duke Energy affiliate will finance and take care of all regulatory requirements associated with the commercial, TPO solar leases, as well as provide operations and maintenance. The company aims to work with local solar energy companies to build and maintain the solar power generation facilities that will provide the electricity lessees contract for, Caldwell noted.

Duke Clean Energy Resources isn’t supported financially by Duke Energy Carolinas or Duke Energy Progress, the parent corporation’s operating utilities in the Carolinas, but it will seek to do business with business customers in their service territories.

Prior to submitting its application in North Carolina, in January 2017 Duke Clean Energy Resources received approval to do business as a certified lessor of Renewable Electric Generation Facilities from the South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff. The Duke Energy affiliate has yet to finalize any commercial solar leases in South Carolina. Management says the company is “actively engaged in negotiations for several projects anticipated to begin construction in 2019,” however.

Duke Clean Energy Resources hasn’t built up a full head of steam in South Carolina yet, Duke Energy spokesman Randy Wheeless  explained in an interview. “We didn’t have to go through the regulatory approval process in South Carolina and we wanted to get permission from both states before putting a lot of effort into it, at least publicly,” he said.

Last year’s enactment of the Competitive Energy Solutions for North Carolina law (HB 589) opened the door for Duke to do that by allowing third-party-owned solar leasing in the state. It had been prohibited before then.

One North Carolina company applied for, and received, a license to offer TPO solar leases in the state prior to Duke Clean Energy Resources filing its application. Eagle Power & Light’s program appears to be geared towards residential customers, however.

The NCUC approved Eagle Solar & Light’s application to lease solar power generation in October. That marked a solar-market first in the state. “The leasing of solar energy facilities is a critical component of the bipartisan HB 589 ‘Competitive Energy Solutions for North Carolina’ that was signed by Governor Cooper in July 2017,” NC Interfaith Power and Light commented. “While North Carolina has experienced dramatic growth in utility-scale solar over the past decade, it lags far behind other states in rooftop solar. HB 589 will help meet the demand for rooftop solar by not only allowing leasing, but also by mandating the NC Solar Rebates for some Duke Energy customers who install rooftop solar until 2022.”

Expanding across the entire spectrum of solar energy market segments

The saying, “All roads lead to Rome,” dates back to medieval European times. When it comes to electricity in North Carolina, all roads lead to Duke Energy. The corporation, via its regulated utilities and unregulated energy services providers, has been the primary driver of growth in North Carolina’s installed solar power capacity. Nearly all of that takes the form of utility-scale solar power farms.

Duke Energy Carolinas is Ramping Up its Use of Solar Power
Duke Energy Carolinas is ramping up its use of solar power. | ​Image: courtesy of Duke Energy

Residential solar power capacity has been growing in North Carolina as well, and Duke’s resident, regulated utilities, Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress, have been contributing with solar rebate programs.

Duke Energy has also worked closely with large corporations to boost installed solar power capacity in North Carolina via so-called utility green tariff programs. Utility green tariff programs allow larger commercial and industrial utility customers to purchase electricity from a specific solar or other renewable energy resource at preferred rates.

In July, Duke Energy rolled out two new solar energy programs in North Carolina:

  • Solar Rebates – The five-year, $62 million solar rebate program is expected to more than double the number of private solar energy customers in North Carolina over the next five years, according to Duke Energy.
  • Competitive Bidding RFP – Duke Energy aims to add 680 MW of renewable energy in the Carolinas as it continues to diversify its energy mix. Management filed a request for proposal (RFP) for companies to build large-scale solar or other renewable facilities in Duke Energy territories in North Carolina and South Carolina. Achieving that goal would produce enough emissions-free electricity at peak output to power more than 100,000 homes, according to Duke Energy.

Peter M. Schwarz, professor of economics and associate at the Energy Production and Infrastructure Center at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, was quoted as saying the following regarding news of the two programs being launched.

North Carolina has been able to achieve leadership in the use of solar energy, second only to California, spurred by a variety of programs that have helped to reduce the cost of installing solar systems.

“The new programs that Duke Energy is now introducing will continue to spur the growth of solar energy, contributing to economic development while helping to protect the environment.”

North Carolina PV Installation Forecast
North Carolina PV Installation Forecast | Source: SEIA – North Carolina Solar (Q2 2018)

Solar power options for big customers and utilities

All told, Duke Energy owns and operates more than 20 wind farms and 80 solar energy facilities across the US – 35 of them in North Carolina. In addition to North Carolina and South Carolina, the corporation owns and runs electric utilities in Florida, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. Its Piedmont Natural Gas subsidiary operates in North and South Carolina and Tennessee.

Management has been strategically shifting the corporation’s operations, new business lines and investments towards distributed, renewable energy in recent years. Its unregulated Duke Energy Renewables subsidiary has invested nearly $6 billion to expand its wind and solar power business since 2007. It now owns and operates some 2,800 MW of renewable power generation capacity in more than a dozen US states. That includes more than 50 solar PV generation facilities with a combined power capacity of some 500 MW which it delivers to utilities, municipalities, electric cooperatives and large businesses.

Besides owning and operating renewable energy assets on its own behalf, Duke Energy provides operations and maintenance services to third-party renewable power system operators via Duke Energy Renewable Services. Supporting this is the unit’s Renewable Control Center in Charlotte, N.C., which employs digital network and distributed energy Internet-of-Things technology to optimize performance of wind and solar power plants across the US.

In addition, Duke Energy bought an initial equity stake in commercial solar, energy storage and microgrid systems development specialist REC Solar in 2015, then wholly acquired the San Luis Obispo, California-based company in December 2017. It also owns a majority interest in Irvine, California-based energy efficiency specialist Phoenix Energy Technologies, which provides energy management systems and services to commercial customers. Duke Clean Energy Resources could make use of REC Solar’s services as it develops and grows its non-residential, TPO solar leasing business, but REC focuses primarily in markets in Hawaii and western US states, such as its home state of California, Wheeless pointed out.

Cracking the commercial solar market code

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Cracking the code that would accelerate growth of commercial solar energy is proving extremely difficult. The market segment is huge, but also tremendously diverse, and hence fragmented. That makes it exceedingly difficult to come up with a “one size fits all” formula that offers an attractive economic value proposition across the entire spectrum of commercial and industrial-sector businesses.

