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Capital One Bank Invests $100 Million in SolarCity Fund to Provide Solar Power To Thousands of U.S. Homeowners

May 21, 2014 in Environment, EV News, Greentech, Solar

Photo courtesy of SolarCity

Photo courtesy of SolarCity

New York – Capital One Bank announced today that it has partnered with SolarCity to create an investment fund to finance thousands of residential solar power systems. Capital One Bank is participating in the form of a $100 million investment. This deal represents Capital One Bank’s first renewable energy investment and reflects the bank’s commitment to growing and expanding its energy business into new sectors, including renewable energy.

The Capital One investment allows SolarCity (Nasdaq: SCTY) to offer thousands of American homeowners the option to install solar panels for free and pay less for solar electricity than they pay for utility power. SolarCity, the largest residential solar power provider in the U.S., has created funds to finance more than $4 billion in solar power systems. SolarCity serves 15 states and is currently providing one out of every four new residential solar power systems nationwide. The $100 million investment was reflected in the available financing reported in SolarCity’s announcement of financial results on May 7.

“We’re very excited to be working with SolarCity, which has a very strong position in the residential solar energy market,” says George Revock, Managing Director and head of alternative energy and project finance at Capital One Bank. “This investment will help SolarCity pursue their goals and provide affordable sustainable energy to thousands of homeowners as well as advance Capital One’s sustainable energy initiative.”

“Thanks to Capital One, when we ask our customers “what’s in your wallet?,’ thousands more can say ‘all the money I saved on electricity bills by going solar,’” says Lyndon Rive, SolarCity’s founder and CEO.

With more than $3.5 billion in energy-banking loan commitments, Capital One Bank’s Energy Banking team is invested in the future of energy. Capital One Bank’s Commercial Business leverages a relationship-based banking model that seamlessly delivers an array of products and services including loans and deposit accounts, treasury management services, merchant services, investment banking, international services and correspondent banking.

[1] Source: GTM Research PV Leaderboard

About Capital One

Capital One Financial Corporation ( is a financial holding company whose subsidiaries, which include Capital One, N.A., and Capital One Bank (USA), N. A., had $208.3 billion in deposits and $290.5 billion in total assets as of March 31, 2014. Headquartered in McLean, Virginia, Capital One offers a broad spectrum of financial products and services to consumers, small businesses and commercial clients through a variety of channels. Capital One, N.A. has more than 900 branch locations primarily in New York, New Jersey, Texas, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. A Fortune 500 company, Capital One trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “COF” and is included in the S&P 100 index.

About SolarCity

SolarCity® (NASDAQ: SCTY) provides clean energy. The company has disrupted the century-old energy industry by providing renewable electricity directly to homeowners, businesses and government organizations for less than they spend on utility bills. SolarCity gives customers control of their energy costs to protect them from rising rates. The company makes solar energy easy by taking care of everything from design and permitting to monitoring and maintenance. SolarCity currently serves 15 states and signs a new customer every three minutes. Visit the company online at and follow the company on Facebook & Twitter.

This article is a repost, credit: Capital One.

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California ISO finds power supplies adequate for summer 2014

May 12, 2014 in Environment, EV News, Solar, Wind

Extreme weather heat waves, wildfires still concern for Southern California

Map courtesy of State of California

Map courtesy of State of California

FOLSOM, Calif. The California Independent System Operator Corporation (ISO) released today (5-9-14) its 2014 summer assessment that shows the ISO system has adequate power supplies for meeting summer peak conditions across the state despite well below average hydroelectric supply. Southern Orange and San Diego counties will be a focus of summer grid operations in the event that heat waves, unexpected power plant outages or wildfires threaten transmission lines and challenge reliability in the area affected by the closure of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Under challenging conditions, ISO operators will count on customers participating in local demand response and conservation programs to reduce their power use when the ISO issues a Flex Alert through the media.

“We know it is an inconvenience, but if the ISO issues a Flex Alert asking for conservation it is because the grid is under a lot of stress and we need to immediately reduce power demand,” said ISO President and CEO Steve Berberich. “Voluntary conservation is better than people losing power when demand outstrips supply.”

While drought conditions will have little impact on supply availability in San Diego and Orange counties, the overall ISO system will have less hydro-electricity than last year. As of April 29, 2014, statewide precipitation was at 56 percent of average. Meanwhile, snowpack water content was at 20% of average for the date and reservoir storage was at 63 percent of average for the date. The ISO expects to have 1,370 megawatts (MW) to 1,669 MW less of in-state hydro for summer 2014. Pacific Northwest hydro conditions are about normal and should help make up some for the low California hydro conditions.

Operating reserve margins for the ISO system are good for normal conditions at 24 percent, but it could fall to about 14 percent during extreme conditions, which still remain above the threshold that puts customers at risk of power outages, which is triggered when reserves drop to the 3 percent level.

