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ABB installs solar-storage microgrid at its Gujarat manufacturing facility



The manufacturing hub is the company’s largest facility in India, with over 3,000 employees. Credit: ABB

Technology provider ABB has inaugurated a microgrid solution at its Vadodora manufacturing facility in Gujarat, India.

The microgrid is said to be the first of its kind to be installed at a manufacturing campus in India using both solar PV and battery energy storage. The technology combination will support the factory’s productivity and enable green power supplies in the evening hours or during cloudy periods during the day.

The manufacturing hub is the company’s largest facility in India, with over 3,000 employees, producing transformers, high voltage products, distribution relays, motors, generators and turbochargers for a variety of national projects and beyond.

ABB’s Ability control and automation system, will serve the microgrid and ensure the optimal use of the renewable energy. A cloud-based remote service system will be deployed for the operations and maintenance of the microgrid.

“Reliable, resilient and cost-effective power supply through microgrids is key to achieve Make in India targets, speed up industrial development and realize the vision of 24x7 power for all,” said Sanjeev Sharma, managing director, ABB India. “At a time when renewable energy, electric propulsion and digital technologies are disrupting the market, we are proud to partner our nation's Skill India program through ABB PowerTEC to train the workforce of the future.”

 

Energy-Storage.News has reported on two other ABB microgrids in recent weeks, one which includes a 30MW battery system at Alinta Energy’s Newman Power Station in Pilbara, Western Australia, at a natural gas-fired facility, was announced as completed in mid-April and another, a fully-contained microgrid project for Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), is just getting underway. 



Link: https://www.energy-storage.news/news/abb-installs-solar-storage-microgrid-at-its-gujarat-manufacturing-facility


Detroit Zoo adds solar smartflower

There’s a new 16-ft, ground-mounted, solar-paneled “smartflower” at the Detroit Zoo. It is the first of its kind to be installed, not only in Michigan, but in any zoo in the country.

Sunflowers turn their blossoms to face the sun to make optimum use of the light, increasing their growth rate. The creators of smartflower based the system to function similarly through the use of a GPS-based dual-axis tracker. The system features 12 solar panels–shaped to mimic petals–that follow the sun throughout the day. When the sun rises in the morning, the smartflower unfolds and aims its panels to the sky to begin producing energy. The petals will automatically close again when the sun goes down, storing the excess energy. The system is expected to generate more than 4,000 kW of electricity annually, enough to power the zoo’s carousel and other areas.

According to the zoo’s blog, the addition is just another step in the Detroit Zoological Society’s green journey to create a more sustainable future.





Link: https://www.solarpowerworldonline.com/2018/04/detroit-zoo-adds-solar-smartflower/

Would you pay 1.795¡é/kWh for solar power in 2043?

Low solar power contract records don’t last long these days.

We’re now learning that as part of NV Energy’s 1 GW of solar and 400 MWh of energy storage deal that was announced last week, 8minutenergy secured a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) for a price of 2.375¢/kWh to sell power from the 300 MW Eagle Shadow Mountain solar project, at a fixed rate. This price is lower than the 2.49¢/kWh Arizona deal that pv magazine reported on just yesterday.

The starting prices of the six bids ranged from 2.155¢/kWh to 2.966¢/kWh.

Tim Buckley, of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, noted that with the 8minuteenergy project having a fixed annual price at 2.376¢/kWh, when accounting for inflation over the long term – at a very low 2.5% – the electricity will effectively be sold at the equivalent of 1.795¢/kWh in 2043.
 


The Sempra Renewables 250 MW Copper Mountain Project put in an even lower starting bid – 2.155¢/kWh. However, this bid has a 2.5% escalator. If said escalator is non-compounding, then the effective 25-year PPA rate is 2.8¢/kWh.

These and other project details that are just starting to leak out are in the Public Utilities Filing that was brought to light by Adam Browning, Executive Director of Vote Solar.

One detail in the Eagle Mountain Project notes is a reference to a “425W Hanwha Q Cell” solar panel. The highest power rating for a product currently listed on Hanwha’s website is a utility-scale product rated up to 390W.

8minutenergy says its in the early stages of the procurement phase, and hasn’t finalized on a solar module yet – so this panel may yet be a myth.

Later in the document, on a project owned by a subsidiary of Hanwha – the utility scale line is referenced by family number, no wattage though. In the Hanwha project they note an ‘HQC 72-cell Q.Peak LG5.2/H’ as the specific product to be used.

Hanwha Q-Cell recently announced plans to build a 1.6GW/year capacity solar panel assembly facility in Georgia. The company did not reveal what specific product they plan to make, other than that it would be “high-quality PERC modules.”

Developers having direct access to future products is one way these future minded prices can be so much more competitive than standard sales channels.

For its part, Cypress Creek Renewables plans to use LONGi 400W panels on NexTracker single-axis trackers.

The energy storage projects secured 10- and 15-year PPAs, with capacity payments of $6,110/MW-month, $6,200/MW-month and $7,755/MW-month. The two lower bids had 2% escalators and signed 15-year deals, while the higher priced project was for 10 years at a fixed price.


Link: https://pv-magazine-usa.com/2018/06/12/would-you-pay-1-795%C2%A2-kwh-for-solar-power-in-2043/


Are solar panels a middle-class purchase? This survey says yes

The rate of growth in residential rooftop solar photovoltaics (PV) in Australia since 2008 has been nothing short of breathtaking.

Our new research suggests that the households most likely to join in the solar spree are those that are affluent enough to afford the upfront investment, but not so wealthy that they don’t worry about their future power bills.

Australia now has the highest penetration of residential rooftop PV of any country in the world, with the technology having been installed on one in five freestanding or semi-detached homes. In the market-leading states of Queensland and South Australia this ratio is about one in three, and Western Australia is not far behind, with one in four having PV.

 
The explosion in rooftop PV uptake since 2008. Derived from Clean Energy Regulator data. Click image to enlarge.

While PV panels give households more control over their electricity bills, and each new installation helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the market’s rapid expansion has posed significant challenges for the management of the electricity system as a whole.
 

Unlike other industries where goods can be warehoused or stockpiled to manage fluctuations in supply and demand, electricity is not yet readily storable. Storage options such as batteries are now commercially available, but haven’t yet reached widespread use. This means that a system operator is required to keep the grid balanced in real time, ideally with just the right amount of capacity and backup to manage shocks in supply or demand.

Securing the right amount of generation capacity for the electricity grid relies on long-term planning, informed by accurate supply and demand forecasts. Too much investment means excessive prices or assets lying idle (or both). Too little means longer, deeper or more frequent blackouts.

But as solar panels spread rapidly through the suburbs, the job of forecasting supply and demand is getting much harder.

This is because the commercial history of residential rooftop PV has been too short, and the pace of change too fast, for a clear uptake trend to be established. Previous attempts to predict the market’s continuing growth have thus entailed a lot of guesswork.

Why do people buy solar panels?

One way to improve our understanding is to talk to consumers directly about their purchasing intentions and decisions. The trick is to find out what prompts householders to take that final step from considering investing in solar panels, to actually buying them.

This was the approach we took with our research, published today in the international journal, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. We analysed data from a survey of more than 8,000 Queensland households in 2014 and 2015, part of a survey series commissioned by an industry group now known as Energy Queensland.

 
Comparison of motivational factors between surveyed PV intenders and adopters. Bondio, Shahnazari & McHugh (2018). Click image to enlarge.

We found that the decision to go solar was driven largely by housholds’ concerns over rising electricity bills and the influence that economic life events have over perceptions of affordability.

But the households that tended to adopt PV were also those that were affluent enough not to be put off by the relatively large upfront cost.

This combination of having access to funds, while at the same time being concerned about future electricity prices, appears to be a broadly middle-class trait.

While the upfront cost of PV can deter lower-income households, this can be overcome by receiving an offer that is too good to refuse, or if concerns about ongoing electricity bills are acute – particularly in the case of retirees.

Electricity price uncertainty is a particular concern for retirees, who typically have a lower income. We found that retirees were more likely than non-retirees to invest in solar panels, all else being equal. Retirees, like many people who invest in solar power, seem to view buying solar panels as being like entering into a long-term contract for electricity supply, in that it provides price certainty over the life of the PV system.

We also found that while the idea of self-sufficiency was important for developing an intention to buy solar panels, this motivation later fell away among households that went ahead and bought them. This could be because householders who buy solar panels, but find themselves still relying significantly on the grid, may conclude that self-sufficiency isn’t achievable after all.

About one-third of those who said they intended to buy solar panels cited environmental concerns as a reason for their interest. Yet this factor did not significantly increase the odds of them going on to adopt the technology. This suggests that when it comes to the crunch, household finances are often the crucial determining factor.
 

We also found the chances of adopting solar panels were highest for homes with three or four bedrooms. Smaller homes may face practical limitations regarding roof space, whereas homes with five bedrooms or more are likely to be more valuable, suggesting that these householders may sit above a wealth threshold beyond which they are unconcerned about electricity bills.

But perhaps our most important finding is that analysis of household survey data can be useful to forecasters. Knowing who is adopting rooftop PV – and why – should enable better predictions to be made about the technology’s continuing expansion, including the crucial question of when the market might reach its saturation point.



Link: http://theconversation.com/are-solar-panels-a-middle-class-purchase-this-survey-says-yes-97614

Detroit Zoo adds solar smartflower

There’s a new 16-ft, ground-mounted, solar-paneled “smartflower” at the Detroit Zoo. It is the first of its kind to be installed, not only in Michigan, but in any zoo in the country.

Sunflowers turn their blossoms to face the sun to make optimum use of the light, increasing their growth rate. The creators of smartflower based the system to function similarly through the use of a GPS-based dual-axis tracker. The system features 12 solar panels–shaped to mimic petals–that follow the sun throughout the day. When the sun rises in the morning, the smartflower unfolds and aims its panels to the sky to begin producing energy. The petals will automatically close again when the sun goes down, storing the excess energy. The system is expected to generate more than 4,000 kW of electricity annually, enough to power the zoo’s carousel and other areas.

According to the zoo’s blog, the addition is just another step in the Detroit Zoological Society’s green journey to create a more sustainable future.




Link: https://www.solarpowerworldonline.com/2018/04/detroit-zoo-adds-solar-smartflower/

Hawaii reforms how electric utilities get paid, opening options for home solar and batteries

Hawaii Governor David Ige signed into law SB 2939, which reforms the century-old model for how investor-owned electric utilities get paid. The law links future utility revenues, in the form of performance incentives or penalties, to performance metrics. This includes incentives for Hawaiian utilities to connect more customer-sited solar and battery systems.