“It’s exciting [as well as potentially significant],” Wheeless told Solar Magazine. “We deal with lots of large energy customers all the time, but we really didn’t have much to offer them [in the way of customized solar energy products or services]. Now we can point them in this direction. They’ll be able to deal with a company they’ve dealt with for a long time, even though it will be through an unregulated subsidiary.”

“If I had to say what a [Duke Clean Energy Resources] customer might look like, I’d say it could be a commercial operation with a large warehouse and lots of rooftop space, and it will probably vary from that. It could be a smaller business with land on the side. There are a lot of manufacturing and warehousing operations in the state and a lot of rooftop space out there,” Wheeless said.

More generally, “I think [a commercial, TPO solar lease] is ideal for a customer who has been thinking about solar energy but has been put off by the capital investment. A third-party-owned solar lease can take that burden from them and they gain the benefit of the solar power without having to worry about all the finance, installation, regulatory, operations and maintenance issues that come with that.”

Might obtaining a license to offer non-residential, TPO solar leases pave the way for Duke to offer residential, TPO solar leases in the Carolinas? “Right now , there’s a growing rooftop solar market and we’ve spurred that on with our rebate program. Project developers can sell to residences, but anyone who wanted to be in solar leasing needed to apply to the public utilities commission for a license,” Wheeless explained.

Duke Energy appears to be downplaying Duke Clean Energy Resources’ potential at this very early stage in the affiliate company’s evolution, however. “It’s kind of hard to foresee the potential of this. We’ve seen an uptick in rooftop solar and increasing interest on the part of commercial entities. The [solar] market is definitely growing in all facets, but we’ll have wait and see what the future holds,” Wheeless concluded. comment

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Solar Power Jobs Campaign Aims to Provide Education, Training for 4.5 Million https://solarmagazine.com/solar-power-jobs-campaign-aims-to-provide-education-training-4point5-million/ https://solarmagazine.com/solar-power-jobs-campaign-aims-to-provide-education-training-4point5-million/#respond Wed, 31 Oct 2018 11:18:41 +0000 https://solarmagazine.com/?p=1718 A worldwide coalition of 200 private and public organizations, Power for All today launched Powering Jobs, a campaign aimed at providing the training and education solar energy entrepreneurs and workers need in order to succeed, at the IOREC off-grid, renewable energy conference in Singapore. Power for All’s guiding and informing mission is to provide sustainable […]

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A worldwide coalition of 200 private and public organizations, Power for All today launched Powering Jobs, a campaign aimed at providing the training and education solar energy entrepreneurs and workers need in order to succeed, at the IOREC off-grid, renewable energy conference in Singapore.

Power for All’s guiding and informing mission is to provide sustainable energy access to the 2 billion people — almost a third of humanity — that lack access to reliable energy. It’s one of the prime movers in the drive to realize UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 – achieving universal energy access by 2030, and capitalizing the declining costs and improving performance of decentralized solar and other form of renewable energy in doing so.

Powering Jobs focuses on addressing “the huge shortage of entrepreneurs and job-ready workers needed to meet the growing demand for home solar systems, mini-grids and other distributed renewable energy (DRE) solutions in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.” That shortfall jeopardizes realization of UN SDG 7, Power for All highlights.

Power for All and Powering Jobs campaign partners intend “to move energy access skills from the sideline to center stage,” Power for All’s William Brent told Solar Magazine. Campaign partners see the possibility of training as many as 4.5 million people to enter the solar energy industry worldwide by 2030.

“Right now we’re seeing a growing skills gap, which puts SDG 7 at risk,” Brent said.

Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual Review 2018
Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual Review 2018 | Click here to view the full-size chart. | Source: IRENA

Powering Jobs has two main components:

  1. Producing the first comprehensive survey of the energy access workforce, including solar home systems, mini-grids and productive use appliances. The initial focus is on India, Nigeria and Kenya – three countries in which distributed solar energy-energy storage and mini-grid start-ups have taken root and have been expanding rapidly.

“It’s estimated that distributed renewables can create 4.5 million jobs by 2030. Right now Sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa) has 16,000 jobs. If we assume that most of the potential jobs are needed in Sub-Saharan Africa (where 60% of the world’s electrified live, mostly in rural areas), the skills gap to fill those jobs is enormous,” Brent highlighted.

  1. The resulting research results will inform a comprehensive report to be published in Q1 2019 that is to include a strong point-of-view and specific calls to action.

Powering Jobs will produce a range of knowledge products to help raise awareness and educate in addition to the survey report, according to Brent. “We’ll engage in active communications (through media and 1:1’s with decision-makers and original content) and we’ll conduct national round-tables to ensure the topic is front and center of policy discussions,” he said.

2019: A key year for powering solar jobs

Publication of the Powering Jobs report is to kick-off national campaigns to raise funding and institutional support.

2019 is a key year for the campaign, since there will be a high-level political focus on SDG 8 (Decent Work) and we want to make sure that energy access jobs are an important topic of focus for global decision-makers.

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The Rockefeller Foundation and Foundation Schneider Electric are providing financial support for the Power Jobs Campaign at present. Other participants include: CLASP, AMDA (African Mini-Grid Developers Association), Schneider Electric, the Alliance for Rural Electrification, India’s Skill Council for Green Jobs and several other, private companies, Brent told Solar Magazine. “We expect to have a couple of big multinational agencies on board…as well,” Brent said.

“Our experience training 190,000 technicians and supporting hundreds of local training partners has convinced us that we must develop public-private collaboration to fully leverage human capital in local markets,” said Thomas Andre, strategy leader for energy access at Schneider Electric. “Recently, we partnered with the government of Indonesia, as part of their Making Indonesia 4.0 agenda, to train 240 teachers and heads of laboratories from professional schools, to prepare their expected 10,800 vocational students for work in the next five years all across the country. This model needs to spread globally if we want to achieve sustainable energy for all by 2030.” comment

* Cover image credit: flickr @oncor

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IRENA Signs Partnership with Southeast Asian Countries as Region Looks to Scale-Up Renewable Energy https://solarmagazine.com/irena-signs-partnership-with-southeast-asian-countries-region-looks-scale-up-renewables/ https://solarmagazine.com/irena-signs-partnership-with-southeast-asian-countries-region-looks-scale-up-renewables/#respond Wed, 31 Oct 2018 03:42:18 +0000 https://solarmagazine.com/?p=1723 Singapore, 30 October 2018 — The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) signed an agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) today, forging a new partnership aimed at scaling up renewable energy deployment and advancing the transition to a sustainable energy future. The memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by IRENA’s Director-General Adnan Z. Amin […]

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Singapore, 30 October 2018 — The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) signed an agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) today, forging a new partnership aimed at scaling up renewable energy deployment and advancing the transition to a sustainable energy future. The memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by IRENA’s Director-General Adnan Z. Amin and the Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dato Lim Jock Hoi, on the sidelines of the 36th ASEAN Ministers on Energy (AMEM) and the Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW), in the presence of regional ministers.