The system-wide peak electric demand is expected to reach 47,351 MW during summer 2014, which is 646 MW more than 2013 weather normalized peak of 46,705 MW. The all-time record instantaneous peak demand was 50,270 MW in 2006.

Meanwhile, the ISO projects that 53,950 MW of power capacity will be available this summer, which is an increase of about 3,243 MW of new generation since last summer. About 68 percent of the new generation is from renewable resources. Renewables make up about 22 percent of the ISO resource mix, which is an increase of about 4 percent from summer 2013. The ISO set a new instantaneous production record for solar power of 4,475 MW on April 30, 2014. The instantaneous wind record occurred on April 12, 2014 with 4,769 MW generated. As of May 1, the ISO has about 15,126 MW of renewable resource capacity connected to the grid.

This article is a repost (5-9-14), credit: CalISO.

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Take a Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Solar Panels on the White House Roof, By White House

May 9, 2014 in Environment, EV News, Greentech, Politics, Solar

Solar power is an increasingly important building block on our path toward a clean energy future. Watch the video below for an inside look at the solar panels we recently installed on the roof of the White House:

This article is a repost, credit: White House Blog. Video courtesy of White House.

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NREL Assembles Industry Group to Explore Solar Lending Potential

May 8, 2014 in Environment, EV News, Greentech, Solar

Solar Energy Research at NREL Photo courtesy of NREL

Solar Energy Research at NREL
Photo courtesy of NREL

Increasingly, banks, credit unions, and other lenders are beginning to offer loan products to homeowners and businesses for the installation of rooftop solar systems. However, barriers to accessing this growing market still remain. The Energy Department’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently convened the Banking on Solar working group to engage lenders and other stakeholders to address these barriers.

Banking on Solar comprises more than 50 members representing the solar, banking, legal, regulatory, and financial industries, among others. The group’s principal efforts center on standardizing contracts and underwriting processes, as well as educating banks and regulators about the risks and rewards of the solar asset class. The goal is to reduce barriers to entry for banks that wish to diversify their asset base and invest in a market with high growth potential.

“There are many states where third-party finance is unavailable and there are solar customers who may prefer to own their systems over leasing them,” said NREL Analyst Travis Lowder. “A greater prevalence and diversity of loan products could enable higher rates of solar adoption in these markets.”

The working group has already begun developing standardized loan documents and underwriting criteria in the residential and commercial markets. Other solar debt markets, such as lending into tax equity capital structures, are also under consideration.

The Banking on Solar working group is operating in parallel with the SunShot Initiative-funded, NREL-led Solar Access to Public Capital (SAPC) working group. SAPC is designed to facilitate capital market investment via securitization.

“The two initiatives are complementary, as securitization offers banks an opportunity to free up their balance sheets and expand their loan activities,” Lowder said. “The knowledge gained from quantifying solar risks under the SAPC mock ratings process is highly relevant to solar lenders.”

The effort is supported by the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy through the SunShot Initiative. Banking on Solar will host several webinars in the months ahead to introduce banks to the solar asset class. The group will also have a presence at several upcoming banking conferences around the United States. For more information on this group and its activities, please send an email to [email protected].

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for the Energy Department by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.

This article is a repost, credit: NREL.

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In tune with nature – and with the BMW i design idiom: BMW Group DesignworksUSA develops a solar carport concept.

May 7, 2014 in BMW, BMW i3, Electric Vehicles, EV charging, EV News, Solar

Premium product for private solar-powered electricity generation – Green energy supply gives a further boost to vehicle life cycle assessment – Another building block in the holistic sustainability concept – World premiere to mark the BMW i8 presentation in Los Angeles.

BMW i Solar Carport Concept Photo courtesy of BMW

BMW i Solar Carport Concept
Photo courtesy of BMW

Munich. With the all-electric BMW i3 already on the market and the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports car poised for its own launch, the BMW Group portfolio boasts the world’s first premium automobiles purpose-designed for zero-emission mobility.

The international media launch of the BMW i8 in Los Angeles will include the presentation of a solar carport concept developed by BMW Group DesignworksUSA for the use of renewable energy. It combines high-grade technology for generating electricity from solar power with an innovative design that perfectly complements the BMW i models.

In its choice of materials, design and colour, the DesignworksUSA carport concept takes its cue from the characteristic styling of the BMW i models to form a harmonious counterpart. The holistic sustainability concept is underlined by the materials used in the construction of the carport and by its solar modules. In addition to the carbon elements on the side of the carport, the principal material used is bamboo in the form of struts. Thanks to its rapid growth, bamboo is considered a particularly sustainable raw material. For the generation of electricity, high-grade glass-on-glass solar modules are used. These are translucent and very durable, as well as generating a high energy yield. For the panels used in Europe, the manufacturer offers a 30-year guarantee.

