Two years after breaking ground, the world's most advanced germanium wafer production facility was officially opened on October 12 at Umicore's site in Quapaw, Okla. Germanium wafers are a core component of triple junction high-efficiency solar cells used on the vast majority of all satellites launched today. Triple junction solar cells based on germanium wafers are also widely used in terrestrial Concentrated PV systems, an emerging, highly promising, and cost-efficient PV technology for areas with high direct sunlight irradiation levels.
Literature and Real Life, Chapter One: Anybody who's read British novelist Ian MacEwan's latest novel "Solar" knows that its plot turns in part on a scientific pipe dream that turns into a real discovery: How to mimic photosynthesis to produce energy from pure sunlight. Apparently there's some truth to fiction. RTI International, Duke University, North Carolina State University and UNC-Chapel Hill in early October formed the Research Triangle Solar Fuels Institute, with the goal of transforming sunlight into usable energy using photosynthesis.
PROJECT ANEMOMETER: Strong breezes are influencing multiple wind projects, but the wind isn't always at their back. Google has announced a joint effort with Good Energies and Marubeni Corp. to finance the creation of an underwater cabling system to transport energy to U.S. cities from offshore wind farms, via an independent transmission company named Trans-Elect. The Atlantic Wind connection will cost some $5 billion and stretch from Virginia to New Jersey. Meanwhile, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley last week promoted a 4,000-job, 1-gigawatt wind farm off the Delmarva coastline. And the U.S. DOE announced it would guarantee $1.3 billion of the financing for the $2-billion Shepherds Flat wind farm planned by Caithness Energy in eastern Oregon. But the 500-megawatt Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Project off the eastern coast of the United Kingdom has seen enough cost escalation because of such issues as material and equipment delivery issues that Fluor Corp., which was awarded a $1.8-billion fixed-price contract in 2008 to construct the project, has announced its third quarter results will include a charge of approximately $163 million
Literature and Real Life, Chapter Two: If you ever have attended or read David Mamet's play "The Water Engine," you know its paranoid plot is based on exactly that: an engine that runs on water, and what happens to the guy who thinks it up. At Purdue, researchers have developed a method that uses aluminum and a liquid alloy to extract hydrogen from seawater to run engines in boats and ships, representing a potential replacement for gasoline and diesel fuel in marine applications. The method makes it unnecessary to store or transport hydrogen - two major challenges in using hydrogen for ships and vehicles, Woodall said.
Because waste produced in the process could be recycled using wind turbines and solar cells, the technology also represents a new way of storing energy from solar and wind power, he said.
If you didn't attend the recent Solar Power International conference in Los Angeles earlier this month, you can learn from some of the session materials here.
The Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD) has received a $1.37-million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to prepare low-income, young adults in eight states for careers in the energy industry. The State Energy Workforce Consortia in Ohio, North Carolina, Washington, Georgia, Florida, California, Indiana and Minnesota will work with 5,000 low-income, young adults (ages 16-26) to assess their interest and skill levels for potential employment in skilled technician positions. Roughly 500 participants will be placed into electric and natural gas utility jobs. Others will be referred to jobs in construction and manufacturing.
Solyndra says it has a solution for those owners of commercial and industrial buildings with large, flat roofs who are scrambling to beat the Dec. 31, 2010, deadline for the 30-percent federal cash grant for solar installations. In order to qualify, applicants must demonstrate that work began in 2010, or meet the 'safe harbor' provision of having paid or incurred 5 percent of the total eligible project costs in 2010. Problem is, there's a production back-up among traditional crystalline panel manufacturers. "One way of getting around this is by installing the revolutionary new Solyndra cylindrical solar panel technology (pictured here on the roof of the LPS Industries facility in Moonachie, N.J.).
"The cylindrical Solyndra technology, which collects direct, diffuse and reflective light, includes a white roof, which increases reflectivity," says a publicist for Solis Partners, a solar installation firm based in Manasquan, N.J. "Thus, work on the roof, which can begin right away, qualifies a project for the federal cash grant, thus allowing applicants to beat the deadline. Also, because it helps generate power, the cost of the roof is 'bundled' with the cost of the solar panels and installation, with all qualifying for the grant, which is great for a facility that needs a new roof because the grant will cover 30 percent of the expense."
Regular readers of Wall Street Journal columnist Holman Jenkins might have recognized the subject matter of a recent column on "fracking" shale gas from Site Selection's ongoing treatment of the topic. In his analysis, he references a recent study from Houston investment firm Tudor Pickering. That same firm in September published a new 36-pp. report on Canadian oil sands, fresh on the heels of a trip to Calgary and beyond.
New-age innovation needs old-fashioned ingenuity and manufacturing to succeed. Helped in part by a high-performance spray foam insulation product called InsulStar, made by NCFI, based in Mount Airy, N.C., Virginia Tech's "Lumenhaus" recently won first prize in Europe's 2010 Solar Decathlon. The international competition included 20 entries from top colleges and universities from around the world and by agreement of the Government of Spain's Ministry of Housing and the U.S. Government. The competition's goal is advancing the knowledge and dissemination of industrialized, solar and sustainable housing. The team that won this year's U.S. Solar Decathlon, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, also used InsulStar in their top prize-winning "Gable House."
Mount Airy doesn't have a monopoly on sustainability innovation in North Carolina. OFM, one of the nation's leading office and school furniture manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers, recently announced the completion of a 250-kilowatt rooftop solar farm project at its headquarters in Holly Springs. The solar farm consists of 1,042 solar panels on the roof of OFM's main building in Holly Springs. The 322,500 kilowatts of energy generated each year through the solar farm system will be sold to Progress Energy as part of their SunSense Commercial Solar PV program. This is a new initiative inspired by the North Carolina General Assembly, which mandated Progress Energy obtain three percent of its power from renewable energy sources in 2012 and up to 12.5 percent by 2021.
Want more? Make sure to visit the Energy Report Archive.
"Energy Matters" is compiled, written and edited by Adam Bruns.