Under the agreement, IRENA and ASEAN will work closely to strengthen the enabling environment for renewable energy investment and deployment as ASEAN pursues an aspirational target of 23 per cent of primary energy from renewables by 2025. Based on IRENA analysis, achieving the target will require an estimated annual investment of USD 27 billion, equivalent to one per cent of regional GDP, for the next eight years – a tenfold increase on 2016 investment volumes.

“Southeast Asia is a dynamic and rapidly evolving region with strong economic growth, rising incomes and growing populations, factors that will increase regional demand for power,” said Mr. Adnan Z. Amin, Director-General of IRENA. “Renewables will be the key to addressing this growing demand and ensuring energy security, while powering the inclusive and sustainable economic development of the region.

“This partnership brings political will and technical knowledge together to unlock the vast potential that exists in Southeast Asia to harness renewable energy and deliver widespread benefits to communities in all ten member states,” continued Mr. Amin. “IRENA will work closely with ASEAN to implement a joint action plan that ensures Southeast Asia continues its remarkable economic story in a new age of energy.”

Accelerating the deployment of renewable energy offers enormous socio-economic benefits to the region, including the development of new value chains, job creation and improved livelihoods. In Southeast Asia, employment in the renewable energy sector currently stands at around 600,000. A scale-up of renewables in the region has the potential to create well over two million jobs by 2030.

“Transitioning our energy systems to renewable energy and supporting sustainable development are top priorities for ASEAN member states and for the people of our nations,” said the Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dato Lim Jock Hoi. “The world is evolving. New technologies and innovative approaches present important social and economic opportunities.”

“This agreement represents an extension of the close relationship between ASEAN and IRENA, allowing our member states to not only learn from one another, but benefit from global best practice in the implementation of sound and successful renewable energy policies,” continued Dato Lim Jock Hoi. “This will help ASEAN Member States transition to low carbon growth and contribute to the attainment of sustainable development.”

Acknowledging IRENA’s key role in the energy transformation, the ASEAN Energy Ministers expressed confidence that the ASEAN-IRENA MoU will contribute towards closing the region’s renewables deployment gap.

The partnership will see IRENA and ASEAN Energy Ministers work closely across a number of key implementation focus areas, including:

  • Energy planning in the context of integration of high-shares of renewables to the ASEAN energy mix.
  • Assessments and roadmaps for accelerated renewable energy deployment, including updates to the ASEAN Renewable Energy Outlook.
  • Promote knowledge sharing among regional policy makers to implement enabling renewable energy policy and regulatory frameworks to capitalise on the social and economic benefits of scaled up RE deployment.
  • Support the advancement of various renewable energy resources across ASEAN member states through detailed technology and innovation assessments and cost reduction potential analysis.
  • Enable the development of bankable RE projects and support for project facilitation through IRENA’s various project facilitation platforms.
  • Build capacity of policy makers, regulators, utilities and other key stakeholders in the region on various renewable energy topics through training and workshops.

IRENA has worked closely with the ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE) and ASEAN to find ways to accelerate renewable energy deployment across the region. An IRENA and ACE Renewable Energy Outlook for ASEAN report, released in 2016, shows that ASEAN’s renewables target is attainable. The report found that renewable energy in the region can bring lower overall costs, contribute to cleaner cities, and support a more secure and robust energy supply.

The report also found that around half of the region’s renewable energy potential lies in power generation, especially in solar PV that could grow from two to almost 60 gigawatts. Furthermore, the region’s vast biomass endowment can progress end-use sectors, such as transport, buildings and industry and bring savings of up to USD 40 billion by 2025 from reduced fossil fuels expenditure.

About the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is an intergovernmental organisation that supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future, and serves as the principal platform for international co-operation, a centre of excellence, and a repository of policy, technology, resource and financial knowledge on renewable energy. With 158 Members (158 States and the European Union) and 25 additional countries in the accession process and actively engaged, IRENA promotes the widespread adoption and sustainable use of all forms of renewable energy, including bioenergy, geothermal, hydropower, ocean, solar and wind energy, in the pursuit of sustainable development, energy access, energy security and low-carbon economic growth and prosperity. comment

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100-Megawatt Armonia Microgrid Project Sets Palau On Course to Meet 45%-by-2025 Renewable Energy Goal Five Years Ahead of Schedule https://solarmagazine.com/armonia-microgrid-palau-to-meet-renewable-energy-goal-ahead-of-schedule/ https://solarmagazine.com/armonia-microgrid-palau-to-meet-renewable-energy-goal-ahead-of-schedule/#respond Mon, 29 Oct 2018 11:43:15 +0000 https://solarmagazine.com/?p=1711 ENGIE eps is building what’s billed as the world’s largest, solar power-energy storage microgrid for the government of Palau. With 100 MW of power generation and distribution capacity, the Armonia microgrid will enable Palau to meet its 45%-by-2025 renewable energy goal five years ahead of schedule, as well as offer electricity at the lowest rates […]

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ENGIE eps is building what’s billed as the world’s largest, solar power-energy storage microgrid for the government of Palau. With 100 MW of power generation and distribution capacity, the Armonia microgrid will enable Palau to meet its 45%-by-2025 renewable energy goal five years ahead of schedule, as well as offer electricity at the lowest rates in Palau’s history, according to the project partners.

Comprising 35 MW of dispatchable, solar power generation and 45 MWh of lithium-ion battery energy storage capacity, Armonia will be coupled with current diesel generation “to transform the Palau grid into a smart, integrated system with an overall installed power of over 100 MW, representing the largest microgrid in the world and a global reference for the state-of-the-art technology,” according to ENGIE eps. It’s all part of ENGIE eps’ worldwide Access to Energy strategy. The renewable energy produced by Armonia’s solar PV is expected to meet more than 45% of Palau’s total demand for electricity.

