Keep solar power on when power goes out

Savor the irony. When there is a blackout, your solar power system will probably go out too.

That's because most systems are tied to the electrical grid. (In Germany, the utilities pay for this electricity, but in most states here, the utilities give you credit against any grid power you might buy.) To ensure that their workers don't get hurt, utilities shut off all devices that feed power into particular sectors of the grid when doing repairs.

To ameliorate that problem, SMA America, the U.S. group of a larger German company, has released a new version of … Read more

Nanosolar to move into production this year

Nanosolar, one of the several companies trying to popularize CIGS solar panels, says it will move into commercial production later this year, and it's already booked the first 12 months of production.

The company hopes to inaugurate its manufacturing facility later this year and start shipping products before the calendar turns to 2008, according to CEO Martin Roscheisen.

"November and the first part of December are going to be extremely busy," Roscheisen said in a phone interview. Technically, Nanosolar is five days behind its own internal schedule, he said.

Even if production slips a bit, 2008 is … Read more

Originally posted at News Blog

By Michael Kanellos

Ecotality buys Innergy for mobile-solar and battery technology

What the clean-energy industry needs more of is profitable companies and fewer science experiments.

So says Jonathan Read, the CEO of Ecotality, which announced on Thursday that its has signed an agreement to buy Innergy Power. The price was $3 million, Read said.

San Diego-based Innergy makes solar panels and batteries for mobile applications, such as solar-powered phones, remote surveillance cameras or off-grid lighting. It also manufactures sealed lead acid batteries that can be combined with small solar panels.

The acquisition is part of Ecotality's plan to "roll up" different clean-electricity companies into a diversified and profitable … Read more

Brains alone can't create a clean energy future

SEATTLE--Clean energy innovations may be getting off the ground in labs and start-up business plans, but making them commonplace for consumers is another matter.

"We're not getting there very quickly because no one's paying the bill," said Stan Bull, director of research and development at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which is exploring alternative fuels such as ethanol from corn stalks, waste paper and wood from forests thinned to prevent wildfires.

The government must do more to speed up the spread of greener technologies, agreed Bull and other experts at Discover Brilliant, a conference exploring sustainability … Read more

How green was Burning Man?

The majority of the nearly 50,000 celebrants at the Burning Man counter-culture event have been re-adjusting for two weeks to the real world of running water, cubicles and commutes. With the week-long party in the Nevada desert in the rearview mirror, how green was the burn?

Supporters and critics of the festival of radical self-expression anticipated that this year's Green Man theme would set the ephemeral city apart from those of the past. Many hoped that Burning Man would clean up its act, show off promising clean technologies and set a fresh example for eco-friendly events. Others accused … Read more

A solar refrigerator for developing world

The Solar Turbine Group is trying to bring refrigeration to emerging nations by harnessing the power of the sun.

The organization, which consists largely of MIT alumni, has devised a solar thermal generator that can be brought to market for $12,000 or less. A typical system can generate 600 watts of electricity or 20 kilowatts of energy for heating and cooling, according to Sam White, director for STG. The same system can also produce both at the same time, albeit less of each.

Like other solar thermal systems, STG uses mirrors. Mirrors concentrate heat from the sun onto a … Read more

In the real world, solar often gets barely a passing grade

I'm a big fan of solar power. But as with anything, I like to know exactly what I'm getting. One of the big unspoken issues in the solar sector is the difference between the rated or estimated potential output of a solar system--and the actual production of kilowatt-hours. A range of factors from the margin of error in the modules, to temperature, dust and losses from wiring, conversion to AC power and any batteries all can contribute to as much as 30 percent lower actual power production--even in the first year.

Compounding this problem in my mind is … Read more

Solar's new battleground: Colorado

Nature hates a vacuum, and apparently so do solar installation companies.

A number of solar installers with national ambitions have or are preparing plans to open operations in Colorado. Standard Renewable Energy, which is trying to create a nationwide network of energy efficiency consultants (see earlier story here), has linked up with installers in the state, said CEO John Berger. Besides solar, Standard also advises customers on light bulbs and heating systems. (Berger used to run the East Coast trading desk at Enron, but there's no probationary ankle collar on him. The East Coast desk was not the one … Read more

Electrifying emerging nations with thin-film solar

A lot of thin-film solar-panel concepts will face hurdles to gaining ground in established markets. The silicon shortage will ease, the cost of making and installing silicon solar panels will decline, and silicon will likely remain more efficient at converting sunlight to electricity than the thin-film alternatives.

But in emerging nations, it could be a completely different story, Alain Harrus, a partner at VC firm Crosslink Capital, said during a meeting this week. Many villages and homes in Africa, Asia and Latin America don't have electricity to begin with, so there's no incumbent technology to dislodge, he noted. … Read more

Solar star Miasole gets new CEO, seeks more funds

Miasole, a notable solar start-up that has been hit with some delays, is getting retrofitted.

The company, which specializes in copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar cells and panels, has appointed Joseph Laia as CEO and president. Laia, a veteran of the semiconductor chip equipment industry, worked most recently at KLA-Tencor.

Dave Pearce, founder and former CEO, will stay on as chairman.

"The board and I have long talked about a transition to a leader who will scale Miasole to commercial manufacturing and worldwide operations," said Pearce in a prepared statement Monday.

Sources also say that the company … Read more