Megaretailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc. just unveiled its 100th solar system in the state of California. All told, that brings the superstore’s solar installations to 150 throughout the country. What’s more, by the end of 2012, it expects to have as much as 90 megawatts of capacity, which would be more than IKEA and more than Apple.
“We are trying to show folks that you can not only pursue these sustainability initiatives, they also make business sense,” said Marty Gilbert, director of energy for Wal-Mart, explaining that using renewable energy is not only good for the environment but also can drive down prices. “The more we get involved and commit to volume, the more the prices come down for the technology,” he said.
Wal-Mart installed its first solar projects in 2008 and has been installing panels in areas where utility rates are typically higher—such as California, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Ohio and Connecticut. Supplementing their energy needs with solar providers cuts the company’s overall costs.
Through the new California system, the company hopes to create up to 70 million kilowatts of clean, renewable energy every year; eliminate over 21,700 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year; and cover as much as 30 percent of each facility’s electricity needs.
“At Walmart, we believe sustainability is about living better,” said Kimberly Sentovich, Senior Vice President of the Pacific Division for Wal-mart. “By using one of California’s greatest resources – sunshine – and employing renewable technology with our California-based partners, we will continue developing solutions that are both good for the environment and good for business.”
For more information about Wal-Mart’s sustainability projects, visit WalMartStores.com/Sustainability.
Home goods giant IKEA just added three new solar energy systems to its Pennsylvania operations—two at its Philadelphia-area stores and another atop its U.S. Service Office in Conshohocken. Combined with its other solar projects, this brings IKEA solar projects up to 29 in the United States alone. What’s more, the company is currently working on 10 more additions. When all is said and done, IKEA should have a solar presence of nearly 89% and be able to generate 38 megawatts.
“This solar installation is another example of how we build on our ongoing sustainability commitment,” said Kevin Bohon, store manager of the IKEA store in Conshohocken. Likewise, Lisa Christensen, store manager in South Philadelphia, added that “A solar energy system atop the store reduces our carbon footprint and improves what we do today for a better tomorrow.”
The new solar projects in the Philadelphia area total 286,300 square feet and on their own will produce as much as 2.21 megawatts of power. They’re built with 9,198 panels, designed and installed by Gehrlicher Solar America Corp., which IKEA contracted with for the projects.
According to a company press release Tuesday, IKEA’s sustainable drives in America currently include initiatives such as “recycling waste material; incorporating environmental measures into the construction of buildings in terms of energy-efficient HVAC and lighting systems, recycled construction materials, skylights in warehouse areas, and water conserving restrooms; and operationally, eliminating plastic bags from the check-out process, phasing out the sale of incandescent light bulbs and facilitating recycling of customers’ compact fluorescent bulbs. IKEA also has installed electric vehicle charging stations at nine stores in the Western U.S.”
To learn more about IKEA and its solar efforts, visit IKEA.com.
Germany-based solar startup Heliatek GmbH recently announced plans to begin production of the products it’s been developing since launching in 2006: flexible, organic photovoltaic cells.
“We are finishing the manufacturing line; we will be in production in the next few weeks,” Thibaud Le Seguillon, CEO of Heliatek, said in an interview.
Production will take place at the company’s new Dresden factory, which took 14 million euro (about $18 million) to construct. Future plans involve a second, much larger, fab, also to be built in Dresden. Before the second line can be made, Heliatek will have to raise further funds—60 million euro (about $75 million). It has 25 million euro pledged already from investors, which include BASF, Bosch, RWE, Wellington Partners, eCapital, Hightech Grunderfonds, TGFS and GP Bullhound.
“Organic photovoltaic is an important next generation technology for BASF,” said Dirk Nachtigal, Managing Director of BASF Venture Capital. That’s why BASF is developing new organic materials for solar cells that enable efficient and competitive energy generation. “In order to fully exploit the potential of this innovative technology, our collaboration with partners like Heliatek is of strategic importance,” continued Nachtigal.
In terms of recruiting investors, Heliatek has working in its favor the fact that it is a renewable energy technology company involved in manufacturing for export, traditionally a selling point. But on the down side, investors will likely be wary of photovoltaic companies, which have seen many bankruptcies over the last few years.
For more information about Heliatek GmbH and its organic-based photovoltaics, visit Heliatek.com.
There’s more to the sun’s power than the part we can see—just ask anyone who’s gotten a sunburn on an overcast summer afternoon. In addition to the powerful, visible spectrum we can look at and which most photovoltaics are built on, there is another part. And new solar cells from the researchers at MIT are designed to capitalize on that overlooked aspect of solar power.