Palau’s 100-Megawatt Armonia Microgrid Project Built by ENGIE eps

“The project will deliver the lowest possible tariff ever registered in islands, well below the current generation cost based entirely on polluting diesel, while upgrading the current grid with energy storage to secure reliability and resilience,” ENGIE eps CEO Carlalberto Guglielminotti told Solar Magazine. “This has been, particularly from the economics perspective, an unprecedented low tariff for ENGIE eps and in the worldwide market, enabled by our bold Access to Energy strategy, the strong support of the Palau government and the visionary role of broad-based responsibility to Palau’s citizens displayed by the National Congress.”

A fast-growing market leader

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Faced with rising sea levels, saltwater intrusion of freshwater reservoirs and other ripple effects of a warming climate, Pacific island nations and territories have emerged at the forefront of the global effort to stem the rising tide of greenhouse gas emissions, mean global temperatures and the myriad, profound effects of rapid climate warming. Having signed on the UN Paris Climate Change Agreement, the government of Palau enacted its 45%-by-2025 renewable energy target, along with a goal of reducing energy-sector emissions 22% below 2005 levels, in August 2017.

“In the midst of the global energy transition, it is imperative that we address climate mitigation and climate adaption – at the same time.” – Palau President Tommy Remengesau
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“In the midst of the global energy transition, it is imperative that we address climate mitigation and climate adaption – at the same time,” Palau President Tommy Remengesau stated.

As we reduce our carbon footprint, so too should we reduce the vulnerabilities of our energy infrastructure in the face of rising seas and natural disasters. As we generate cleaner energy, it must also be reliable, accessible, and economical for those citizens of the world who live on the front-lines of climate change. Our partnership with ENGIE has accelerated Palau’s transition toward a renewable and resilient future.

A 30-year power purchase agreement (PPA) signed by the Government of Palau, with the Palau Public Utilities Corp. as off-taker, and ENGIE eps sets the terms and conditions of the ambitious, Pacific island-wide Armonia project. Estimated value of the project totals US$70 million to US$80 million and ENGIE eps expects to bring Armonia online before the end of 2019, CEO Carlalberto Guglielminotti told Solar Magazine.

Ten years of research and development went into EPS’ (Electro Power Systems) off-grid, solar-storage technology and systems platform before executives officially launched the company’s new business strategy and long-term plan in May of 2014, Guglielminotti recounted. The company’s stock was listed and open to trade in April the following year and the company was busy carrying out projects in various countries.

The largest independent power producer in the world, French multinational ENGIE acquired a controlling equity stake in EPS earlier this year. The acquisition closed in March. By the end of 2017, ENGIE eps had grown to be one of the largest installers of off-grid, solar-storage and other types of hybrid microgrids in the world, having installed or contracted to install systems with a total power capacity of more than 80 MW, according to the CEO. At the time, ENGIE eps microgrids were supplying clean, emissions-free electricity to more than 165,000 people in Africa and Asia.

By the time ENGIE announced its acquisition plan, EPS had deployed microgrids in the tens of megawatts in Africa and the Maldives, a 12-MW system in Australia and a 20-MW energy storage system in Spain. Billed as the largest microgrid of its kind in the world, “Armonia isn’t all that different in terms of order of magnitude, but it is much larger in scale,” Guglielminotti said.

ENGIE eps CEO Carlalberto Guglielminotti
ENGIE eps CEO Carlalberto Guglielminotti

“Lots of people are claiming lots of things when it comes to solar-storage and microgrids, but ask them how many people they are supplying power to. By the end of next year, ENGIE eps will commission systems powering the work and lives of approximately 500,000 people,” Guglielminotti said in an interview.

The microgrids ENGIE eps has built are being used for a variety of purposes:

  • A 5.9 MW, grid-forming Hybrid Power Plant ENGIE eps built for NECSOM, the National Electric Corporation of Somalia combines 1 MW-peak of solar PV, 750 kW of wind and 3.2 megavolt-amps (MVA), or 3.2 MW, of distributed generation and 1 MW/1.8 MWh of battery energy storage capacity with a 1 MW power conversion system equipped with full virtual inertia DROOP control technology. Serving a 3.5 MW load, more than 25 percent of local power consumption in the northeastern town of Garowe, the microgrid is expected to displace diesel-fired power generation by more than 2,000 liters per day and reduce customers’ electricity bills an average 17 percent.
  • Two microgrids ENGIE eps built for the government of the Comoros off the coast of Tanzania have a combined solar PV power generation capacity of 10 MW. They’re coupled with a series of battery energy storage systems distributed across the island and supply clean, emissions-free electricity for some 400,000 inhabitants on Anjouan and Mohéli, the two volcanic islands adjacent to the main island of Grande Comore.
  • A 12 MW solar-storage-based Hybrid Power Plant ENGIE eps built for Toshiba is powering a mining site in South Australia. Comprising 3 MW-peak of solar PV, 2 MWp of wind power generation and a 1 MW/0.5MWh Li-ion titanate-based battery energy storage system, the microgrid displaces the mining facility’s use of diesel fuel for power generation. The facility includes a small town of underground residences, with the solar-storage microgrid expected to provide as much as 70 percent of the facility’s total power needs over its projected, 20-year life.
  • With 20 MW of solar and 12.2 MWh of battery storage capacity, the turnkey microgrid ENGIE eps built for Italy’s ENEL and Spain’s Endesa, the end user, stores and dispatches power generated by Endesa’s coal-fired, Carboneras thermoelectric power plant in Almeria, on Spain’s southeastern, Mediterranean coast in order to enhance the stability of the utility grid. Incorporating 24 inverters, eight power control systems (PCS) and eight lithium-ion battery storage modules housed in 16 containers, the utility-scale BESS is said to be the largest in Spain.

A full slate of distributed and off-grid renewable and hybrid power solutions

ENGIE eps prides itself on the power and energy technology it has developed in-house. The company sources solar PV and battery energy storage cells from third parties, but all the other hardware and software used in its projects, including containerization, are designed and manufactured in-house, either by eps or by another ENGIE business group or operating unit.

Adopting and integrating the latest power electronics, digital information and artificial intelligence tools and technology with renewable power and energy storage systems has been a driving force fueling development and growth of distributed renewable energy worldwide, a trend that ENGIE eps is capitalizing on. That said, software accounts for perhaps no more than 20 percent of the complexity of managing and stabilizing distributed and off-grid power systems, as compared to power electronics, power conversion and power control and management hardware, according to Guglielminotti.