“This is an important step forward to align the design of our electricity system with the needs of the public,” said Robert Harris, director of public policy at Sunrun. “This new law breaks the direct link between revenues and utility investments in infrastructure,meaning Hawaii’s electric utilities no longer make more money just by spending more. ”

In passing the bill, the Hawaii State Legislature voiced concern about the high cost proposed to modernize the electric grid. Because of misalignment in the way electric utilities get paid, the Legislature was concerned utilities would have “a bias toward expending utility capital on utility-owned projects that may displace more efficient or cost-effective options, such as distributed energy resources owned by customers . . .”

“This bill is a big win for local consumers who will pay less for better electric service with more options for home solar and batteries, and it is a responsible step forward helping utilities transition to a sustainable business model that can survive disruption in the energy sector,” said Hawaii state representative Chris Lee, chair of the Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection.

“We need to better align the electric utility’s interests with the public’s interest,” said Anne Hoskins, Chief Policy Officer, Sunrun. “The future is going to be a more dynamic and customer-centered energy system, and we must ensure we maximize public benefit and meet broader economic and environmental goals.”

Sunrun recently published a report detailing recommendations to improve and maximize the public benefits of the United States’ energy system by placing the consumer at the center. With the passage of the Ratepayer Protection Act, Sunrun looks forward to working collaboratively with the utility and others in HI to advance a more reliable, clean and affordable energy system

“Other state Legislatures and Commissions should take notice of Hawaii’s efforts,” said Hoskins. “The time to make these changes is now, before billions of dollars are spent in rebuilding our outdated electrical networks. Rooftop solar and home batteries are allowing use to choose a system that maximizes public benefits, not utility shareholder profits. Let’s keep giving people the freedom to create a brighter future.”

Sunrun’s report, Affordable, Clean, Reliable Energy: A Better System Created by the People, For the People, details trends that are converging to develop a better energy system and recommends incentivizing home batteries, supporting low-income access programs, maintaining simple and stable rates, and letting the competitive free market work to deliver innovation and affordability. The report is available on Sunrun’s website.


Link: https://www.solarpowerworldonline.com/2018/04/hawaii-reforms-how-electric-utilities-get-paid-opening-options-for-home-solar-and-batteries/

Sabah Development Energy, Symbior Solar awarded first 10 MW in Malaysia

Symbior is a leading solar PV developer with a focus on developing high-performance solar PV projects across Asia with 200MW currently under development in frontier solar PV markets. SDE and its group companies are playing a leading role in developing the oil and gas, energy and water infrastructure with a focus on Sabah, Malaysia and are owned by the Ministry of Finance, Sabah.

SDE’s and Symbior’s joint submission to the Energy Commission in Malaysia under the second round of the Large Scale Solar program last July was awarded the largest project in Labuan on November 28, 2017. The Labuan project is one of only three large scale projects above 10MW in Sabah, Malaysia awarded to date.

This first project for the SDE-Symbior consortium is planned to begin construction in late 2018 following the required steps for finalizing the power purchase agreement with the Sabah Electricity Sdn. Bhd. (SESB), the local utility, and other required permitting steps. Over the coming years, further projects in Sabah are under development for a project pipeline of 50MW.

“Sabah has the highest solar PV yield in Malaysia and has been the primary target for Symbior’s project development in in the country,” said Florian Bennhold, CEO of Symbior Solar. “SDE’s experienced team and focus on high-performance infrastructure as well as its local presence in Sabah align with our team’s solar PV experience making our joint venture an important contributor to the development of the solar PV industry in Sabah, Malaysia.”

Sabah’s average solar yield—substantially higher than most areas in Peninsula Malaysia—make it a most suitable location for solar PV projects. With a strong growth in demand for electricity and a significant portion of the electricity supply being based on diesel generation, solar PV power projects provide lower cost of generation for Sabahans at today’s prices.

Symbior and SDE are focused on delivering high-performance solar PV plants for Labuan and Sabah building on the regional experience with Symbior’s proven high-yield solar PV plant in Thailand (see https://bit.ly/2wB98U7).




Link: https://www.pv-magazine.com/press-releases/sabah-development-energy-symbior-solar-awarded-first-10-mw-in-malaysia/

ABB partners with Tigo to offer code-compliant option for residential solar

ABB has teamed up with Tigo to develop an operational compatibility between Tigo’s TS4 optimizer and ABB’s UNO-DM-PLUS line of inverters. The configuration that ensures design flexibility and compliance with 2014 & 2017 NEC 690.12 requirements. The energy production of a single-phase string inverter, the rapid shutdown function and an optimizer option provides installers a stronger solution to code compliant solar installations.

“Finding inverters that can perform under the demands of challenging roof configurations and comply with the latest code requirements can be difficult,” said Mario Thomas, string inverter product manager, ABB’s solar business in the U.S. “With these new code compliant options from ABB, installers have more options to choose from.”

The UNO-DM-PLUS-US family of single phase, solar inverters delivers high performance with excellent power density giving end users the maximum amount of energy production. This flexible inverter comes with embedded connectivity and an efficient communication protocol,which enables the UNO-DMPLUS-US to be easily integrated within any current or future device for smart building automation, smart grid integration and with third-party monitoring and control systems. The UNO-DM-PLUS-US also comes with remote Over-the-Air (OTA) firmware upgrade for inverter and components to enable remote software upgrades.

For jurisdictions that have not migrated to 2017 NEC 690.12, ABB’s string-level Rapid Shutdown 2.0 device provides a simple and cost-effective solution to implement. This product mounts directly to the PV mounting rail or PV module, and lay parallel to the roofing surface. It provides a fail-safe solution for emergency responders. Available in two configurations (single and dual), this rapid-shutdown device requires no extra conduit, which minimizes additional material cost and associated labor. Shutdown occurs at the rooftop box when the utility power is lost or when the PV system’s AC disconnect switch is opened.

The UL-certified third-party solutions offer Rapid Shutdown and optional MLPE configuration with string inverter power generation as well as the following advantages:

• Module-level monitoring– Predicting and conducting maintenance on solar installations is critical to ensure that they last beyond their expected 25-year lifetime. With full visibility of a system’s performance through module-level monitoring in 2-second increments, solar fleets can maximize system up-time, identify performance issues, and control operations and maintenance (O&M) costs.

• Safety–The UL-certified module-level Rapid Shutdown Solutions provide installers, EPCs, and PV plant owners the most cost-effective response to safety regulations like the National Electric Code (NEC) 2014 & 2017 requirements. For installations unencumbered by shading, the MLPE option provides the necessary safety and monitoring services to ensure systems meet local fire regulations and performance expectations.

• Optimization of Energy Harvest–With optimized modules, more roof space can be used to maximize energy production. This fixes module mismatch and increases design flexibility by optimizing each module when shade drops their performance. It addresses system-level inefficiencies and age tolerance while also benefiting from the module-level monitoring and safety features.

Once the inverter is installed, operators can turn to a smartphone to commission the unit via a simple, built-in web user interface. This enables them to gain access to features such as advanced inverter configuration settings and Aurora Manager, which facilitates OTA firmware updates (remote software updates).




Link: https://www.solarpowerworldonline.com/2018/04/abb-partners-with-tigo-to-offers-code-compliant-option-for-residential-solar/

Global Solar PV Installations to Surpass 104GW in 2018


Global Solar PV Installations to Surpass 104GW in 2018

The global solar PV market will add over 100 gigawatts of capacity for the first time in 2018 — and there is no looking back. 

According to the latest Global Solar Demand Monitor from GTM Research, installations will reach 104 gigawatts this year, representing 6 percent annual growth. After that, annual installations will easily exceed the 100-gigawatt milestone through at least 2022.

The year-over-year growth is due in part to geographic diversification, as the top four markets are anticipated to collectively decline by 7 percent.


Source: Global Solar Demand Monitor, Q1 2018

Installations in China will fall from 53 gigawatts in 2017 to 48 gigawatts in 2018, although China alone will account for 47 percent of global demand this year.

For the first time in China’s history, annual distributed solar installations (<20 megawatts) are expected to surpass 50 percent of the nation's annual installed capacity.  
 

"Trade-restrictive measures continue to be a barrier to growth in the U.S. and India," said GTM Research solar analyst Rishab Shrestha. "Although the availability of tariff-free modules in the U.S. and the announcement that compensation will be provided to Indian developers negatively impacted by tariffs and duties provides some encouragement." According to the report, the U.S. market is expected to add 10.6 gigawatts of solar PV in 2018 while India will install 7.1 gigawatts.

In 2018, Latin America will add 5.6 gigawatts and the MENA region (Middle East and Africa) will add 4.7 gigawatts, representing explosive year-over-year growth of 61 percent and 281 percent, respectively. Up to 1 gigawatt of projects awarded through Mexico’s A1 auction are expected to come online this year, as is Egypt’s 1.8-gigawatt Benban solar park. These two markets will top their respective regions in 2018.

According to the analysis, Egypt and Brazil will become gigawatt-scale markets for the first time in 2018. This year will also see the re-emergence Spain. Meanwhile, France, which will firmly establish itself as one of Europe’s top three largest markets.

Number of Gigawatt-Scale Solar Markets by Year

Source: Global Solar Demand Monitor, Q1 2018

Learn more about the Global Solar Demand Monitor here.


Link: https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/global-solar-pv-installations-to-surpass-104-gw-in-2018#gs.utSyqrI

Apple claims to be 100% renewable-powered


A 17 MW rooftop array provides part of the energy to Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, California.

Image: Apple Inc.

 

Apple Inc. has announced that its global operations are now 100% powered by clean energy. The announcement covers operations in 43 countries, including retail stores, offices, data centers and other facilities, in the U.S., India and China.

The technology giant also points out that 23 of its suppliers have now made similar commitments to procuring energy from renewable sources.

Currently, Apple says that it has 626 MW of renewable energy capacity in operation across the globe, and that it brought 286 MW of solar PV online in 2017. A further 15 projects are in development, which will bring its capacity up to 1.4 GW, spread across 11 countries.

The announcement says that a further nine of Apple’s suppliers have also committed to sourcing 100% of their energy from renewables; and that 85 suppliers in total have registered for the company’s clean energy portal, which it developed to help suppliers identify commercially viable renewable energy solutions.

 

Apple points out that its commitments include more than 485 MW of wind and solar projects developed in China to address manufacturing emissions, multiple PPAs across the U.S., and large-scale rooftop and floating solar projects in both Singapore and Japan.


Link: https://www.pv-magazine-india.com/2018/04/11/apple-claims-to-be-100-renewable-powered/

New solar PV tool accurately calculates degradation rates, saving money and guiding business decisio

How long a product can be expected to perform at a high level is a fundamental indication of quality and durability. In the solar industry, accurately predicting the longevity of photovoltaic (PV) panels is essential to increase energy production, lower costs, and raise investor and consumer confidence. A new software package developed by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and industry partners SunPower and kWh Analytics is making the measurement of PV system expected lifetime performance more reliable, consistent, and accurate.

