We’re trying to get more solar energy stories going here on Planetsave. To catch readers up, I’m doing a short series on the top 50 solar energy stories of 2013 so far. Learning from the Top 33 EV Stories article I recently published, I’m splitting this one into 5 posts. Otherwise, the page would take forever to load. Plus, it’s easier to swallow 10 at a time.
It’s pretty hard to actually rank these top 50 articles, so I didn’t even try. The list is in no particular order. The numbers are basically just for referring people (your friends, family, coworkers, etc) to specific stories you think are worth highlighting. Don’t forget to do that! Once the posts are up, I will add links here:
- Top 50 Solar Energy Stories Part 1 (1-10)
- Top 50 Solar Energy Stories Part 2 (11-20)
- Top 50 Solar Energy Stories Part 3 (21-30)
- Top 50 Solar Energy Stories Part 4 (31-40)
- Top 50 Solar Energy Stories Part 5 (41-50)
OK, here are the first 10:
MidAmerican Solar and SunPower Corp. in April marked the start of construction on the 579 megawatt Antelope Valley Solar Projects (4 months after MidAmerican bought the project). The solar power plant (aka solar farm) is expected to be the largest in the world when completed.
- The almost as humungous400 megawatt San Antonia solar power plant Alamo 1 is also now under construction.
- The whoppingly large 750 megawatt McCoy Solar Project has received expedited review approval from California Governor Jerry Brown. Hopefully construction will begin soon.
- Sempra this year completed the first 150 megawatt phase of the 700 megawatt Mesquite Solar farm.
- Also in Arizona, the first 127 megawatt “block” of the 5-block Arlington Valley Solar Energy II (AV Solar II) solar farm was completed.
2. New Electricity Capacity On The California Grid Is Set To Be Almost 100% Solar In The 2nd Half Of 2013
Solar is growing fast, especially in California, where sunshine and healthy incentives make it competitive. Plus, utilities there have renewable energy mandates they have to hit. The stars have lined up for a fun second half of 2013, with nearly all new electricity capacity in the state scheduled to be from solar power systems.
3. So Many Solar Efficiency Records Set
Let’s just run down them:
- Sharp sets 37.9% triple-junction, non-concentrator solar cell efficiency record. (Note: the US Navy is working on a triple-junction solar cell that it thinks will break through the 50% efficiency barrier.)
- Amonix Inc. sets 34.9% outdoor concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) solar module efficiency record, as well as a peak efficiency record of 36%.
- Ripasso Energy sets 32% solar stirling dish efficiency record.
- Alta Devices sets 30.8% two-junction (aka dual junction) solar cell efficiency record.
- Panasonic sets 24.7% crystalline silicon solar cell efficiency record.
- SunPower sets 21.5% commercial solar module efficiency record with X-Series solar modules.
- SunPower sets record (and second and third place) in solar module yield tests.
- Solar Frontier sets 19.7% CIGS solar cell efficiency record, a 10-year record.
- First Solar sets 16.1% cadmium-telluride (CdTe) photovoltaic (PV) module conversion efficiency record.
- Researchers at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology set 8.92% plasmonic polymer solar cell efficiency record for cells using nanoparticles.
This definition of “grid parity” is the cost of rooftop solar versus the cost of electricity sourced from the grid – this is sometimes known as “socket parity.” At least one source finds that 102 countries have now hit grid parity.
In an on-air Google Hangout in March, Recurrent Energy CEO and Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) Chairman Arno Harris noted that more solar power capacity is projected to be installed in 2013 than from any electricity source other than natural gas. And, by 2016, solar energy may actually be the #1 source of new power for at least one year.
The world’s largest single-unit concentrated solar power (CSP) plant launched in Abu Dhabi, UAE in March. The Shams 1 “will power thousands of homes in the United Arab Emirates and displace approximately 175,000 tons of CO₂ per year.” I was quite lucky to visit the solar power plant in January and learn much more about it.
Hawaii has hit “solar grid parity.” In other words, you’re better off going solar than paying for conventional electricity from the power grid. Above is a fun infographic about that and related matters, which actually shows that residents there “pay off” their solar power investments within 3–5 years, and then have free electricity for decades. Nice. (By the way, utility-scale solar has actually hit grid parity in cloudy Oregon, too!)
8. Grid Energy Storage Projects Starting To Take Off; Promising Energy Storage
Grid energy storage is not very important for renewable energy growth at this point in time. However, when renewable energy accounts for a large percentage of our power supply, it will be quite important. So, it’s good to see that significant and competitive projects are starting to get off the ground. Here are a few hot stories along those lines:
- Japan Installing World’s Largest Battery Storage System
- Eos Energy Storage — Next Big Thing In Energy Storage?
- Eos Energy Storage Launches 1st Pilot Project With Con Edison
- Eos Energy Storage Raises $15 Million, Gets Funding From NRG Energy
- Zinc-Iron Redox Flow Batteries — The Next Big Thing In Energy Storage?
- PG&E Unveils Battery Storage System In San Jose, California
- 150MW California Solar Project With Energy Storage Gets PPA
- North America’s Largest Wind Energy Storage Facility Fires Up In Texas
- Belgium Plans Artificial Island For Wind Energy Storage
- Bill Gates Provides Boost To Renewable Energy Storage Company Aquion Energy
- Apple Designs A Wind Energy Storage Concept
- Energy Storage Breakthrough: Large And Powerful Redox Flow Battery Developed
- Compressed Air Energy Storage In The Northwest — Enough Wind Energy To Power 85,000 Homes For 1 Month Can Be Stored In Porous Rocks
- LightSail Gets $5.5 Million For Compressed Air Energy Storage
- New Durable High-Power Lithium-Ion Battery Developed In Germany
- Toyota Recycles Hybrid Batteries Into Energy Management Systems
- International Battery & Energy Storage Alliance Established
- Solar Energy Industries Association & Electricity Storage Association Buddy Up
- Germany To Begin Renewable Power-To-Gas Research Project
- Solar PV Energy Storage Market To Skyrocket
- Grid Energy Storage To Grow 56 Gigawatts By 2022
- Energy Storage Costs To Halve & Market To Boom, Study Finds
- Much More Clean, Renewable Energy Could Be Integrated Into Grid
- Germany’s Energy Storage Incentive Starts
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Projects in April released a report, “Energy Infrastructure Update,” that showed that renewable energy sources (biomass, geothermal, solar, water, wind) accounted for 82% of all new domestic electrical generating capacity installed in the first quarter of 2013. Furthermore, solar power accounted for all new power capacity in March. (Note: this doesn’t even include residential or commercial solar power systems.)
It’s no giant, but at 15 MW, the Sheikh Zayed Solar Power Plant is apparently the largest solar PV power plant in Africa. The project is located in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, a country with considerable solar and wind resources, but also considerable energy poverty.