Through their first “all-carbon” solar cells, MIT researchers have found a way to capture light we don’t see and turn it into usable energy. Through a new device that goes right on top of existing panels and uses carbon instead of silicon as their primarily material, researchers have found a way to make it possible to put carbon nanotubes and C60 to work changing infrared light into electric currency.
“It’s a fundamentally new kind of photovoltaic cell,” said Michael Strano, the Charles and Hilda Roddey Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT. “If you could harness even a portion of the near- infrared spectrum, it adds value.”
While the production of purified carbon nanotubes on a large scale and for affordable prices is only now a new reality, there is a good chance that further refinements could lead the concept to spread to many other surfaces as well. Since its transparent to visible light, these cells can overlay regular solar panels or other materials.
“It’s very much a model system and other groups with help increase the efficiency,” said Rishabh Jain, a graduate student and a lead author of the study.
At Soluxe Solar, we’re always excited to hear about new developments in the world of solar and are looking forward to future applications of MIT’s new device!
(Image source: Bloomberg.com)
Canadian solar project developer Pure Energies Group announced Monday that it has acquired One Block Off the Grid, the startup that helps neighbors find better solar deals by pulling together their combined knowledge and resources.
“They are very good at acquiring customers,” said Chris Stern, a spokesman for Toronto-based Pure Energies, in a recent interview. “We bring the engineering, procurement and construction piece and we’re going to be hiring.”
In fact, since its founding in San Francisco in 2008, 1BOG has brought in thousands of clients across forty states, providing the connecting link between solar installers, reputable providers, homeowners looking to install panels and homeowners who already have. Through this new acquisition, for which details have not been disclosed to the public, Pure Energies plans to take 1BOG’s expertise and use it to create a sort of comparison-shopping service for the homeowners it serves, whereby they’ll be able to find the best deals on solar energy in their neighborhoods.
Pure Energies sells solar systems in Ontario, where a lucrative feed-in tariff has created a need for solar installers that has already led to installations of several megawatts of projects in the area so far. As a result of this new deal, Pure Energies plans to put 1BOG’s website to work in Ontario and in turn to offer 1BOG installer and technical support in the states.
According to Andrew Krulewitz, GTM Research solar analyst, 1BOG’s idea offers great potential for homeowners to save money as they’re able to compare prices from big companies like SunRun, SolarCity and Sungevity.
“Typically these firms push for a commitment on the first sales meeting, and why not? With no upfront cost to the homeowner, the end-customer is simply happy to be saving money,” he said. “If Pure [Energies] can foster competition in this regard, third-party residential installers will be forced to reduce overall costs dramatically to continue to provide competitive electricity rates and keep positive margins.”
To learn more about Pure Energies, visit Pure-Energies.com.
Glen Falls Hospital in Glen Falls, New York, recently unveiled new rooftop solar thermal panels at its Renal Dialysis Center, making it the first hospital in the area to run dialysis in part through solar power.
“This innovation at its purest … will also help us save a few bucks,” said David Kruczlnicki, hospital president and CEO. The solar system had a total pricetag of $32,500 but was partially paid for by a $25,000 federal stimulus grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
The way it works is this: the solar panels will absorb heat from the sun into municipal water that flows through sealed vacuum tubes. Because heat is a major part of dialysis, used to keep the blood at a 77-degree temperature as it moves through the cleansing machine and then warming it to 98.6 for a patient’s body, the solar panels will be very useful in replacing other forms of power used in the treatments.
In fact, the solar power generated through the new panels should replace about 45 percent of the natural gas that was being used to heat water for the center, which uses about 5,500 gallons of heated water a day during treatments right now. By saving the hospital money, this renovation will also make it possible to repay the investment within five years, with continual cost savings afterwards, through its entire estimated 30-year lifespan.
That’s money the hospital can “take..and re-invest in patient care or new technology,” said Ron Zimmerman, VP of operations at the hospital.
Are solar-powered worldwide flights possible? In May, we mentioned an experimental solar aircraft that was trying to take its first transcontinental flight but had been delayed by fog. Now, that same plane has been delayed a second time, attempting to fly over Morocco’s Atlas Mountains but being prevented by high winds.
“Because of [the plane's] big size and low speed, we cannot go into areas of heavy turbulence like the big commercial planes can,” Borschberg told The Associated Press from the cockpit of his aircraft as he flew over Morocco’s coastline near Casablanca recently.
His airplane, the delicate and lightweight Solar Impulse, has a wing span the size of a commercial jet but a weight closer to the size of a family car, meaning it’s highly vulnerable to harsh weather conditions. Its battery-powered turboprop engines get recharged by the 12,000 solar cells covering its body, but that relies on the sun. The plane is the only solar-powered craft of it kind, one which can fly day and night.