“We offer a full slate of technology and complete, turnkey solutions that includes fully integrated power control and electronics, power conversion and battery systems management, inverters for both solar PV and energy storage along with dispatching algorithms and SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) platforms,” Guglielminotti told Solar Magazine. “We offer full, completely vertically integrated solutions that enable anyone to manage a grid of whatever scope and scale – from small, localized systems up through to national grids.”

Being part of ENGIE has raised eps’ systems design, engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) and its project development capabilities to a new, much higher level. ENGIE eps works very closely with ENGIE Solar, Guglielminotti explained, particularly when developing very large projects such as Palau’s Armonia microgrid.

Aerial View of Palau
Aerial view of Palau. | Credit: The Island Resilience Partnership

“ENGIE is the largest independent power producer in the world, having installed more than 110 gigawatts (GW) of power generation capacity worldwide,” Guglielminotti pointed out. “The acquisition is working out very well for both companies, and created a real driving force of the energy transition towards a massive access to energy strategy,” he added.

Guglielminotti emphasized that ENGIE eps seeks out, develops and participates in projects based solely on their economics and technical characteristics, the focus being on emerging markets in Africa, Asia and islands worldwide, in that order.

“We provide clean, hybrid and renewable, off-grid and grid-connected energy systems with dramatically lower costs and those that rely on diesel generation…More than one-third of the global population – slightly more than 2 billion people – lack energy access or relay on diesel generation today. And I mean for primary, not back-up, 24×7 power generation. That’s a market of some 600 GW, with an installed fleet of diesel generation and an estimated market value for solar-storage microgrids of approximately US$22 billion,” Guglielminotti said.

“Every project we get involved in is based on a strictly commercial basis – no government or tariff subsidies, incentives or other support… A renewable or hybrid power plant or microgrid has to be cost-competitive in terms of power generation in order to displace diesel power generation. We are able to produce clean, emissions-free power and energy 24×7 competitively with solar PV and battery energy storage, and we’re looking to scale up aggressively.” comment

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Department of Energy Announces $53 Million in New Projects to Advance Solar Technologies https://solarmagazine.com/doe-announces-53-million-in-new-projects-to-advance-solar-technologies/ https://solarmagazine.com/doe-announces-53-million-in-new-projects-to-advance-solar-technologies/#respond Tue, 23 Oct 2018 22:18:59 +0000 https://solarmagazine.com/?p=1707 Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced selections for up to $53 million in new projects to advance early-stage solar technologies. Through the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office, DOE will fund 53 innovative research projects that will lower solar electricity costs and support a growing solar workforce. “Innovation is key […]

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Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced selections for up to $53 million in new projects to advance early-stage solar technologies. Through the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office, DOE will fund 53 innovative research projects that will lower solar electricity costs and support a growing solar workforce.

Department of Energy Announces Funds to Advance Solar Technologies and Boost Solar Workforce

“Innovation is key to solar’s continued growth in our nation’s energy portfolio. It increases our energy diversity and reinforces our ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. “Developing new skills through workforce training is critical to expanding job opportunities in the renewable sector, which is why we are following through on our program to reach out to military veterans with new projects that will target this committed workforce.”

These selections will advance research and development in photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP). While PV materials convert sunlight directly to electricity, CSP concentrates the incoming sunlight to heat that then generates electricity like a traditional power plant. The projects announced today span across 21 states plus the District of Columbia, and include PV research to increase grid resiliency in Puerto Rico. Selections are in the following areas:

  • Photovoltaics Research and Development: $27.7 million for 31 projects that will support early-stage research to advance new PV materials, like perovskites, which can essentially be painted on a surface to generate electricity. More innovation is needed to achieve high efficiency and stable performance over a long-time.
  • Concentrating Solar Power Research and Development: $12.4 million for 15 research projects that will advance the high-temperature components of CSP systems such as heat exchangers. These projects will develop materials and designs for collectors, power cycles, and thermal transport systems that can withstand temperatures greater than 700 °C while being corrosion-resistant. Next-generation CSP systems operating at higher temperatures will be able to store more heat and dispatch solar electricity at any time, day or night.
  • Improving and Expanding the Solar Industry through Workforce Initiatives: $12.7 million for 7 projects that will pursue initiatives to grow and train the solar workforce. These projects will support training and curriculum development at community colleges and advanced training for a more digital electric power system, which includes communications technology. This includes programs to prepare veterans and interested transitioning military personnel to join the solar workforce, building on DOE’s pilot program, Solar Ready Vets.

See the full list of projects on the website HERE. Award amounts are subject to final negotiation.

Learn more about DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy HERE. comment

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The Solar Energy Industries Association and The Solar Foundation Aim to Bring Down U.S. Solar Soft Costs https://solarmagazine.com/seia-the-solar-foundation-aim-to-bring-down-us-solar-soft-costs/ https://solarmagazine.com/seia-the-solar-foundation-aim-to-bring-down-us-solar-soft-costs/#respond Wed, 17 Oct 2018 10:02:46 +0000 https://solarmagazine.com/?p=1693 So-called “soft costs” continue to account for a rising proportion of total installed solar energy systems costs in the U.S. That has led the U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and The Solar Foundation (TSF) to launch the Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP) initiative. The soft costs associated with installing a residential or non-residential solar […]

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So-called “soft costs” continue to account for a rising proportion of total installed solar energy systems costs in the U.S. That has led the U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and The Solar Foundation (TSF) to launch the Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP) initiative.

The soft costs associated with installing a residential or non-residential solar photovoltaic (PV) system in the U.S. continued to decline in 2017, contributing to a decline in overall installed systems costs. The U.S. national median cost of installing a residential solar PV system came in at US$3.7 per Watt in 2017, down US$0.2/W or 6 per cent from 2016. The corresponding, national median cost for small, non-residential systems installations less than 500 kilowatts (kW) was US$3.1/W, down US$0.4/W or 11 percent, while the national median installed cost of installing a large, non-residential system was US$2.2/W, down US$0.1/W, or 5 percent, according to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s latest, annual “Tracking the Sun” report.

Nonetheless, it’s still more expensive to equip your home, business or tax-exempt organization with a solar energy system in the U.S. than it is in other major national markets. The soft costs of installing a solar PV system – customer acquisition, permitting, inspection, interconnection to the electric grid, installation, taxation and system financing – are a major reason why, Berkeley Lab highlights in its report.