 

RdTools combines best practices with years of NREL degradation research to deliver new methodologies that change how solar field production data is evaluated. The software package makes it possible to accurately evaluate PV systems faster, despite common challenges with performance data.

"There's a high level of interest in this software because it provides user-friendly, accurate, and objective assessments that can help owners make sense of their data," said Dirk Jordan, engineer and solar PV researcher at NREL. "We spent years building consensus in the industry around a common set of analytical rules. Now PV stakeholders can learn much more about the performance of their technology and improve decision-making on multiple fronts."

PV module and system degradation have been historically difficult to assess in the PV industry. Field performance can be impacted by many confounding variables including ambient weather conditions, seasonal changes, sensor drift, and soiling, to name a few. Extracting system degradation rates previously required years of production data, high accuracy instrumentation, and the presence of staff scientists to conduct the evaluation.

The RdTools  solves these problems by providing a robust and validated software toolkit for calculating and analyzing PV system performance and degradation over time. The tool can deliver valuable insights for manufacturers, engineers, investors and owners who have a stake in system performance, such as identifying under-performing sub-arrays, and quantifying system performance relative to neighboring systems.

For co-developer SunPower, the results of its own data analysis were compelling. "The RdTools method was used to analyze energy generation from 264 PV systems at locations across the globe, revealing that degradation rates were slower than expected," said Greg Kimball, a senior performance engineer at SunPower. "The result prompted improvements to and extension of our warranty coverage to customers."

According to Adam Shinn, a data scientist for co-developer kWh Analytics, RdTools is valuable because of the information it provides to the solar investors with whom they work. "As more and more solar is deployed, there is an ever-increasing amount of PV  data available to analyze," Shinn said. "For solar investors who seek to understand the long-term financial risks of their energy-producing assets, analysis RdTools will help them quantify PV durability."

Organizations interested in testing and contributing to the software can contact NREL at RdTools@nrel.gov or visit the website at www.nrel.gov/pv/rdtools.html.



Link: https://phys.org/news/2018-04-solar-pv-tool-accurately-degradation.html

Recycling renewables

You don’t have to be a futurist to imagine a green energy landscape populated by rows of rotating wind turbines, fields of sparkling solar panels, and smooth-running, silent electric cars. Indeed, that utopian vision is almost within reach.

But if the materials that enable those technologies aren’t reclaimed, the future’s clean energy will be anything but, with views marred by graveyards of old turbine blades, decrepit solar panels, and corroding batteries. Many initiatives are under way to prepare for the arrival of this new type of waste. But in most cases, the solutions are works in progress at best.

The potential quantities of waste are enormous. By 2025, waste batteries removed from electric vehicles will total 95 gigawatt hours worth, according to an estimate by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That pile will weigh roughly 600,000 metric tons.

A similar amount of old solar panels will have accumulated by then, according to projections by the International Renewable Energy Agency. IRENA anticipates solar panel waste could reach 78 million metric tons by 2050. And Europe could see 300,000 metric tons per year of decommissioned wind turbine blades in the next two decades, says the trade association WindEurope.

Thanks to rising demand for renewable energy, manufacturers already face spiking costs and supply constraints for raw materials such as cobalt and lithium. What’s more, it takes a lot of human ingenuity and effort to make turbine blade composites, high-purity photovoltaic silicon, and highly structured battery cathodes. Those cleverly engineered materials deserve more than a one-way ticket to trash town.

However, recovering materials from discarded devices remains impractical. They are manufactured to not come apart, even under extreme force or environmental conditions, so they can do their job for as long as possible. And they are made by mixing valuable materials with less valuable ones. Getting the good stuff back out is like unscrambling an egg.

Materials scientists, manufacturers, and waste handlers are working on ways to efficiently reclaim renewable energy materials. But so far, not enough of these devices have reached the end of life to make investing in recycling facilities worthwhile. It’s not clear whether a profitable industry will be born in time to prevent clean energy from adding to the planet’s already growing pile of waste.

Wind

Wind turbine blades are giant. A single blade for a modern onshore turbine is as long as 60 meters, according to the manufacturer LM Wind Power, and blades are getting longer. Indeed, companies brag about the size of their blades because a bigger sweep generally means more power per tower.

While other wind turbine components, including the tower, gearbox, and generator, are readily recyclable, blades present a challenge. They are typically made from a composite of glass fiber and epoxy or another thermoset resin. The cross-linked polymers cannot be melted down and recycled, in contrast to thermoplastics such as polypropylene.

09615-cover1-turbinebladecxd.jpg
Credit: National Wind Technology Center
Wind turbine blades, commonly 60 meters long or larger, are difficult to move and to recycle.

And the blades are heavy; a study of turbine blade waste by researchers at the University of Cambridge Institute for Manufacturing estimates that an LM Wind Power blade weighs 15 metric tons. Some manufacturers are making lighter blades by mixing in carbon fiber. In the future, fancier fibers such as carbon nanotubes and high-performance synthetics might lend lightweight strength.

In the U.S. and Europe, wind operators put up the first industrial-sized turbines in the late 1990s. The machines are designed to last 25 years or longer, but some of the blades are being taken down to be replaced by more efficient versions or because they wore out or were struck by lightning.

Even blades from the early generation of wind farms weigh up to 8 metric tons apiece. “This is a big honking blade—you could just throw it in the landfill, but some places won’t accept them,” says Karl Englund, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Washington State University.
 

Englund stresses that a decommissioned turbine blade is a costly nuisance. For wind project operators, transporting even one blade is a logistical nightmare. “There is no use for them. In Sweetwater, Texas, there is a sign on an old blade that says, ‘Welcome to Sweetwater, Texas!’ So that took care of one blade,” Englund jokes.

For the past three years, Englund has been perfecting a blade recycling scheme with the composite firm Global Fiberglass Solutions. The partners have plans to build a recycling center in Sweetwater, which calls itself the wind energy capital of the world.

Recycling starts with trained workers who cut up the blades at a wind farm and stack the pieces on a truck for transport to a centralized facility, Englund explains. There, the pieces are mechanically broken into increasingly smaller bits with a variety of machines until they reach a size that contains fibers of a desired length for the material’s next life.

The material can then be combined with adhesives and pressed into high-performance composite panels similar to wood-based particleboard or oriented strand board. The glass fibers give the panels fire and moisture resistance, Englund says, making them ideal for commercial and industrial buildings. “We have quite a few people who want this panel after seeing it.”
 

Others have attempted to process old blades and reclaim glass or carbon fibers. In 2002, Danish wind technology engineer Erik Grove-Nielsen founded a recycling firm called ReFiber. He developed a pyrolysis technology for turning glass fiber in old polyester or epoxy wind turbine blades into a fibrous material suitable for use as building insulation. The anaerobic process involved heating turbine pieces to 500 °C in a 6-meter-long rotating gas oven.

ReFiber had planned to raise capital and build a 5,000-metric-ton-per-year facility. But without a consistent supply of old blades, the firm ceased operations in 2007, says Grove-Nielsen, who now works as a consultant for the wind farm builder Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy.

But processes that use pyrolysis or other high-heat methods generally yield weaker fibers that can’t be reused in high-value composites. “You can end up just making really expensive garbage,” Englund contends.
 

The French specialty chemical firm Arkema says thermoplastic resins are the way to go to make blades recyclable. To prove it can be done, the company made a single blade last year using a composite of glass fiber and methacrylate resin. Unlike epoxy, the resin can be melted and recycled. It’s not clear whether blade manufacturers will make the switch.

In Europe, wind turbines may find a second life in countries just starting to adopt wind energy, thereby delaying the end-of-life problem. “A good example is the very first Danish Bonus—now Siemens—turbine, taken down after 33 years of successful operation,” Grove-Nielsen says. “The same turbine is now operating in southern Italy near Bari.”

Other uses for old turbine blades take advantage of creative thinking. Independent wind turbine engineer Behzad Rahnama wrote a graduate school thesis on repurposing offshore wind turbines into artificial reefs. Although the idea hasn’t been tested, it has drawn a lot of interest, Rahnama says. He points out that any materials used in the blades would have to be nontoxic to marine life.

 

Credit: C&EN/Shutterstock
Mining the waste

Renewable energy technologies contain valuable materials; the trick is to reclaim them economically.

Sources: Bloomberg New Energy Finance; Esticast Research & Consulting; FRELP; Gabrielle Gaustad, Rochester Institute of Technology; InfoMine; International Renewable Energy Agency; London Metals Exchange; ReFiber; Resour. Conserv. Recycl., 2014. DOI: 10.1016/j.resconrec.2013.11.008; WindEurope


Batteries

Each year, approximately 300,000 metric tons of lithium-ion battery waste is generated around the world, says Sheetanshu Upadhyay, an analyst with India’s Esticast Research & Consulting. Most of those batteries come from mobile devices, but that waste will soon be overshadowed by old electric car batteries. Sales of plug-in electric vehicles are expected to surpass 2.6 million in 2020, according to Navigant Research.

Car batteries reach the end of their lives when they can be charged to only 80% of their capacity, according to Matt Keyser, who leads the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s battery R&D efforts. NREL estimates their useful lives to be about 15 years. After that, they can be reused in stationary storage applications or recycled.

09615-cover1-batteriescxd.jpg
Credit: U.S. Department of Energy
Recycling electric vehicle batteries requires disassembling large packs like this one, then retrieving valuable metals from individual battery cells.

Keyser says NREL’s tests show that used car batteries are good for storing power for the electrical grid, a less-demanding application. But, he adds, “There are lots of different manufacturers, battery chemistries, management and communication systems, and sizes and shapes of batteries.” Keyser knows of no system that can assess different used batteries or integrate them to operate together.

Using a single type of battery may work better. Nissan has been evaluating the use of old Leaf electric car batteries in stationary storage systems. A pilot study showed it to be a practical approach, Makoto Dave Yoshida, general manager of Nissan Motor in the U.K., told delegates at a recent workshop on battery recycling in Paris.

With the world’s largest fleet of electric vehicles on the road, China is also the world’s largest ticking time bomb when it comes to end-of-life lithium-ion batteries. It’s not a pressing problem now because the cars entered service in just the past three years, notes Wijaya Ng, head of the China practice at Ipsos Business Consulting, a management consulting firm.
 

But officials in Beijing see the future pile of waste batteries as a problem that needs to be addressed now. In February, the Chinese government issued regulations requiring electric vehicle manufacturers to build an infrastructure to recover used batteries by Aug. 1. Even though it’s not clear how they will be dealt with, “dealers must be ready to handle those batteries,” Ng says.