The solar carport not only guarantees the supply of green power but furthermore allows for energy self-sufficiency, so that customers remain independent of electricity prices. In conjunction with the BMW i Wallbox Pro, the car can be specifically charged with solar electricity from the carport. The Wallbox also indicates the amount of solar energy that goes into the car and provides an analysis of recent charging processes which shows the respective proportions of solar and grid power. If the solar panels provide energy beyond the requirements of the vehicle, this surplus solar power can be put to domestic use.

Generating private electricity with the aid of solar collectors and feeding this CO2-free energy via the BMW i Wallbox into the vehicle’s high-voltage battery further optimises of the life cycle assessment of the BMW i models. Regularly hooking up the high-voltage battery to the Wallbox connected to the solar carport enables a high degree of CO2-neutral usage of the BMW i8. With a fully charged high-voltage battery, the plug-in hybrid sports car has a range of around 37 kilometres (22 miles) in all-electric mode.

During development of the solar carport concept by BMW Group DesignworksUSA, the spotlight was firmly on the harmonious interplay between vehicle design and architecture. The glass-on-glass solar modules of the carport are supported by exclusively designed bamboo and carbon elements that authentically reflect the hallmark lines and surface sculpting of the BMW i automobiles. “With the solar carport concept we opted for a holistic approach: not only is the vehicle itself sustainable, but so is its energy supply,” explains Tom Allemann, who is responsible for the carport design at BMW Group DesignworksUSA. “This is therefore an entirely new generation of carports that allows energy to be produced in a simple and transparent way. It renders the overarching theme of lightweight design both visible and palpable.” The BMW Group subsidiary headquartered in California runs an international design studio network in Europe, Asia and America. As an impulse-generator in the fields of design and innovation, the company works for the BMW Group brands as well as for numerous other high-profile international clients spanning a range of industrial sectors.

This article is a repost, credit: BMW.

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Getting more electricity out of solar cells

May 7, 2014 in Environment, EV News, Greentech, Solar

New MIT model can guide design of solar cells that produce less waste heat, more useful current.

Troy Van Voorhis, professor of chemistry (left), and Marc Baldo, professor of electrical engineering (right). Photo: Stuart Darsch Courtesy of MIT

Troy Van Voorhis, professor of chemistry (left), and Marc Baldo, professor of electrical engineering (right).
Photo: Stuart Darsch
Courtesy of MIT

By Nancy W. Stauffer, MIT Energy Initiative    

When sunlight shines on today’s solar cells, much of the incoming energy is given off as waste heat rather than electrical current. In a few materials, however, extra energy produces extra electrons — behavior that could significantly increase solar-cell efficiency.

An MIT team has now identified the mechanism by which that phenomenon happens, yielding new design guidelines for using those special materials to make high-efficiency solar cells. The results are reported in the journal Nature Chemistry by MIT alumni Shane R. Yost and Jiye Lee, and a dozen other co-authors, all led by MIT’s Troy Van Voorhis, professor of chemistry, and Marc Baldo, professor of electrical engineering.

In most photovoltaic (PV) materials, a photon (a packet of sunlight) delivers energy that excites a molecule, causing it to release one electron. But when high-energy photons provide more than enough energy, the molecule still releases just one electron — plus waste heat.

A few organic molecules don’t follow that rule. Instead, they generate more than one electron per high-energy photon. That phenomenon — known as singlet exciton fission — was first identified in the 1960s. However, achieving it in a functioning solar cell has proved difficult, and the exact mechanism involved has become the subject of intense controversy in the field.

For the past four years, Van Voorhis and Baldo have been pooling their theoretical and experimental expertise to investigate this problem. In 2013, they reported making the first solar cell that gives off extra electrons from high-energy visible light, which makes up almost half the sun’s electromagnetic radiation at the Earth’s surface. According to their estimates, applying their technology as an inexpensive coating on silicon solar cells could increase efficiency by as much as 25 percent.

While that’s encouraging, understanding the mechanism at work would enable them and others to do even better. Exciton fission has now been observed in a variety of materials, all discovered — like the original ones — by chance. “We can’t rationally design materials and devices that take advantage of exciton fission until we understand the fundamental mechanism at work — until we know what the electrons are actually doing,” Van Voorhis says.

To support his theoretical study of electron behavior within PVs, Van Voorhis used experimental data gathered in samples specially synthesized by Baldo and Timothy Swager, MIT’s John D. MacArthur Professor of Chemistry. The samples were made of four types of exciton fission molecules decorated with various sorts of “spinach” — bulky side groups of atoms that change the molecular spacing without altering the physics or chemistry. To detect fission rates — which are measured in femtoseconds (10-15 seconds) — the MIT team turned to experts including Moungi Bawendi, the Lester Wolfe Professor of Chemistry, and special equipment at Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University, under the direction of Richard Friend.

