Microbe helps convert solar power to liquid fuel

A new "bioreactor" could store electricity as liquid fuel with the help of a genetically engineered microbe and copious carbon dioxide. The idea -- dubbed "electrofuels" by a federal agency funding the research -- could offer electricity storage that would have the energy density of fuels such as gasoline. If it works, the hybrid bioelectric system would also offer a more efficient way of turning sunlight to fuel than growing plants and converting them into biofuel.

"The method provides a way to store electrical energy in a form that can be readily used as a … Read more

Tiny solar cell dots printed for powerful array

A technique first developed to print flexible electronics has helped engineers at start-up Semprius reinvent the shape of concentrating solar technology.

The company's tiny solar cells, each a dot the size of a ballpoint pen tip, have been validated to convert 41 percent of solar energy to electricity, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory announced yesterday. Semprius is in the process of building a manufacturing facility in Henderson, N.C., to make concentrating solar arrays using its "micro-transfer printing" technique, according to the Department of Energy.

The semiconductor printing technique can be used for many applications, including improving … Read more

Oil company warms to concentrating-solar startup

Morgan Solar has brought on Canadian oil and gas distributor Enbridge as an investor to commercialize its concentrating-photovoltaic panels.

The Toronto-based company today said that Enbridge has invested $9.8 million as part of a $28.8 million round of funding.

Enbridge's primary business is oil and gas distribution but it has invested in a few solar energy projects that use traditional flat photovoltaic panels. Morgan Solar is the first solar technology it has invested in.

The money will be used to expand manufacturing capacity of Morgan Solar's concentrating-photovoltaic modules and trackers.

The company's core technology is … Read more

What's ahead for the U.S. solar market? (video)

At a conference this week in San Francisco, executives from the clean-tech industry got together to talk about the state of the photovoltaic market in the United States and what they expect in the future.

The good news? The U.S. isn't Spain. The executives said the market's explosive growth in Spain in recent years was like a huge party, but then came the hangover. In the U.S., they're expecting measured growth, something much more sustainable. Check out more from the panel at the the Greentech Media U.S. Solar Market Insight conference.

This video first … Read more

3M see-through solar films stick onto windows

MAKUHARI, Japan--What if every window of your home or office could generate power? See-through solar films developed by 3M also make your windows shatter-resistant.

At the Ceatec 2011 electronics trade show outside Tokyo, the company was showing off its green-tinged, flexible transparent photovoltaic films on regular and curved glass surfaces.

It was the second time the tech was being displayed, following a brief showing that unfortunately coincided with the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The films stick onto windows, making them less susceptible to breaking in quake-prone Japan. They consist of five layered sheets and an organic photovoltaic substance.

They also help keep interiors cooler by absorbing more than 90 percent of infrared light, reducing the need for air conditioning in summer. At the 3M booth at Ceatec, there was a 13-degree C difference on one side of a window compared to the other, which was heated by powerful lamps but plastered with the sheets. … Read more

PV solar installations up on utility-scale projects


Second-quarter U.S. installations of photovoltaic solar panels rose 17 percent from the previous quarter as increases in non-residential and utility-scale projects offset a weakened residential solar market.

Installations were also up 69 percent from the same period the previous year at 314 megawatts, according to a report released today by industry trade group the Solar Energy Industries Association and research firm GTM Research.

Installations are poised to double this year, though SEIA said it revised its outlook for the residential and utility segments while raising its non-residential market forecast.

"We have to step back and remember that we are in some dire economic times, and to see 17 percent quarter-over-quarter growth and 69 percent year-over-year growth is really quite astounding," said Tom Kimbis, vice president for strategy and external affairs at SEIA.

Solar module prices fell 12 percent in the United States during the quarter--bringing the decline for the year to about 30 percent, the report said, adding that without that decline, U.S. installations may have been flat this year.

"We're benefiting from competition. It's driving some companies out of business, but on the other hand it's a real boon for homeowners and small businesses who want to install solar," Kimbis said. … Read more

Solar thermal plants scrap steam for photovoltaic


Developers of solar thermal power plants are scrapping plans to use steam technology in favor of ever-cheaper solar panels that are easier to finance and could help assuage concerns about the systems' environmental impact.

So far this year, at least four California projects, representing about 1,850 megawatts of power generation, have elected to change most or all of their technology to photovoltaic solar panels, which turn sunlight directly into electricity, from concentrating solar power, or CSP, which uses heat to create steam that powers a generator.

The projects are being developed by NextEra Energy, Germany's Solar Millennium, AES … Read more

IEEE: Solar could challenge fossil fuel in 10 years

Solar photovoltaics have the potential to be the most cost-effective electricity source and could even challenge fossil fuels within 10 years.

That's according to an announcement made by leaders of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) today as part of the organization's launch of photovoltaic research initiatives.

"Solar PV will be a game changer. No other alternative source has the same potential. As the cost of electricity from solar continues to decrease compared to traditional energy sources, we will see tremendous market adoption, and I suspect it will be a growth limited only by supply,&… Read more

Chevy Volt to be assembled at solar-powered plant

In its first year the Chevrolet Volt has garnered several awards, including 2011 Motor Trend Car of the Year, Green Car Journal's 2011 Green Car of the Year, and Automobile's 2011 Automobile of the Year. And now the electric car with extended range is going to be built in a solar-powered facility.

General Motors announced it is building the photovoltaic solar array, the largest in Southeast Michigan, at the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant. Sunlight will help to create the $41,000 Volt.

Once it's completed, the 516-kilowatt project built by GM and DTE Energy will generate 54,750 … Read more

Solar Junction claims cell efficiency record

Solar Junction, a Silicon Valley solar start-up, said today that its solar cell has been measured at a peak efficiency of 43.5 percent, topping previous records.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company said that the efficiency mark was verified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Measurement and Characterization Laboratory.

To achieve the 43.5 percent mark, Solar Junction designed a multijunction cell made of multiple layers of photovoltaic material. Each layer is optimized to convert a different portion of the light spectrum to electrical energy.

To boost the amount of sunlight that goes into the very small, 5.… Read more