“You could say that the infrastructure will only be symbolically in place in August, but the responsibilities of the stakeholders have been clarified,” Ng explains. He expects car and battery makers to invest in recycling only reluctantly, because making batteries from new materials is currently cheaper than using recovered ones.

Still, carmakers are doing a good job of showing enthusiasm for recycling. BYD, one of China’s leading electric vehicle makers, plans to open a car battery recycling facility this spring in Shanghai, company spokesperson Mia Gu says. Operational details have not yet been disclosed.

In Europe, a 2008 regulation known as the Battery Directive requires governments to promote battery recycling. A German law stipulating that old batteries must be recycled underpins recycling growth in Europe, Upadhyay says.

Lithium-ion battery packs for electric cars are made of tens to thousands of individual cylindrical or rectangular battery cells in a large plastic case that also holds various sensors and circuits. The most valuable substances inside the cells are active materials that make up the cathode and anode; the majority of a cell’s mass comes from structural components made from steel, carbon, and aluminum.

The active materials of most interest to battery recyclers are the transition metals cobalt and nickel, found in the cathode. Different lithium-ion batteries contain various ratios of those metals, as well as lithium and in some cases manganese or iron.

In addition to regulatory mandates, the European Commission says high prices for cobalt are a driver for recyclers, although only 16% of cobalt in batteries is reclaimed today. Lithium and the anode materials graphite and silicon cannot be economically reclaimed.

Belgium-based Umicore is both a major producer of battery materials and Europe’s largest lithium-ion battery recycler. It uses a high-temperature technology in its facility near Antwerp, Belgium. There, it can recycle up to 7,000 metric tons per year of all types of lithium-ion batteries, equivalent to what’s inside 35,000 electric vehicles.

Umicore’s process converts the batteries into two fractions. An alloy fraction containing cobalt, nickel, and copper undergoes further separation. A slag fraction can be added to concrete.

The batteries can be fed directly into the reactor, which avoids the need for potentially hazardous pretreatment, Umicore says. The company cleans the resulting gases of dioxins and volatile organic compounds. Energy consumption is minimized by using energy still present in the batteries. “Depending on the exact battery mix, only little or no external energy has to be added to the process,” Umicore says.

Umicore has agreements with a number of automakers, including Nissan, Toyota, and Tesla, to recycle old lithium-ion batteries from their vehicles. It then sells the resulting alloys back to battery producers and car companies.

In the U.S., lithium-ion batteries are not considered hazardous waste and can be discarded in the normal municipal waste system. But some firms have developed know-how in reclaiming materials from battery waste.

One of them is Retriev Technologies, which operates large-scale facilities in Ohio and British Columbia. The company says it has recycled lithium batteries of all types for over 20 years.

Large battery packs from vehicles are first manually disassembled. The separated cells are then fed into a crusher, which smashes them in a liquid that prevents emissions and chemical reactions. Crushing the cells results in two streams: metal solids with varying amounts of copper, aluminum, and cobalt; and metal-enriched liquids that are dried and then purified off-site.

But metals like cobalt must be made very pure to be used again in batteries, NREL’s Keyser says. Extracting high-purity metals from streams of mixed metals is very expensive. Industry watchers agree that high-temperature recycling methods like Umicore’s produce metals that are not cost competitive with newly mined metals and that the economics of battery recycling require a fee to be paid by the generator of the waste. Umicore declined to respond to C&EN’s questions about the market value of the reclaimed metals or the cost of extracting them.

In addition, making new cathodes from recycled materials is a costly process. According to Zheng Chen, a professor of nanoengineering at the University of California, San Diego, it should be possible to extract spent cathode material from lithium-ion batteries and refresh it for reuse without going back to the original metal constituents.

Chen says his group started with lithium cobalt oxide batteries because of their relatively simple chemistry. His goal was to end up with cathode material with a crystal structure and ratio of lithium and cobalt that matches brand-new cathodes. To do that he turned to the same hydrothermal reaction used by cathode manufacturers.

Used cathodes are depleted of lithium to varying degrees. The hydrothermal process allowed Chen to replace the missing lithium without first analyzing the cells. With the stoichiometry correct, the next step is thermal annealing to create microstructures to maximize the recycled material’s electrochemical performance. Similar strategies should also work on other flavors of lithium-ion battery cathodes, he suggests.

U.S. R&D firm OnTo Technology has already patented a hydrothermal process to reclaim functional cathode materials. President Steve Sloop says OnTo is working with nickel-containing cathodes that are common in electric vehicle batteries.

Sloop claims that the process generates high-value cathode materials at a low cost. “We can crack those batteries open, get those cathodes out, and sell them back to the battery firm. That makes an old battery an asset rather than a liability.” But even a great chemical process is not enough to solve the battery waste dilemma. “You have to get to the scale that can handle a ton of batteries per day—and that would be a substantial capital expenditure,” Sloop points out. The facilities’ cost, he suggests, would be similar to that for making aluminum from bauxite ore—hundreds of millions of dollars for a large-scale operation.

Additionally, old batteries can be hazardous to transport. In the future, Sloop suggests, electric vehicle manufacturers or battery firms may opt to set up regional networks to take back and recycle waste batteries.

To handle the batteries at the facility, Chen and Sloop agree that automated machinery is needed to break open the battery cells to obtain the cathode materials. “In the lab I can have the students spend two hours opening the batteries, but I don’t have 25 million students,” Chen says.


Solar

The question of what to do with old solar panels is likely to be solved first in Europe. Not only does Europe have about 70% of global installed photovoltaic (PV) capacity, but the European Union is also the only region in the world with a regulation—known as the WEEE Directive—that has banned electronic products, including PV panels, from being landfilled.

The EU estimates that the region currently generates 30,000 metric tons per year of waste PV panels and that this will rise to about 500,000 metric tons per year in the next two decades. PV Cycle, a European PV recycling industry association, estimates that its members have collected 17,000 metric tons of PV panels since 2010.

09615-cover1-solarpanelscxd.jpg
Credit: PV Cycle
These old solar panels will be recycled; however, not all the valuable materials can be reused.

“Strict regulation means that we are a step forward regarding the end-of-life management of PV,” says Bertrand Lempkowicz, marketing manager for PV Cycle. “In Europe, the WEEE legislation will definitely help.” In Asia, where solar panel waste is already accumulating, they are just starting to think about what to do, he says.

Most solar panels contain a layer of crystalline silicon semiconductor sandwiched between glass sheets and tough polymer films, all in a frame made of aluminum. The surface of the semiconductor is embedded with trace amounts of silver used as a conducting material, as well as lead and tin solder.

Problems associated with improper disposal of waste PV panels can include leaching of heavy metals such as lead, according to a European Commission study.

In a bid to avoid such environmental issues and to maximize material recovery, the EU has funded research including the Full Recovery End of Life Photovoltaic (FRELP) project. Italian mining technology firm Sasil, one of the project’s members, has been running a pilot facility based on technology developed by FRELP. Opened in 2015, the facility can take in 3,500 metric tons of PV panels annually. Other project members include the Italian glass technology institute Stazione Sperimentale del Vetro.

The FRELP process recovers silicon and other metals by heating the panels in a furnace; an acid dissolving step and filtration then recover silicon. Other metals are recovered via electrolysis. Sasil says it is able to recover 93% of materials from used PV panels. Most of the remaining material is plastic, which is burned in the furnace to provide additional energy.

While the FRELP process marks a new European standard in PV panel recycling, it is not problem-free: For every 1,000 kg of PV panel waste, about 20 kg of metals, including tin, aluminum, lead, and zinc, are recovered as hydroxides and landfilled. A further 2 kg of material is likely lost as nitrous oxide emissions during electrolysis, and 5 kg of ash results from the reduction of fluorine at the furnace phase.

The quality of the silicon recovered is not high enough for reuse as a photovoltaic material but is suitable to be used in specialty aluminum and steel alloys, Sasil project manager Lodovico Ramon says.

Meng Tao, an engineering professor at Arizona State University, says an electrochemical process his team is developing can extract purer metals from solar cells. The metals would be worth $13 per module, he says, enough to pay for the recycling, compared with about $3.00 in the PV Cycle process.
 

Tao’s process, called sequential electrowinning, is like electroplating in reverse. After the glass is removed from a panel, the interconnected solar cells are immersed in a heated nitric acid solution to dissolve silver, tin, copper, and lead. The leached solution is cooled, causing tin dioxide to precipitate. When different voltages are applied, the other metals come out of solution and are deposited on a series of electrodes.

A secondary process soaks the remaining silicon first in hydrofluoric acid and then in sodium hydroxide. That etches off the remainder of the nonsilicon materials, such as electrodes, and leaves behind a high proportion of solar-grade silicon.

Making recycling profitable would help close the loop on solar in the U.S. Unlike in Europe, one can just toss an old solar panel in the local dump—though that could change. “We have a landfill crisis. We’re just running out of space,” says Dustin Mulvaney, professor of environmental studies at San Jose State University.

“Communities and counties that have waste management challenges are going bananas with the idea that they have to maybe landfill these things. They don’t decompose or even stack well,” Mulvaney says.

Some U.S. recyclers do take in solar modules for processing. Generally, each panel is disassembled and the aluminum and glass are recycled. But, as is the case with other types of electronic waste, the semiconductor material is generally not.

The solar industry is ready for an upgrade. “We would like to nurture and develop processes unique to photovoltaics so we can reclaim more of the valuable materials,” says Evelyn Butler, senior director of codes and standards for the Solar Energy Industry Association, a U.S. trade group.

The most valuable solar material component is silver, Butler says, but newer modules contain less of the precious metal. “We have to convince our partners in recycling that they have a future, even though our industry has been working hard to bring down the cost curve for materials,” she says.

It will likely be decades before the modules deployed in the largest utility installations reach the end of their lives, but figuring out the timeline is difficult, Butler points out. “Is it 20 years, 25, or even 35 years? Often the large-scale projects are in the harshest environments—in the desert, where there is no shade and big temperature changes.” Some panels could be reused elsewhere once their performance dips below that required by utilities.

For now, solar waste is mainly generated when modules break or fail to match their warranties, in which case the manufacturer is on the hook for disposal or recycling. After the warranty expires, panels are the responsibility of their owner.

Indeed, it is common that manufacturers of renewable energy technologies do not consider themselves accountable for recycling their products. “The amazing thing is that the producers don’t see the business opportunity,” says circular economy proponent Michael Braungart, academic chair of Cradle to Cradle for Innovation & Quality at Erasmus University. “It’s like making a plane that is not designed to land—it’s ridiculous.”

Industry experts and watchdogs agree that if old solar panels, wind turbine blades, and electric car batteries pile up for lack of good recycling options, waste will become a black eye for these supposedly clean industries.