Infographic: U.S. Solar Soft Costs Breakdown
Image: courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy

“Reforming the solar and battery permitting process is one of the most significant steps our country can take to making solar more affordable for all,” Sunrun CEO Lynn Jurich commented upon the launch of the SolarAPP initiative. “There is a patchwork of inconsistent permitting procedures and standards across the U.S. and our customers pay the high costs of navigating this system. We have an opportunity to help the industry invest in a million more solar roofs over the next 5 years from the savings by making the permitting process faster, while ensuring safety and reliability for all.”

Soft costs and international solar energy installation cost comparisons

Falling solar PV module prices account for approximately 46 percent of the decline in U.S. installed residential and non-residential solar PV system costs over the long-term – an average, annual percentage decline of 6 percent for residential, 8 percent for small, non-residential and 11 percent for large, non-residential systems from 2000 through 2017, according to Berkeley Lab’s 2018 Tracking the Sun report. Reductions in inverter prices account for another 12 percent. Other “balance of system” and soft costs account for the remaining 42 percent.

Installed Price, Module Price Index, Inverter Price Index, and Residual Costs over Time for Residential PV Systems
Installed Price, Module Price Index, Inverter Price Index, and Residual Costs over Time for Residential PV Systems | Click here to view the full-size chart. | Source: Berkeley Lab’s 2018 Tracking the Sun report

Just over 40 percent of the long-term decline in balance-of-system and soft costs, could be attributed to growth in residential system sizes and module efficiencies, the former being more dominant than the latter, the report authors note. Furthermore, the reduction in aggregate hardware costs for residential PV from 2016-2017 equates to about half of the decline in national median installed price for residential PV systems. “That implies that the remainder is associated with falling soft costs,” Berkeley Lab’s report authors point out.

That said, soft costs can account for as much as 64 percent of the total cost of installing solar PV systems in the U.S., according to the U.S. Dept. of Energy. Continuing declines in solar soft costs will be essential in order to sustain the downward trend in U.S. total installed solar PV systems costs, Tracking the Sun’s authors highlight.

“Given the limits to further reductions in module and other hardware component prices, continued reductions in soft costs will be essential to driving further deep reductions in installed prices. Unlike module prices and other hardware component costs, which are primarily established through global and national markets, soft costs may be more readily affected by local policies — including deployment programs aimed at increasing demand (and thereby increasing competition and efficiency among installers) as well as more-targeted efforts, such as training and education programs,” they write.

Comparison of Installed Prices in 2017 across Countries (Pre-Sales Tax/VAT)
Comparison of Installed Prices in 2017 across Countries (Pre-Sales Tax/VAT) | Click here to view the full-size chart. | Source: Berkeley Lab’s 2018 Tracking the Sun report

Making apples-to-apples comparisons across national borders poses a thorny problem, but studies conducted by Berkeley Lab and others have shown that soft costs, in particular, tend to be higher in the U.S. than in most other markets, Tracking the Sun’s authors point out. Installing a system in Australia typically cost the equivalent of around US$1.8/W in 2017 – half the national median price in the US, for example, according to the study. Installed costs were even lower in Germany, where the 2017, all-in cost of installing a residential or non-residential solar PV system was US$1.5/W.

SolarAPP: A bid to streamline solar soft cost procedures and processes nationwide

Regulatory and other government agencies at the state and federal levels have been working to streamline the various bureaucratic processes and documentation associated with having a residential or non-residential solar PV system installed in the U.S. SEIA and TSF aim to give these initiatives a boost with the SolarAPP initiative.

According to SEIA, the permitting and inspection process adds about US$1.00W per watt – approximately US$7,000 in direct and indirect costs – to a typical residential solar energy system installation. An automated, rules-based, national standard permitting and inspection process, SolarAPP is intended to significantly reduce solar soft costs by streamlining these processes.

SolarAPP features the following solar soft-cost reforms:

  • A safety and skills training and certification program that allows residential and small commercial solar and battery storage installers to attest that their projects are compliant with applicable codes, laws, and industry practices, thus eliminating the need for a traditional multi-step permitting process;
  • A simple, standardized online platform that will be provided to local governments at no cost, to “register” and automatically screen qualifying systems for local government authorities;
  • A list of established equipment standards and/or certified equipment for solar and storage projects installed through the proposed process;
  • The creation, or refinement, of system design standards for qualifying solar projects;
  • A model instantaneous permitting regime for home and small-commercial solar and battery storage systems installed by certified installers and contractors;
  • A program administrator to oversee and implement the plan, including providing technical assistance to state and local jurisdictions and utilities.

“The goal is to make solar permitting more straightforward, and more routine, while at the same time maintaining the safety and reliability that U.S. solar projects are known for. SolarAPP will cut unnecessary red tape, while saving Americans thousands of dollars. By making the process of going solar more efficient, both our companies and their customers win,” said SEIA’s president and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper.

“An automated solar permitting process will reduce unnecessary costs and give Americans more freedom to choose how they meet their energy needs,” added Andrea Luecke, president and executive director at The Solar Foundation. “With this plan, we have a clear path forward to make solar installations even more affordable and widespread.”

Taking a pragmatic approach

SolarAPP’s takes on greater significance amid a backdrop of decreasing U.S. government and utility solar energy incentives and increasing international trade tensions, more specifically the Trump administration’s imposition of a global duty on imports of silicon-solar PV cells and modules.

“Cash incentives (i.e., rebates and performance-based incentives) provided through state and utility PV incentive programs have fallen substantially since their peak a decade ago, and have been largely phased-out in many key markets,” Tracking the Sun’s report authors point out. “Among the five largest residential state PV markets in our sample, for example, the long-term decline in cash incentives has offset between 67 percent and 100 percent of the corresponding drop in installed prices.”

SEIA and TSF are taking a pragmatic approach in working to see SolarAPP through to fruition, explained Justin Baca, SEIA’s vice president of Markets and Research.

Our goal is to get as many authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) on board as possible using the same standardized and streamlined system. The goal is to provide a thoughtful and easy way for AHJs that have burdensome, or no, systems in place to adopt a vetted system that improves efficiency and lowers costs while maintaining safety and reliability for all stakeholders.

— Baca told Solar Magazine.

The two solar industry organizations have been working with SEIA member companies that represent a majority of the U.S. distributed generation (DG) market, according to Baca. Industry response to SolarAPP has been overwhelmingly positive since SEIA and TSF launched the initiative at the 2018 SPI (Solar Power International) conference and exhibition in Anaheim, California Sept. 24 week.