The reason for setting Morocco as the first destination for a transcontinental flight with the solar plane is because of the country’s push towards large solar energy plants. By 2020, Morocco plans to build five solar plants to produce 2,000 megawatts of power, making it possible to get 40% of its energy for renewable sources and even to export energy to Europe.
By 2014, Borschberg hopes to fly an improved version of the plane around the world—but it would have to be via a course chosen for the most temperate weather. While solar-powered planes are never expected to replace typical, fuel-powered jets, what Borschberg’s attempts have showcased already is the incredible possibilities that exist with solar power.
(Image source: News.com.au)
Here’s a solar incentive worth hearing about: the USDE is giving $10 million to the companies who can install 5,000 new rooftop solar panel systems by 2014 at an average price of $2 per watt or less. They’re calling the contest the “SunShot Prize: America’s Most Affordable Rooftop Solar.”
First place gets $7 million; second, $2 million; and third, $1 million–and if no one wins, the money will be returned to the U.S. Treasury.
“Through the SunShot Initiative, we’re tackling the technological, scientific and market barriers facing America’s solar industry to make sure solar power continues to play an important role in our diverse energy mix. The investments in American startups and the new competition announced [on June 13] further our efforts to seize on the tremendous global market for clean energy technologies, representing hundreds of billions of dollars worldwide,” said Steven Chu, U.S. Secretary of Energy.
Offered by the United States Department of Energy’s Sunshot Initiative, the collaborative national effort to make solar power more cost-competitive with other energy by the end of the decade, this large incentive is only available to the companies who make installations between August 1, 2012, and December 31, 2014.
To qualify, all of a company’s 5,000 required installations must have a power range that’s between 1 and 15 kilowatts, and the buildings they’re installed upon must be inhabited by humans (in other words, no to solar farms or doghouses, but yes to an attached garage).
Draft requirements for the contest are due by July 13, 2012.
For more information about the competition, visit the U.S. Department of Energy website!
Reports show that solar installations are on the rise in America—jumping 85% higher in the first quarter of 2012. In this year’s first three months, there were a total of 506 megawatts of solar power capacity added throughout the country, making early 2012 the second highest quarterly total on record, according to a report from GTM Research for Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
“This really shows the beginning of what we think is going to be a breakout year for the U.S. solar industry,” said Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association.
The growth, which was announced shortly after the U.S. Commerce Department imposed new tariffs on imports of solar equipment from China, comes, at least in part, from the finishing of several projects from solar developers that qualified under a national grant program ending in 2011. These projects could keep new installations coming strong through the middle of this year. As for the effect of the new tariffs, some analysts think the they may cause U.S. prices to rise but that at least for now, there are no signs of slowing.
“The U.S. market is robust, and none of the global dynamics that are playing out are going to be a market killer for the U.S.,” said Shayle Kann, vice president of research at GTM Research in Boston.
According to the findings from SEIA, “Solar electric capacity reached 4,943 MW in the U.S.” already, which is “enough to power 775,000 households.”
To learn more about the 2012′s solar developments and to view details of the report from GTM and Solar Energy Industries Association, go to SEIA.org.
Summer is the season of sunlight and the season of outdoor festivals, and for an event held in Texas recently, it was the combination of the two. Fittingly dubbed The Solar-Powered Music Festival, Fort Worth’s free outdoor music concert held on Saturday, June 16, promised big-name performers like the Romantics and the English Beat. But more than that, it showcased the amazing power of the sun—as giant solar panels amped up absolutely everything at this 100% totally solar-powered festival.
Solar Fest was designed to “showcase Fort Worth’s commitment to being a forward-thinking, green city,” according to the festival’s website.
Held on the Trinity River Project Property, minutes from downtown Fort Worth along the banks of the Trinity River, the 10-act Solar Fest featured performances from Tyler and the Northern Lights of Dallas, who began the day, as well as music from Ishi, Whiskey Folk Ramblers, Chris Johnson of Telegraph Canyon and others. Other highlights included local beer, local vendors and food trucks, which were the one part of the festival not powered by solar energy.
Featuring a total of 10 acts, the festival was sponsored by RAHR & Sons Brewing Company and presented by DFW.com. Sustainable Waves, which also provides a solar stage for The Warp Tour, provided the solar stage and power for the event. All proceeds went to benefit Pug Rescue in honor of Rahr’s popular Ugly Pug craft beer, and attendees were invited to bring a donation of leashes, harnesses and heartworm or flea and tick medication, if not a cash donation, to help with pug rescue.
To learn more about Fort Worth’s Solar-Powered Music Festival, visit.
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