With reporting by Jean-Francois Tremblay.


Link: https://cen.acs.org/articles/96/i15/Recycling-renewables.html

 


Building For Resiliency: Cleantech Design & Construction

What has one of the biggest impacts on city sustainability and on residents’ health and quality of life? The answer is: How cities manage the sun and rain that fall on them.

Integrating and optimizing the built environment offers a valuable opportunity for urban planners and architects to significantly reduce the human environmental footprint by mapping and integrating human needs. Some cities have already established programs supporting adoption of cool roofs, solar PV, or reflective pavements, while others promote expansion of green roofs and trees. Evolving rating systems are challenging developers do more than just meet higher standards — they’re attempting to address issues such as the impact of fires on entire communities and lifestyles through building for resiliency.

building for resiliency

 

Graphic courtesy of “Delivering Urban Resilience”

Carbon emissions are a product of four factors: population, gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, energy intensity of the economy (per unit of GDP), and carbon intensity of that energy. We need deep energy efficiency in our buildings as part of a larger strategy to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, to see global carbon emissions peak by 2020, and to assess a 50% per decade decrease every decade after. A common way of thinking about buildings and climate action is through a “net zero” lens. This means that, over the course of a year, a building generates as much renewable energy on site as it consumes.

New tools and frameworks offer architects and urban planners innovative ways to improve how their buildings perform during natural disasters like earthquakes and increasingly extreme weather events caused by climate change. The RELi resilience action list and credit catalog, the REDi Resilience-based Earthquake Design Initiative, and the American Red Cross Ready Rating program offer rating systems specifically for building resilience measures.
 

Long-Term Effects of Limited, Fragmented Urban Planning

Cities can increase resilience, improve health and comfort, expand jobs, and slow global warming through smart surface strategies. That’s the driving message of the “Delivering Urban Resilience” report from the Capital E Group. They say that, conversely, when cities neglect urban sustainability measures, the consequences are greatest in low-income areas. These physical areas are characterized by little greenery and dark impervious surfaces and result in excess summer heat and air pollution, excess respiratory illness, heat stress, and high health costs. Deployment of solutions at scale in low-income areas can address systemic inequity in urban quality of life from excess heat, degraded air quality, and less greenery than in wealthier urban areas.

Example of urban sustainability measures are cool and green roofs. For example, Denver’s Green Roof Initiative requires any building with a gross floor area of 25,000 square feet or greater to include a green roof, also known as a living roof, covered by vegetation, solar panel installations, or a combination of both. The Initiative supports important environmental implications to mitigate Denver’s growing ozone and pollution output.

The “Delivering Urban Resilience” report points out how smart surface strategies are both cost-effective and essential for city resilience, can help protect our citizens, and support our cities to remain livable in a warming world. As deployment scales up, the urban cooling benefits also grow proportionally, reducing energy bills and smog, and improving health and livability. Low-income areas can achieve large gains in health, comfort and resilience, thus reducing energy bills and mitigating climate change with policies and solutions.

building for resilency

 

Graphic courtesy of “Delivering Urban Resiliency”

Building for Resilience with 100% Clean Renewable Energy and Green Materials

A Zero Net Energy (ZNE) structure produces as much clean, renewable energy as it uses over the course of a year through a highly efficient building and a rooftop photovoltaic (PV) solar energy array. An efficient, all-electric community reduces risks and can be powered by 100% clean, renewable energy that is locally produced and supports the local economy. A ZNE building has lower energy bills, comfortable temperatures even in extreme weather, ability to be independent during power outages, and can alleviate stress on the community’s electric grid.

When green elements are part of the regular design process and accommodated within a project’s budget, costs are about equivalent to traditional construction. To balance expenditures, urban planners and architects prioritize cost-effective performance and comfort strategies over more superficial, expensive ones.

Products are resilient if their manufacturers eliminate toxic chemical ingredients or reduce embodied energy. Insulation, paints, flooring, and adhesives all have green options. Structures and landscapes are less vulnerable to fire spread when their roof venting is designed to avoid spark intrusion, exterior materials are chosen for their fire-resistance qualities, and fuel in the surrounding landscape is minimized.

building for resilience

LEED is Essential to Building for Resiliency

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, has become a very important standard for the US and the world, helping to define the baseline of green building and using its power in the market to evolve its standards over time. According to the 2017 National Green Building Adoption Index, LEED-certified buildings only account for 4.7% of the commercial office buildings across the 30 largest US office markets. LEED platinum certification is the highest level rating in the world’s most widely recognized green building rating system.

While LEED has raised expectations for green building in general, there are also a growing suite of topic-specific sustainability rating systems for health, wellness, energy-efficiency, and — ta da! — resilience. LEED v4 is the newest version of LEED. It focuses on:

  • materials, so constituents in the building industry obtain a better understanding of their contents and the effect those material components have on human health and the environment;
  • a stronger, performance-based approach to indoor environmental quality for better occupant comfort;
  • the benefits of smart grid thinking with a credit that rewards projects for participating in demand response programs; and,
  • a clearer picture of water efficiency by evaluating total building water use.

building for resiliency

Final Thoughts

The time is now to strategically approach green building technology and energy efficiency by optimizing planning around people, nature, and essential needs. Economic and social growth that is supported by a healthy environment and sustainable resource management is the key to a future in which self-sustaining ecosystems can evolve and adapt over time. Advanced technology applications like artificial intelligence and smart systems can minimize consumption of natural resources, balance the whole ecosystem, and assure economic and social prosperity in a healthy environment. Add in datasets and experience, and urban planners and architects have a toolkit to significantly reduce the human environmental footprint by mapping and integrating human needs.

Building for resiliency requires a systematic, long-term approach. Even in an era in which solar panels are becoming more affordable, we need to consider a repertoire of energy efficiency strategies for urban buildings. Solar panels are one ingredient in a larger equation of building for resiliency. In fact, building energy efficiency has never been more relevant to climate action than it is today.


Link: https://cleantechnica.com/2018/04/09/building-for-resiliency-cleantech-design-construction/

Global Renewable Energy Capacity Increased 167 Gigawatts In 2017, Reached 2,179 Gigawatts

Global renewable energy generation capacity increased by 167 gigawatts (GW) in 2017 to push the planet’s cumulative renewable energy capacity to 2,179 GW, according to new data published last week by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

IRENA published its Renewable Capacity Statistics 2018 report late last week, its most comprehensive and up-to-date analysis of global renewable energy capacity. Yearly renewable energy growth now sits at around 8.3% which is also the average growth seen over the past 7 years and represents the steady and solidified growth of a market well and truly making its presence known around the world.

“This latest data confirms that the global energy transition continues to move forward at a fast pace, thanks to rapidly falling prices, technology improvements and an increasingly favourable policy environment,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “Renewable energy is now the solution for countries looking to support economic growth and job creation, just as it is for those seeking to limit carbon emissions, expand energy access, reduce air pollution and improve energy security.”

“Despite this clear evidence of strength in the power generation sector, a complete energy transformation goes beyond electricity to include the end-use sectors of heating, cooling and transportation, where there is substantial opportunity for growth of renewables.”

Unsurprisingly, solar and wind energy both saw significant growth in 2017. Solar PV grew by an impressive 32% in 2017, followed by wind energy which grew by 10%. Both solar and wind can thank continued cost reductions that, in many cases, have surpassed even our wildest expectations. The levelized cost of electricity (LCoE) for solar PV fell by 73% between 2010 and 2017, while onshore wind fell by nearly 25%, and both can now boast LCoE well within the range of traditional fossil fuel technologies — and in some cases and regions are actually much cheaper, especially when you include externalities like health impacts.

Continuing unsurprising highlights from IRENA’s new analysis, China led the way in 2017 with nearly half of all new renewable energy capacity. India added its own 10% of new capacity, primarily in wind and solar, and helped the Asia region account for 64% of all new capacity additions in 2017, up from 58% in 2016.

Europe added a not-unrespectable 24 GW of new capacity, followed by North America which added 16 GW.

Asia dominated solar PV capacity additions with 72 GW — led by China with 53 GW, India with 9.6 GW, and Japan with 7 GW. The United States installed 8.2 GW worth of solar, followed by Turkey with 2.6 GW, Germany with 1.7 GW, Australia with 1.2 GW, South Korea with 1.1 GW, and Brazil with 1 GW.

Three-quarters of the total new wind energy capacity installed in 2017 came from five countries alone — China with 15 GW, the United States and Germany with 6 GW each, the UK with 4 GW, and India with 4 GW.



Link: https://cleantechnica.com/2018/04/09/global-renewable-energy-generation-increased-167-gigawatts-in-2017-reached-2179-gigawatts/

Solar PV and wind on track to replace all coal, oil and gas within two decades

Solar photovoltaic and wind power are rapidly getting cheaper and more abundant – so much so that they are on track to entirely supplant fossil fuels worldwide within two decades, with the time frame depending mostly on politics.

The protestation from some politicians that we need to build new coal stations sounds rather quaint.

The reality is that the rising tide of solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind energy offers our only realistic chance of avoiding dangerous climate change.

No other greenhouse solution comes close, and it is very hard to envision any timely response to climate change that does not involve PV and wind doing most of the heavy lifting.
 

About 80% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are due to the use of coal, oil and gas, which is typical for industrialised countries. The land sector accounts for most of the rest.

Australian greenhouse gas emissions in 2016. ABS, Author provided

Sadly, attempts to capture and store the carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels have come to naught due to technical difficulties and high cost. Thus, to curtail global warming we need to replace fossil fuel use entirely, with energy sources that meet these criteria:

  • very large and preferably ubiquitous resource base
  • low or zero greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts
  • abundant or unlimited raw materials
  • minimal security concerns in respect of warfare, terrorism and accidents
  • low cost
  • already available in mass production.

Solar PV meets all of these criteria, while wind energy also meets many of them, although wind is not as globally ubiquitous as sunshine. We will have sunshine and wind for billions of years to come. It is very hard to imagine humanity going to war over sunlight.

Most of the world’s population lives at low latitudes (less than 35°), where sunlight is abundant and varies little between seasons. Wind energy is also widely available, particularly at higher latitudes.

PV and wind have minimal environmental impacts and water requirements. The raw materials for PV – silicon, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, aluminium, glass, steel and small amounts of other materials – are effectively in unlimited supply.

Wind energy is an important complement to PV because it often produces at different times and places, allowing a smoother combined energy output. In terms of worldwide annual electricity production wind is still ahead of PV but is growing more slowly.

The wind energy resource is much smaller than the solar resource, and so PV will likely dominate in the end.

Complete replacement of all fossil fuels requires solar and wind collectors covering much less than 1% of the world’s land surface area.