“Everyone knows this system can be improved. We currently have engagement from all of the major national residential developers, as well as several major suppliers, including manufacturers of racking systems and modules. Through their vast experience working with different AHJs throughout the country, we’re able to glean from them what works and what doesn’t. That is critical. Also critical is that all these companies are members of SEIA and, therefore, are supporting the effort financially,” Baca said in an interview.

Reducing solar soft costs of central importance

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Baca explained that SEIA isn’t looking to compete with industry participants that already provide the tools and types of services incorporated in SolarAPP. “We want to build off of what currently exists wherever possible and practical,” he said. “The goal is to recognize, enhance and demonstrate the competency and professionalism of contractors to build trust with other stakeholders who are key to success.”

“The Solar Foundation has extensive experience working with local governments to streamline the permitting process and other local procedures, making it faster and more affordable to install solar,” TSF Director of Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships Philip Haddix told Solar Magazine. Haddix cited TSF’s SolSmart program as an example.

TSF has recognized more than 200 U.S. municipalities and counties for their accomplishments regarding reducing obstacles to solar energy development via the SolSmart program, Haddix pointed out. “We now plan to use our experience and technical expertise as a leader of SolarAPP,” he said.

“This [SolarAPP] is of central importance to both The Solar Foundation and SEIA and we plan to dedicate significant resources and staff time. At The Solar Foundation, numerous staff have been involved at some level. Going forward and over the long run, we expect four employees will be spending a significant portion of their time on the SolarApp initiative,” Haddix said.

“We’re all working extra hours because we see this effort as vital to delivering quality, affordable solar in the U.S., but we need more resources,” added SEIA’s Baca. “Companies interested in seeing success here need to make sure they’re members of SEIA (the national trade association for the solar industry) in addition to their SEIA state affiliate and that they register their interest in this campaign,” Baca said.

TSF is confident SolarAPP’s goals will be achieved. “Through our work on other programs such as SolSmart, we know that many local governments are already setting the example by adopting streamlined, low-cost permitting approaches for solar projects,” Haddix said.

We’re now calling for a standardized permitting approach at the federal, state, and local levels. We’re confident that this will reduce permitting times and dramatically lower costs, without sacrificing either safety or reliability. We will begin with outreach to a small number of jurisdictions and then expand, with the eventual goal of getting most jurisdictions on board.

* Cover image: PennFuture

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Telefónica Teams Up with Solar-Storage System Specialists, Local Telecoms Providers to Bring Wireless Broadband to 100 Million in Latin America https://solarmagazine.com/telefonica-solar-storage-specialists-local-telecoms-providers-wireless-broadband-latin-america/ https://solarmagazine.com/telefonica-solar-storage-specialists-local-telecoms-providers-wireless-broadband-latin-america/#respond Thu, 11 Oct 2018 11:28:49 +0000 https://solarmagazine.com/?p=1681 Spain’s Telefónica is reaching out to solar energy-energy storage systems specialists and local telecommunications-Internet service providers (ISPs) under the banner of its Internet Para Todos (Internet for All) program in a bid to bring the benefits of environmentally friendly solar power and wireless broadband connectivity to 100 million people across Latin America. Telefónica, Canada’s Clear […]

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Spain’s Telefónica is reaching out to solar energy-energy storage systems specialists and local telecommunications-Internet service providers (ISPs) under the banner of its Internet Para Todos (Internet for All) program in a bid to bring the benefits of environmentally friendly solar power and wireless broadband connectivity to 100 million people across Latin America.

Atalaya Wireless Tower and Solar Storage System
Image: GlobeNewswire

Telefónica, Canada’s Clear Blue Technologies International and Peru’s Mayu Telecommunications are deploying two 100% solar energy-fueled, off-grid microgrids to power a “mission-critical network” for the remote city of Atalaya in the Amazon Jungle. Designed and built by Clear Blue Technologies International, the two cloud-connected, solar photovoltaic (PV) systems incorporate battery energy storage in order to power a highly reliable telecommunications and Internet services network that serves 25,000 people in Atalaya who had been “digitally isolated,” the companies highlight.

“When you have so many people relying on the network, you can’t afford to have it under-perform or break down. What’s more, the areas where we have deployed the towers through our partner Mayu are difficult to get to, so in addition to being environmentally clean and cost-efficient, we needed a system that would remain operational without the need for frequent maintenance or repairs,” explained Telefónica’s Cesar Hernandez, manager of strategic projects and investments. “Clear Blue’s Smart Off-Grid technology provides highly reliable off-grid power and the remote control and management capabilities necessary to perform well in this challenging environment. The new connectivity will empower the people of Atalaya to join the modern marketplace.”

Telefónica “Internet Para Todos” Program Conference

A most challenging solar-storage systems deployment

An estimated 20 percent of Latin Americans lack mobile broadband connectivity. Due to geography and climate, many of them are located in remote, environmentally fragile locations that are very difficult to reach, Telefónica points out. The telecomms multinational is taking an open, “ecosystems” approach in seeking to realize Internet Para Todos’s goals.

On the technological front, Telefónica is working with Facebook on multiple projects that make use of new wireless broadband technologies and operating models to bring down the costs of network deployments. On the ground at project sites, Telefónica is partnering with off-grid, renewable energy systems and technology specialists, such as Clear Blue Technologies, and local and regional telecoms and ISPs, such as Peru’s Mayu, to power off-grid networks and deliver wireless and mobile broadband services in ways that are cost-effective and minimize any negative environmental impacts, management explains.

To date, tens of thousands of people living in the highlands of Peru and in the Amazon Jungle are able to access to high-speed, wireless and mobile Internet and telecoms services as a result of Internet Para Todos, according to Telefónica. The logistics of carrying out these projects pose significant hurdles. Project staff hand-carried all the equipment needed to build the solar-storage and wireless broadband systems for more than three hours to the two mountaintop sites in Atalaya.

Atalaya “Internet Para Todos” Project Staff Hand-Carried All Solar Equipment
Image: GlobeNewswire

“This [the Atalaya network] is one of the most challenging deployments we’ve been involved in, with no tracks or roads to transport about 20 tons of materials to each site, but it was well worth it when you consider the end result,” said Omar Tupayachi, Mayu’s president and CEO.

We believe that broadband connectivity through our partnership with Telefónica will provide substantial economic opportunities, particularly for the young people in the area, that will sustain further prosperity in Peru.