Van Voorhis’ new first-principles formula successfully predicts the fission rate in materials with vastly different structures. In addition, it confirms once and for all that the mechanism is the “classic” one proposed in 1960s: When excess energy is available in these materials, an electron in an excited molecule swaps places with an electron in an unexcited molecule nearby. The excited electron brings some energy along and leaves some behind, so that both molecules give off electrons. The result: one photon in, two electrons out. “The simple theory proposed decades ago turns out to explain the behavior,” Van Voorhis says. “The controversial, or ‘exotic,’ mechanisms proposed more recently aren’t required to explain what’s being observed here.”

The results also provide practical guidelines for designing solar cells with these materials. They show that molecular packing is important in defining the rate of fission — but only to a point. When the molecules are very close together, the electrons move so quickly that the molecules giving and receiving them don’t have time to adjust. Indeed, a far more important factor is choosing a material that has the right inherent energy levels.

The researchers are pleased with the agreement between their experimental and theoretical data — especially given the systems being modeled. Each molecule has about 50 atoms, and each atom has six to 10 electrons. “These are complicated systems to calculate,” Van Voorhis says. “That’s the reason that 50 years ago they couldn’t compute these things — but now we can.”

David Reichman, a professor of chemistry at Columbia University who was not involved in this research, considers the new findings “a very important contribution to the singlet fission literature. Via a synergistic combination of modeling, crystal engineering, and experiment, the authors have provided the first systematic study of parameters influencing fission rates,” he says. Their findings “should strongly influence design criteria of fission materials away from goals involving molecular packing and toward a focus on the electronic energy levels of selected materials.”

This work was performed in the Center for Excitonics, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Experimental measurements were supported by the British Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and work at the Center for Functional Nanomaterials at Brookhaven National Laboratory was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy.

This article is a repost, credit: MIT.

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Agua Caliente, World’s Largest Solar Photovoltaic Plant, Helps Advance America’s Solar Leadership

April 29, 2014 in Environment, EV News, Greentech, Politics, Solar

Agua Caliente Photo courtesy of NRG

Agua Caliente
Photo courtesy of NRG

By Peter W. Davidson

The United States has long been known for building at a scale previously never achieved: Hoover Dam was the world’s largest dam when it was completed, Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) was the world’s tallest building for decades and the Library of Congress remains the largest library in the world.

Today we add another innovation to that list, thanks in part to the Department’s Loan Programs Office. The Agua Caliente solar project, owned by NRG Energy, has come online and is now the world’s largest photovoltaic (PV) power plant. This facility has the capacity to generate 290 megawatts (MW) of solar electricity in Yuma County, Arizona. The Department provided a $967 million loan guarantee to the project.

The completion of Agua Caliente represents a series of recent achievements for LPO in bringing large-scale solar energy to Americans. In February, Secretary Moniz and I attended the dedication of Ivanpah, the world’s largest concentrating solar power plant (CSP), which was built with the help of a $1.6 billion Energy Department loan guarantee. Last fall, supported in part by a $1.4 billion loan guarantee, the Solana concentrating solar power plant started delivering “night-time solar” to Arizona homes and businesses as the world’s largest solar facility with thermal storage. And just last week the 250 MW Genesis CSP project, which was issued a $852 million loan guarantee, came online in Riverside County, CA.

These records are even more impressive when compared to where we were prior to 2009. At that time, the largest PV plant in the U.S. was a 14 MW installation at Nellis Air Force Base. A commercial-scale CSP plant had not been built in the U.S. in two decades. But in just five short years, we have increased the scale that PV plants can achieve by twentyfold and we have also made tremendous technological advances in concentrating solar power and thermal storage.

Despite the strong and consistent public demand for greater development of solar energy, these achievements seemed more aspirational than attainable in 2009, given the state of financial markets at the time. However, with the help of loan guarantees, these projects were able to move forward.

We aren’t done yet. By the end of next year, we expect all five solar PV plants in our portfolio to be completed with a combined capacity of 1,510 MW – enough to power more than a quarter million average American homes.

The Department’s loan guarantees have made an impact beyond those first five LPO-financed PV projects. Since those projects were funded, 10 additional PV projects larger than 100 MW have been announced — all without any Energy Department financing. In 2013, 2,847 MW of utility-scale solar was installed in the U.S., a 58 percent increase over 2012. Since 2010, total solar capacity in the U.S. has increased by an amazing 418 percent.

These results are the essence of what LPO was created to do — help finance the initial commercial deployment of innovative clean energy technologies and then allow the market to take over.

The U.S. has a long history of leadership in a number of areas. Now, as President Obama said in his State of the Union address, we are becoming a global leader in solar, too.

Peter W. Davidson, Executive Director of the Loan Programs Office (LPO)

This article is a repost, credit: DOE.