A large proportion of the collectors are installed on rooftops and in remote and arid regions, thus minimising competition with food production and ecosystems.

The more widely PV and wind generation are distributed across the world, the less the risk of wide-scale disruption from natural disasters, war and terrorism.

Other clean energy technologies can realistically play only a minor supporting role. The solar thermalindustry is hundreds of times smaller than the fast-growing PV industry (because of higher costs).

Hydro power, geothermal, wave and tidal energy are only significant prospects in particular regions.

Biomass energy is inefficient and its requirement for soil, water and fertiliser put it in conflict with food production and ecosystems. Nuclear is too expensive, and its construction rates are too slow to catch PV and wind.

A renewable grid

PV and wind are often described as “intermittent” energy sources. But stabilising the grid is relatively straightforward, with the help of storage and high-voltage interconnectors to smooth out local weather effects.

By far the leading storage technologies are pumped hydro and batteries, with a combined market share of 97%.

The cost of PV and wind power has been declining rapidly for many decades and is now in the range A$55-70 per megawatt-hour in Australia. This is cheaper than electricity from new-build coal and gas units. There are many reports of PV electricity being produced from very large-scale plants for A$30-50 per MWh.

Solar PV and wind have been growing exponentially for decades and have now reached economic lift-off. In 2018, PV and wind will comprise 60% of net new electricity generation capacity worldwide.

Coal, gas, nuclear, hydro and other renewable capacity comprise the rest. Globally, US$161 billion will be invested in solar generation alone this year, compared with US$103 billion in new coal and gas combined.

The path to dominance by PV and wind. In 2018, PV and wind are likely to comprise 60% of net new electricity generation capacity worldwide. Andrew Blakers/Matthew Stocks, Author provided

PV and wind are growing at such a rate that the overall installed generation capacity of PV and wind has reached half that of coal, and will pass coal in the mid-2020s, judging by their respective trends.

In Australia, PV and wind comprise most new generation capacity. About 4.5 gigawatts of PV and wind is expected to be installed in 2018 compared with peak demand of 35GW in the National Electricity Market. At this rate, Australia would reach 70% renewable electricity by 2030.

Together, PV and wind currently produce about 7% of the world’s electricity. Worldwide over the past five years, PV capacity has grown by 28% per year, and wind by 13% per year. Remarkably, because of the slow or nonexistent growth rates of coal and gas, current trends put the world on track to reach 100% renewable electricity by 2032.

Current world electricity generation trends, extrapolated to 2032. Andrew Blakers/Matthew Stocks, Author provided

Deep cuts (80% reduction) in greenhouse gas emissions require that fossil fuels are pushed out of all sectors of the economy. The path to achieve this is by electrification of all energy services.

Straightforward and cost-effective initial steps are: to hit 100% renewable electricity; to convert most land transport to electric vehicles; and to use renewable electricity to push gas out of low-temperature water and space heating.

These trends are already well established, and the outlook for the oil and gas industries is correspondingly poor.

The best available prices for PV already match the current wholesale price of gas in Australia (A$9 per gigajoule, equivalent to A$32 per MWh for heat).

High-temperature heat, industrial processes, aviation and shipping fuel and fugitive emissions can be displaced by renewable electricity and electrically produced synthetic fuels, plastics and other hydrocarbons. There may be a modest additional cost depending on the future price trajectory of PV and wind.

Electrifying the whole energy sector of our economy of course means that electricity production needs to increase massively – roughly tripling over the next 20 years. Continued rapid growth of PV (and wind) will minimise dangerous climate change with minimal economic disruption.

Many policy instruments are available to hasten their deployment. Governments should get behind PV and wind as the last best chance to deliver the necessary solution to global warming.


 

About 80% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions are due to the use of coal, oil and gas, which is typical for industrialised countries. The land sector accounts for most of the rest.

Australian greenhouse gas emissions in 2016. ABS, Author provided

Sadly, attempts to capture and store the carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels have come to naught due to technical difficulties and high cost. Thus, to curtail global warming we need to replace fossil fuel use entirely, with energy sources that meet these criteria:

  • very large and preferably ubiquitous resource base
  • low or zero greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts
  • abundant or unlimited raw materials
  • minimal security concerns in respect of warfare, terrorism and accidents
  • low cost
  • already available in mass production.

Solar PV meets all of these criteria, while wind energy also meets many of them, although wind is not as globally ubiquitous as sunshine. We will have sunshine and wind for billions of years to come. It is very hard to imagine humanity going to war over sunlight.

Most of the world’s population lives at low latitudes (less than 35°), where sunlight is abundant and varies little between seasons. Wind energy is also widely available, particularly at higher latitudes.

PV and wind have minimal environmental impacts and water requirements. The raw materials for PV – silicon, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, aluminium, glass, steel and small amounts of other materials – are effectively in unlimited supply.

Wind energy is an important complement to PV because it often produces at different times and places, allowing a smoother combined energy output. In terms of worldwide annual electricity production wind is still ahead of PV but is growing more slowly.

The wind energy resource is much smaller than the solar resource, and so PV will likely dominate in the end.

Complete replacement of all fossil fuels requires solar and wind collectors covering much less than 1% of the world’s land surface area.

A large proportion of the collectors are installed on rooftops and in remote and arid regions, thus minimising competition with food production and ecosystems.

The more widely PV and wind generation are distributed across the world, the less the risk of wide-scale disruption from natural disasters, war and terrorism.
 

Other clean energy technologies can realistically play only a minor supporting role. The solar thermalindustry is hundreds of times smaller than the fast-growing PV industry (because of higher costs).

Hydro power, geothermal, wave and tidal energy are only significant prospects in particular regions.

Biomass energy is inefficient and its requirement for soil, water and fertiliser put it in conflict with food production and ecosystems. Nuclear is too expensive, and its construction rates are too slow to catch PV and wind.

A renewable grid

PV and wind are often described as “intermittent” energy sources. But stabilising the grid is relatively straightforward, with the help of storage and high-voltage interconnectors to smooth out local weather effects.

By far the leading storage technologies are pumped hydro and batteries, with a combined market share of 97%.

The cost of PV and wind power has been declining rapidly for many decades and is now in the range A$55-70 per megawatt-hour in Australia. This is cheaper than electricity from new-build coal and gas units. There are many reports of PV electricity being produced from very large-scale plants for A$30-50 per MWh.

Solar PV and wind have been growing exponentially for decades and have now reached economic lift-off. In 2018, PV and wind will comprise 60% of net new electricity generation capacity worldwide.

Coal, gas, nuclear, hydro and other renewable capacity comprise the rest. Globally, US$161 billion will be invested in solar generation alone this year, compared with US$103 billion in new coal and gas combined.

The path to dominance by PV and wind. In 2018, PV and wind are likely to comprise 60% of net new electricity generation capacity worldwide. Andrew Blakers/Matthew Stocks, Author provided

PV and wind are growing at such a rate that the overall installed generation capacity of PV and wind has reached half that of coal, and will pass coal in the mid-2020s, judging by their respective trends.

In Australia, PV and wind comprise most new generation capacity. About 4.5 gigawatts of PV and wind is expected to be installed in 2018 compared with peak demand of 35GW in the National Electricity Market. At this rate, Australia would reach 70% renewable electricity by 2030.

Together, PV and wind currently produce about 7% of the world’s electricity. Worldwide over the past five years, PV capacity has grown by 28% per year, and wind by 13% per year. Remarkably, because of the slow or nonexistent growth rates of coal and gas, current trends put the world on track to reach 100% renewable electricity by 2032.

Current world electricity generation trends, extrapolated to 2032. Andrew Blakers/Matthew Stocks, Author provided

Deep cuts (80% reduction) in greenhouse gas emissions require that fossil fuels are pushed out of all sectors of the economy. The path to achieve this is by electrification of all energy services.

Straightforward and cost-effective initial steps are: to hit 100% renewable electricity; to convert most land transport to electric vehicles; and to use renewable electricity to push gas out of low-temperature water and space heating.

These trends are already well established, and the outlook for the oil and gas industries is correspondingly poor.

The best available prices for PV already match the current wholesale price of gas in Australia (A$9 per gigajoule, equivalent to A$32 per MWh for heat).

High-temperature heat, industrial processes, aviation and shipping fuel and fugitive emissions can be displaced by renewable electricity and electrically produced synthetic fuels, plastics and other hydrocarbons. There may be a modest additional cost depending on the future price trajectory of PV and wind.

Electrifying the whole energy sector of our economy of course means that electricity production needs to increase massively – roughly tripling over the next 20 years. Continued rapid growth of PV (and wind) will minimise dangerous climate change with minimal economic disruption.

Many policy instruments are available to hasten their deployment. Governments should get behind PV and wind as the last best chance to deliver the necessary solution to global warming.


Link: https://reneweconomy.com.au/solar-pv-wind-track-replace-coal-oil-gas-within-two-decades-21333/

Rooftop solar could provide half of Dutch electricity needs, Deloitte finds


Deloitte’s calculation is based on publicly available data by the ‘Basisregistratie Adressen en Gebouwen’ (BAG) and the elevation maps of the Netherlands, AHN2 and AHN3.

Image: Deloitte
 

Analyzing the potential of rooftop solar in the Netherlands, Deloitte has found that 892 km2 of roof surface across the country has the potential to host solar panels, which is equivalent to 125,0004 soccer fields. At this point, however, only 4.4% out of a total nine million buildings are home to solar PV systems.

Under the optimum scenario, where all available surface is used, the rooftops could accommodate 270 million panels, the output of which could cover 98% of total Dutch household electricity needs. 

However, at this stage, this is only a remote possibility, given that only around 2% of Dutch electricity demand is generated by solar.

According to the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), with cumulative capacity sitting at 2.7 GW,  following the largest ever annual growth – 700 MW – in 2017, solar accounts for just 1.75% of the country’s power production.

The U.K. professional services network has also calculated that the optimal rooftop solar deployment would reduce electricity production-related CO2 emissions by 63%, which would reduce total carbon emissions by 20%, from current levels.

Again under the best case scenario, based on current Dutch energy consumption and production, the share of energy from renewable sources would reach 16%.   

Additionally, installing solar panels on every suitable roof would not only reduce carbon emissions, but could also inject up to €100 billion in the Dutch solar industry and create extra jobs, says Deloitte.

Discussing the main challenges to this, Deloitte notes that the potential of the industry is to grow from the current amount of six petajoules (PJ) to 217 PJ. However, with an assumed growth rate of 40% year on year, installation of the total amount of solar panels would still take 10 years to complete.

According to Deloitte, other challenges to the rooftop solar uptake are government incentive programs, energy grid surplus, and energy storage.

 

Currently, net metering for residential and commercial PV,which has seen its share decrease over the last two years, is still one of the main drivers of the Dutch market. 