“We are pleased to have been able to contribute to this initial step within Telefónica’s ambitious and grand vision of bringing the Internet to 100 million more people in rural Latin America,” Clear Blue co-founder and CEO Miriam Tuerk added. “Clean, reliable Smart Off-Grid power will be a key enabler to the thousands of sites that will be needed to achieve this. It was incredibly rewarding to work with Telefónica and Mayu to support their valuable initiative to connect people throughout Latin America.”

Clear Blue’s Smart Off-Grid Systems platform

Clear Blue’s cloud-based, Smart Off-Grid systems controller and platform is a critical, core element of the Atalaya wireless broadband network. It gives system operators the ability to monitor and manage the wireless network’s solar-storage systems in real-time and in largely automated fashion. That goes a long way to making the combined solar-storage and wireless broadband network system cost-effective, the companies explain.

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Remote systems monitoring and management helps prevent and enhances network operators’ ability to respond to power equipment troubles or outages by reducing the number of times field crews have to be dispatched to sites in response, as well as their response time and the efficiency with which they can carry out repairs. That can reduce solar-storage systems operations and maintenance costs significantly, especially when power equipment is located in remote locations that are very difficult to get to, as is the case in Atalaya.

Clear Blue’s Smart Off-Grid systems platform comes with predictive weather forecasting and remote systems optimization features, as well. The ability to accurately forecast weather and make use of that data to adjust the operation of system components accordingly contributes significantly to optimizing performance of solar-storage power systems during normal, day-to-day operating conditions. Cloud cover can change rapidly in Atalaya and other rain forest environments, for example. That can significantly reduce a solar PV system’s power output, necessitating greater use of battery energy storage. In addition, the ability to forecast the arrival of a large thunderstorm, for example, minimizes the impacts of extreme weather events on the performance of both the microgrid and wireless broadband network.

Aerial View of the Remote City Atalaya in the Amazon Jungle
Aerial view of Atalaya. | Image: courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

More specifically, the Smart Off-Grid controller features more than 24 performance indicators, such as battery charge and voltage readings. Predictive weather analysis estimates energy generation for the ensuing six days based on current load and local forecasts and can offer recommendations to preserve battery life, Clear Blue highlights. System owners are able to create alerts for individual systems individually or for an entire network. Notifications can be sent via SMS or email, enabling system operators to respond to issues as they arise. The platform also features 20 different information dashboards and reports, including daily, weekly and monthly performance charts, that system operators can customize to serve their particular needs.

Pilot-test deployments for Telefónica’s Internet Para Todos program

The Atalaya network is intended to serve as a pilot test for the Internet Para Todos program. Project partners aim to benefit from the project by establishing best practices and analytics that can then be applied at other project sites throughout Latin America.

“Over a quarter of the world’s population lives without access to reliable sources of electricity,” Tuerk said in an interview earlier this year. “The lack of clean, affordable and reliable power has a profound effect on the health, economy and lives of those living in poorer countries around the world. Communities without power cannot work longer than daylight hours, engage in the global digital economy via the Internet, or access critical infrastructure, such as hospitals and schools. This is particularly the case in developing countries…where grid infrastructure has struggled to keep pace with demand as economies have prospered.”

Clear Blue believes its Smart Off-Grid technology provides a clean, cost-effective alternative to traditional, conventional ways and means of rural, remote and small community electrification, whether it be in the developing or developed world. “As the cost of solar power continues to drop and system reliability increases through the adoption of Smart Off-Grid technology, these communities in developing countries will have greater access to dependable, affordable, clean power. This is critical to ensuring these communities are not left behind in the digital technology age,” according to Clear Blue.

“Developing new technology is just one part of the equation,” Telefónica Chief Innovation Officer Gonzalo Martin-Villa pointed out. “We also need to explore new business models and cooperate with other service providers and regulators to make the investment required sustainable. These innovations are the foundation of the next generation networks and services that will benefit the whole industry and, above all, society”. comment

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Oxford PV and Oxford University Partnership to Develop an All-Perovskite Solar Cell https://solarmagazine.com/oxford-pv-oxford-university-partnership-to-develop-an-all-perovskite-solar-cell/ https://solarmagazine.com/oxford-pv-oxford-university-partnership-to-develop-an-all-perovskite-solar-cell/#respond Thu, 27 Sep 2018 02:57:21 +0000 https://solarmagazine.com/?p=1672 Oxford, 26 September 2018 – Oxford PVTM – The Perovskite CompanyTM, the leader in the field of perovskite solar cells, today announced a five year research project with the University of Oxford to develop a thin-film multi-junction perovskite solar cell, with a target 37% efficiency and long term stability. The £5 Million collaboration has been awarded £2.5 Million […]

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Oxford, 26 September 2018 – Oxford PVTM – The Perovskite CompanyTM, the leader in the field of perovskite solar cells, today announced a five year research project with the University of Oxford to develop a thin-film multi-junction perovskite solar cell, with a target 37% efficiency and long term stability.

The £5 Million collaboration has been awarded £2.5 Million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of its Prosperity Partnerships programme, with the remainder matched by Oxford PV. The EPSRC grant is designed to support long term, research-based partnerships between business and universities, with national and global importance.

From the University of Oxford, both the Photovoltaic and Optoelectronic Device Research Group led by Professor Henry Snaith (Oxford PV’s Chief Scientific Officer and Co-founder), and the Semiconductor Research Group led by Professor Laura Herz, will form the partnership with Oxford PV.

Dr Chris Case, Chief Technology Officer at Oxford PV commented, “Oxford PV’s commercial focus remains firmly on its two-terminal perovskite-on-silicon tandem solar cell technology. We have made significant progress in this respect. Today, commercial sized perovskite-on-silicon tandem solar cells are in production at our pilot line and we are optimising equipment and processes in preparation for commercial deployment.”

Oxford PV Perovskite Solar Research and Development Team

“Oxford PV is always exploring new ways to push the boundaries in perovskite solar cell technology development – this new initiative with Oxford University is one such project. Longer term, providing the PV industry with a low cost solar cell technology that could reach an efficiency level of nearly 40%, is an exciting prospect that would further transform global solar energy generation – helping drive the world toward an all-electric future.”

In June, Oxford PV set a world record certified efficiency of 27.3% for its perovskite-on-silicon solar cell. This exceeded the 26.7% efficiency world record for a single junction silicon solar cell – further validating the ability of perovskite to enhance the performance of silicon-based photovoltaics. Oxford PV’s perovskite-on-silicon solar cell technology roadmap extends beyond 30% efficiency. comment

* Cover image source: Oxford PV

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