Link: https://www.pv-magazine.com/2018/03/15/rooftop-solar-could-provide-half-of-dutch-electricity-needs-deloitte-finds/

Hanwha Q CELLS supplying 1.85MW of modules to the Netherlands¡¯ largest floating solar plant

a€˜Silicon Module Super Leaguea€™ (SMSL) member Hanwha Q CELLS said it would be supplying over 6,100 a€˜Q.PEAK-G4.1a€™ 300Wp monocrystalline solar modules to a floating solar (FPV) plant in the Netherlands in 2018. Image: Tenten Solar Zonnepanelen B.V.
‘Silicon Module Super League’ (SMSL) member Hanwha Q CELLS said it would be supplying over 6,100 ‘Q.PEAK-G4.1’ 300Wp monocrystalline solar modules to a floating solar (FPV) plant in the Netherlands in 2018. Image: Tenten Solar Zonnepanelen B.V.

‘Silicon Module Super League’ (SMSL) member Hanwha Q CELLS said it would be supplying over 6,100 ‘Q.PEAK-G4.1’ 300Wp monocrystalline solar modules to a floating solar (FPV) plant in the Netherlands in 2018.

The SMSL noted that the FPV being developed by Tenten Solar Zonnepanelen B.V. on a freshwater reservoir in Lingewaard in central Netherlands would be constructed between April and June 2018 for Drijvend Zonnepark Lingewaard B.V., and be the largest of its kind so far built in the country.

The FPV plant would also be equipped with FPV specialist Ciel et Terre’s modular pontoon system and PV inverters and optimizers from SolarEdge.

Frans van Herwijnen MSc, Director of Drijvend Zonnepark Lingewaard B.V. said: “We are 100% convinced that our floating PV system will only be the starting point for many more successful floating solar projects in the Netherlands. Since our inland waterways have a surface of about 7.650 square kilometers, floating systems can have an important contribution in terms of increasing the renewable energy supply in the Netherlands.”

Maengyoon Kim, EU Sales Head at Hanwha Q CELLS added, “Benelux is one of Q CELLS´ key regions in 2018. We aim to become the market leading module supplier in the Netherlands and in Belgium this year.”

The FPV is expected to produce around 1.757,5 MWh of clean electricity per year and feed it into the public grid and comes under the SDE+ scheme of governmental subsidies in the Netherlands.


Link: https://www.pv-tech.org/news/hanwha-q-cells-supplying-1.85mw-of-modules-to-the-netherlands-largest-float

We Just Breached the 410 PPM Threshold for CO2

We Just Breached the 410 PPM Threshold for CO2.
The Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii recorded its first-ever carbon dioxide reading in excess of 410 parts per million. Credit: Sharloch Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The world just passed another round-numbered climate milestone. Scientists predicted it would happen this year and lo and behold, it has.

On Tuesday, the Mauna Loa Observatory recorded its first-ever carbon dioxide reading in excess of 410 parts per million (it was 410.28 ppm in case you want the full deal). Carbon dioxide hasn’t reached that height in millions of years. It’s a new atmosphere that humanity will have to contend with, one that’s trapping more heat and causing the climate to change at a quickening rate.

In what’s become a spring tradition like Passover and Easter, carbon dioxide has set a record high each year since measurements began. It stood at 280 ppm when record keeping began at Mauna Loa in 1958. In 2013, it passed 400 ppm. Just four years later, the 400 ppm mark is no longer a novelty. It’s the norm.
 

“Its pretty depressing that it’s only a couple of years since the 400 ppm milestone was toppled,” Gavin Foster, a paleoclimate researcher at the University of Southampton told Climate Central last month. “These milestones are just numbers, but they give us an opportunity to pause and take stock and act as useful yard sticks for comparisons to the geological record.”

Earlier this year, U.K. Met Office scientists issued their first-ever carbon dioxide forecast. They projected carbon dioxide could reach 410 ppm in March and almost certainly would by April. Their forecast has been borne out with Tuesday’s daily record. They project that the monthly average will peak near 407 ppm in May, setting a monthly record.

Carbon dioxide concentrations have skyrocketed over the past two yearsdue to in part to natural factors like El Niño causing more of it to end up in the atmosphere. But it’s mostly driven by the record amounts of carbon dioxide humans are creating by burning fossil fuels.

“The rate of increase will go down when emissions decrease,” Pieter Tans, an atmospheric scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said. “But carbon dioxide will still be going up, albeit more slowly. Only when emissions are cut in half will atmospheric carbon dioxide level off initially.”

 

Even when concentrations of carbon dioxide level off, the impacts of climate change will extend centuries into the future. The planet has already warmed 1.8°F (1°C), including a run of 627 months in a row of above-normal heat. Sea levels have risen about a foot and oceans have acidified. Extreme heat has become more common.
 

All of these impacts will last longer and intensify into the future even if we cut carbon emissions. But we face a choice of just how intense they become based on when we stop polluting the atmosphere.

Right now we’re on track to create a climate unseen in 50 million years by mid-century.

This article is reproduced with permission from Climate Central. The article was first published on April 20, 2017.


Link: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/we-just-breached-the-410-ppm-threshold-for-co2/

It¡¯s time to plan for solar panel recycling in the United States

In 2017, the United States installed 10.6 GW of new solar energy. Using rough math (if every panel was 300 W), that’s 35.3 million new solar panels installed last year. In about 30 years, a wave of 35.3 million panels may reach the end of their lifespans, not counting the hundreds of millions of panels that flooded the U.S. market in the last decade that may need to be disposed of sooner.

What to do with this future solar waste has been bothering many in the industry, especially Sam Vanderhoof, owner of consulting firm Solar CowboyZ and former president of Schott Solar.

Photo courtesy of PV Cycle

“I’ve been working in solar since 1976. I’ve been doing it a long time, and that’s part of my guilt. I’ve been involved with millions of solar panels going into the field, and now they’re getting old,” he said. “The industry seems to think—myself included—that there isn’t a problem yet. The reality is that there is a problem now, and it’s only going to get larger, rapidly expanding as the PV industry expanded 10 years ago.”

Solar panel disposal and recycling isn’t a huge issue right now in 2018 because there isn’t a big enough volume to cause concern. Solar panels are warrantied to perform more than 25 years, and once the warranty expires, panels will still produce energy, albeit not at their advertised peak. Solar installations in the United States didn’t really take off until 2010. Any influx of panels needing replaced today happens after freak weather events or other accidents.

But where are those damaged panels going now? With no dedicated national program or requirement to safely dispose of solar panels, some unfortunately find their way to landfills. If the system owner is green-minded and has the money, panels may get shipped to a recycling facility. Other industry players are warehousing damaged or old panels until a practical recycling program is established.

That’s why Vanderhoof and a few colleagues recently started a new recycling program in the United States—Recycle PV—modeled after Europe’s successful program. The program is still in its early stages, but Vanderhoof hopes his efforts will start a movement.

“Who is responsible for it? In the U.S., nobody is,” he said of solar panel recycling guidelines. “It is important for the industry to step up to address it. Solar is supposed to be renewable and clean energy, but there is this dirty side to it. There is a waste stream after time that hasn’t been addressed.”

Vanderhoof isn’t alone in these concerns. There are many U.S. players trying to get plans in place before safe panel disposal becomes a national issue. Determining guidelines now will make things easier when panels reach the end of their useful lives.

Economics vs. regulations

Cara Libby, senior technical leader of solar energy at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), has been doing solar PV recycling research on behalf of the organization’s utility members. Libby said utilities asked for EPRI’s help understanding the feasibility of recycling in the United States since many own solar arrays approaching 20 years old. Libby and her research partners have been looking at various recycling technologies, whether modules should be classified as hazardous waste and how other countries have already approached recycling regulations.

“It’s still a little premature for dedicated PV recycling facilities [in the United States],” Libby said. “In the future, maybe around 2030, there will be a surge in PV waste volumes. Then we’ll have to start thinking about a better way to collect and recycle efficiently.”

Photo courtesy of PV Cycle

EPRI found that most panel recycling in Europe through the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive—which established rules for solar panel recycling in 2012—happens at glass recyclers. Panels are crushed or shredded and then glass and metals are separated. Other chemical and thermal processes may be used to recover high-value material like silver or copper.

System owners recycle their panels in Europe because they are required to. Panel recycling in an unregulated market (like the United States) will only work if there is value in the product. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) detailed solar panel compositions in a 2016 report and found that c-Si modules contained about 76% glass, 10% polymer (encapsulant and backsheet), 8% aluminum (mostly the frame), 5% silicon, 1% copper and less than 0.1% of silver, tin and lead. As new technologies are adopted, the percentage of glass is expected to increase while aluminum and polymers will decrease, most likely because of dual-glass bifacial designs and frameless models.

CIGS thin-film modules are composed of 89% glass, 7% aluminum and 4% polymers. The small percentages of semiconductors and other metals include copper, indium, gallium and selenium. CdTe thin-film is about 97% glass and 3% polymer, with other metals including nickel, zinc, tin and cadmium telluride.

There’s just not a large amount of money-making salvageable parts on any type of solar panel. That’s why regulations have made such a difference in Europe.

“In Europe, we’ve seen that when it’s mandated, it gets done,” Libby said. “Either it becomes economical or it gets mandated. But I’ve heard that it will have to be mandated because it won’t ever be economical.”

There’s nothing yet mandated at a national level, but there are a few states trying to get the required recycling ball moving. In July 2017, Washington became the first state to pass a solar stewardship bill (ESSB 5939), requiring manufacturers selling solar products into the state to have end-of-life recycling programs for their own products. Manufacturers that do not provide a recycling program or outline will not be able to sell solar modules into the state after Jan. 1, 2021. Regional takeback locations will be set up to accept solar panels at no cost to the system owner, and the state may charge manufacturers for the program. Final plans are still being decided.

A PV Cycle recycling drop-off point in Europe

Washington-based solar panel manufacturer Itek Energyassisted with the bill’s writing.

“Most of us here at the company feel strongly about being strong environmental stewards,” said Evan Bush, special programs coordinator at Itek. “It’s important to spearhead these efforts before there’s a big volume that will need to be disposed. With this in place, we’ll be more prepared.”

Itek’s modules are already in compliance with the new bill; the company uses a recycling partner in Idaho to take damaged panels and manufacturing scrap. Itek has been accepting back other brands of modules just to keep them out of landfills.

“There are reasons beyond just doing the right thing that should encourage others to [recycle panels],” Bush said. “Given the value of the component materials in modules, this shouldn’t be a burden to us or other participants.”

New York has a similar bill on the Senate calendar this year. Bill S2837A would require solar panel manufacturers to collect end-of-life panels for recycling. Critics argue that panel manufacturers should not bear the burden of recycling panels alone, although that is how the WEEE Directive works in Europe.

California SB 489 passed in 2015 and encourages safe disposition of old panels. California designates end-of-life solar panels as universal waste, a type of hazardous waste that is widely used in homes and businesses (like TVs or batteries). By California law, universal waste cannot be trashed or landfilled, but no guidelines are given on the proper way to recycle solar panels.

A U.S. recycling veteran

One U.S. company that has recycling figured out is CdTe thin-film module manufacturer First Solar. In 2005, the company made a commitment to extended producer responsibility. First Solar execs understood that in order for a renewable energy technology to truly be green, it was important to consider its end-of-life management. First Solar’s recycling program was established at the beginning of production to responsibly recycle manufacturing scrap, warranty returns and end-of-life panels. This environmental decision also had a financial perspective—tellurium doesn’t just grow on trees.

First Solar’s current recycling line

“There is a finite amount of tellurium,” said First Solar global recycling director Sukhwant Raju. “They wanted to make sure there was a way to recover the valuable stuff so it becomes sustainable growth for First Solar. It’s not just about being green, but how do we stay sustainable in the long term?”

First Solar recycling plants are attached to its manufacturing facilities—in Ohio, Malaysia and under construction in Vietnam. There’s also a stand-alone recycling plant in Germany.

“We have the capacity to recycle 2 million panels globally on an annual basis,” Raju said. “As more panels start reaching the end of their 25-year lifetimes, recycling will increase drastically.”

The company only recycles CdTe panels currently, even if the panels are not manufactured by First Solar (other CdTe panel manufacturers include Calyxo of Germany and Advanced Solar Power (ASP) of China). Raju said the company may develop techniques to handle crystalline silicon panels.

“We have a decade’s worth of experience in recycling, and we want to utilize that to broaden our efforts,” he said.

The progression of First Solar recycling advancements. The first photo (top left) shows the first version of recycling, the second photo (top right) shows the second version, and finally the bottom photo shows the current recycling process used in First Solar facilities.

As with the decommissioning of other energy technologies, there’s still a financial obligation on behalf of the system owner. The company’s initial recycling program was pre-funded. When a First Solar panel was sold, a portion of that money went into a fund that could only be used for end-of-life recycling. In 2012, the company switched gears but continues to honor historical commitments under the prefunded module collection and recycling program.

“We realized we were not doing anyone any favors by charging customers 20 to 30 years in advance for end of life recycling,” Raju said. “The better approach was to do pay-as-you-go since it is more cost-efficient to finance PV recycling through later-year project cash flows instead of upfront funding. Now when we sell our panels, we offer a global recycling services agreement. Customers have the option to use our services when the panels get to the end of life stage. We’ll do the recycling, and they’ll pay the price at that time.”

This customer-funded recycling effort is dependent on system owners willing to pay the price to do the right thing. Raju thinks that as volume increases, recycling costs will come down and the greener option will be more attractive than just throwing panels away. First Solar is also taking steps to reduce recycling costs to ensure recycling becomes the preferred end-of-life management approach.

“Limited land availability and regulatory requirements will only increase the costs of landfilling,” he said. “Meanwhile, recycling costs will continue to go down. While customers may only be sending 100 panels today for recycling, by the time most of their panels get to end of life, our cost ratio will be way lower. They see the value in getting on the recycling bandwagon.

“But at the end of the day,” Raju continued, “there is nothing to force them, other than in places where there are regulations.”

The need for crystalline recycling

For c-Si modules needing recycling now in the United States, there are a few scattered options. Various glass and electronics recyclers have taken on solar panel recycling, but usually not on dedicated lines or on a grand scale. Industry advocacy group SEIA has begun organizing recycling efforts through its PV Recycling Working Group. SEIA will choose preferred recycling partners that offer benefits to SEIA members. ECS Refining and Cleanlites Recycling have recently been approved as SEIA recycling partners.

Cleanlites began in the early 1990s as a light bulb recycler, taking on other items like batteries and electronics, until it found a niche with “difficult to recycle” items. It has been catering to a solar crowd for the last few years and recycled 1.5 million lbs of solar panels last year (again, using rough math of 50 lbs per panel, that’s 30,000 panels).

“I saw the impending need for solar panel [recycling]. Those coming out of commission from now to the next 10 years is astronomical,” said Tim Kimmel, Cleanlites vice president.

Photo courtesy of PV Cycle

Cleanlites uses optical, magnetic and hand sorting to separate aluminum, other metals and electronics from c-Si solar panels at its Cincinnati-based facility. The company is hesitant to accept other types of panels right now until it can determine safe processes. The leftover glass and silicon wafers (which may also have copper and silver mixed in) are sent to a smelter for further extraction. The process works for now, but it could be improved.

“We’re looking to put a new process line in that will be able to separate all the components and recover the silicon wafers and recycle the units 100%,” Kimmel said. “The goal is to avoid landfilling all these units, which is going to be a vast number here shortly.”

As solar panels are processed on the current lines, Cleanlites collects the scrap and sends 45,000-lb loads out at a time.

“At times, we get thousands of panels in a month, and on those times, we process twice a week, making the material and sending to the smelter on a consistent basis,” Kimmel said. “Other times, they come in slowly and we build them up until we are able to process a whole shipment.”

It costs money to send “solar scrap” to a smelter, and Cleanlites incorporates that cost and the cost of transportation into its recycling prices.

“There is a cost, so you have to weigh… do you want to be an environmentally sustainable company, or do you want to landfill thousands of pounds of material and have that show up?” Kimmel said. “The benefit of sending it to us, we’re able to receive it, ensure that the metals are recovered, and we recycle it. You’re not creating any waste or hazardous waste.”

A solar panel’s level of hazardous waste is up for debate. If panels are just old, there are usually no reasons to worry. EPRI research found the chance of chemical leaching grows if panels are damaged.

“We’ve conducted some toxicity testing on modules, and we have seen results showing that the presence of lead is higher than the threshold allowed by the TCLP (toxicity characteristic leaching procedure). There is a lot of variation between module types,” Libby said. “There is a potential for leaching of toxic materials such as lead in landfill environments. If modules are intact, it’s a low risk, but as soon as they’re broken or crushed, then the potential for leaching is increased.”

Recycling panels is the safest way to dispose of them, and SEIA and recycling centers are trying to make it easy to do the right thing.

Planning for future volume

There are clearly recycling options available now to U.S. solar owners, but their fragmented nature is what led Vanderhoof to form Recycle PV.

“There’s a little effort for sure, but it’s not concentrated. The information isn’t out there,” he said. “There’s not a good, simple flow of information and processes and procedures to deal with the waste stream.”

Recycle PV went straight to the pros, partnering with PV Cycle (the successful non-profit organization that offers waste management help to solar companies in Europe) and German panel refurbisher Rinovasol for the U.S. market. Slightly damaged or underperforming panels can find a second life on the refurbished market. Rinovasol will take care of those, and PV Cycle sets up memberships to get recyclable panels to partner facilities. Thus far, Recycle PV has shipped two containers of panels to Germany for recycling, which is expensive but the only way to fully take advantage of the PV Cycle process right now.

The plan for Recycle PV is to get volumes large enough to build a dedicated solar recycling plant in the United States. Vanderhoof said once Recycle PV is processing 10,000 panels a month, a U.S. facility will make more sense.

“It’s not an outrageous goal,” he said. “Right now in Europe, they can recycle that much a day, but it’s been going on for a long time already.”

It’s a lofty goal for Vanderhoof and his partners to start a brand new operation, but he felt he had to do something.

“We’ve gone to a lot of waste management and EPA meetings. You look around the room and it’s all waste management people, not solar people,” he said. “Those guys are in there trying to work on the policies that affect all of us, and they’d like it to be a more expensive policy because they make more money off it. The solar guys aren’t as engaged as they could be.”

The most promising solution for the United States is if SEIA can successfully tap into the PV Cycle model and pick up recycling plants across the nation willing to invest in solar processing. If more states adopt Washington’s requirements to have all panels backed by recycling programs, national recycling plans might automatically form. A big solar name may be willing to forgo Washington sales, but it’d have a harder time losing out on California sales just because it doesn’t have a recycling plan in place.

Time is ticking. The United States has about 15 years before solar panel recycling becomes a major issue. Plenty of time to figure out the best course of action, but also plenty of time to procrastinate. Here’s hoping we set early deadlines.


Link: https://www.solarpowerworldonline.com/2018/04/its-time-to-plan-for-solar-panel-recycling-in-the-united-states/

Central, string or module-level? Getting the right MPPT zone size

Everyone knows that optimizers and micro-inverters solve mismatch. But this leads to a couple follow-up questions: are these module-level power electronics (MLPE) the only way to solve mismatch? And is mismatch a binary thing where you either have it or you don’t? In particular, you might wonder how much benefit you get from string-level (but not module-level) optimization. Luckily, we have the tools to figure out the answers to these questions.

It’s best to start by getting a better sense of how mismatch behaves. We can take two scenarios with “hard” shade from obstructions: one with a pole (that will cast a longer, skinny shadow), and one with a nearby building (which will cast a shorter, fatter shadow). Then, we change the size of the maximum power point tracking (MPPT) zone: from a central inverter (300kW), to zone-level MPPT (30kW), to string-level MPPT (3kW), and finally module-level MPPT (300W). These have the nice benefit of each being 10 times larger than the other—so for the nerds out there, this gives us a chance to use a log-scale chart!

String-level MPPT reduces mismatch by 60% compared to a central inverter with wall shading, and by 70% for the pole shading. And even compared to the zone-level 30-kW mismatch, a string-level MPPT reduces 50% of the mismatch from shade in both scenarios.

In fact, each change in size of the MPPT tracking zone results in an improvement to the mismatch losses—there isn’t a ‘magic’ MPPT level that is clearly better than others.

It’s worth mentioning that there is a component of mismatch that can’t be addressed by string-level MPPT. “Soft” mismatch is statistical mismatch that is applied to modules for small things like soiling (e.g. bird droppings) or vegetation (e.g. a weed). Because these are unplanned, they are applied as statistical randomness across all modules in the array evenly. This creates series mismatch but not parallel mismatch—and it’s the series mismatch that the string-level MPPT can’t fix. As a result, this soft mismatch persists until the array has module-level MPPT:

Module-level optimization is great, and keep in mind that optimizers and microinverters have a ton of additional benefits beyond mismatch mitigation (including safety, design flexibility, electrical BOM benefits and data visibility). But it is striking that a string-level MPPT approach can mitigate a significant amount of an array’s mismatch from shade.

 
 

Link: https://www.solarpowerworldonline.com/2018/03/central-string-module-level-mppt-zone-size/

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