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Hawaiian Electric Companies submit plans for Energy Future of Hawaii

August 27, 2014 in Environment, EV News, Greentech, Politics, Solar, Wind

HONOLULU – The Hawaiian Electric Companies today (8-26-14) proposed plans for Hawaii’s energy future that will lower electric bills and give customers more service options, nearly triple the amount of distributed solar while achieving the highest level of renewable energy in the nation by 2030. The companies’ planned state-of the-art electric systems for Oahu, Maui County, and Hawaii Island will form the foundation for this new energy future. The plans are meant to address the comprehensive orders issued by the Public Utilities Commission in April.

“Our energy environment is changing rapidly and we must change with it to meet our customers’ evolving needs,” said Shelee Kimura, Hawaiian Electric vice president of corporate planning and business development. “These plans are about delivering services that our customers value. That means lower costs, better protection of our environment, and more options to lower their energy costs, including rooftop solar.”

Courtesy of EIA

Courtesy of EIA

Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric, and Hawaii Electric Light Company will:

Support sustainable growth of rooftop solar. Working closely with the solar industry, the companies are, by 2030, planning to almost triple the amount of distributed solar using fair and equitable plans. A clear, open planning process will let customers and solar contractors know how much more solar can be added each year. Grid enhancements will make possible increased integration of solar power. And optimized control settings for solar equipment will improve safety and reduce the risk of power outages.

As part of the PUC’s recently opened distributed generation docket, the companies will support policies that ensure fairness to all customers. This includes fair pricing both for customers who generate power but who also rely on the company for additional electricity and/or backup, as well as those who remain “full-service” utility customers.

Expand use of energy storage systems. Energy storage systems, including batteries, will increase the ability to add renewables by addressing potential disruptions on electric grids caused by variable solar and wind power. Hawaiian Electric is evaluating proposals for energy storage projects on Oahu to be in service by early 2017. Energy storage projects are also in the works for Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Hawaii Island.

Empower customers by developing smart grids. Fully developed smart grids, already being test deployed on Oahu, will help customers monitor and control their energy use, enable more customer service options, make service more reliable, and improve integration of renewable energy. The companies are proposing to complete installation of smart grids in Maui County and on Hawaii Island by the end of 2017 and on O‘ahu by the end of 2018.

Offer new products and services to customers. Community solar and microgrids will give customers new options for taking advantage of lower-cost renewable energy. Voluntary “demand response” programs will provide customers financial incentives for helping manage the flow of energy on the grid.

Switch from high-priced oil to lower cost liquefied natural gas. Energy needs not met by renewables will largely be met with cleaner and less expensive liquefied natural gas, or LNG. Most existing oil-fired generating units will be converted to run on LNG. Older generating units will be deactivated by 2030 as new, more-efficient, quick-starting LNG fueled generators come online.

Achieving this transformation requires significant upfront investment by the utilities and unaffiliated companies to build the necessary flexible, smart, and renewable energy infrastructure to continue to provide reliable service to customers. Customer bills are expected to decline, with some fluctuations, by an estimated 20 percent by 2030.

Hawaii’s energy environment is changing more rapidly than anywhere else in the country. Currently, in Hawaii, more than 18 percent of the electricity used by customers comes from renewable resources, ahead of the state goal of 15 percent by 2015. Hawaii also has one of the most diverse renewable energy portfolios in the country, including solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, biofuel, and hydroelectric sources of power. Ocean power is a promising option for the future.

The companies look forward to working closely with key stakeholders throughout the community to refine these plans further.

“This plan sets us on a path to a future with more affordable, clean, renewable energy,” said Dick Rosenblum, Hawaiian Electric president and CEO. “It’s the start of a conversation that all of us – utilities, regulators and other policymakers, the solar industry, customers and other stakeholders – need to be a part of, as we work together to achieve the energy future we all want for Hawaii.”

This article is a repost (8-26-14), credit: Hawaiian Electric Companies.

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Verizon Plans Major Expansion of Its On-Site Green Energy Program

August 25, 2014 in Environment, EV News, Greentech, Solar

Company on Track to Become Largest Solar-Power Producer Among U.S. Communications Companies

NEW YORK – Verizon announced today that it will invest nearly $40 million to expand the on-site green energy program that it launched in 2013. This year, Verizon will install 10.2 megawatts of new solar power systems at eight Verizon network facilities in five states – California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. This investment nearly doubles the amount of renewable power generated by solar energy systems installed at six Verizon facilities last year.

To date, Verizon has invested nearly $140 million in on-site green energy. With the 2014 solar investment announced today, Verizon is on target to deploy upward of 25 megawatts of green energy upon completion of the new solar projects. The system will generate enough green energy to power more than 8,500 homes each year. Verizon’s total green-energy efforts are expected to offset 22,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, which is equivalent to taking nearly 5,000 passenger vehicles off the road each year.

On Track to Be No. 1 Solar-Power Producer Among U.S. Comm. Companies

With this announcement, Verizon is on track to become the No. 1 solar-power producer among all U.S. communications companies, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the U.S. trade association for companies that research, manufacture, distribute, finance and build solar projects domestically and abroad.

“Based on its existing solar power capacity and on-site generating systems, combined with its new solar energy expansion plans for 2014, it’s clear that Verizon is on a path to become the solar-power leader in the U.S. telecom industry,” said SEIA president and CEO Rhone Resch. “In fact, we project that Verizon will be among the top 20 of all companies nationwide in terms of the number of solar installations it operates, and one of the top 10 companies in the U.S. based on solar generating capacity.”

Verizon contracted with SunPower Corp. to design and install all of the solar systems. The new equipment, consisting of high-efficiency rooftop, parking-structure and ground-mounted solar photovoltaic systems, will vary from site to site.

“With this milestone investment, Verizon is advancing its position among the handful of corporate leaders demonstrating how American businesses can serve their communities and control energy costs with on-site solar power generation,” said Howard Wenger, SunPower president, business units. “We are very pleased to extend our partnership with Verizon, helping the company lower the long-term cost of energy at more facilities with SunPower’s high performance technology and services.”

Photo courtesy of Verizon

Photo courtesy of Verizon

Sustainability Legacy

Last year, the company exceeded its 10 megawatt green-energy target, and has currently deployed 14.2 megawatts of on-site green energy using a combination of fuel cells and solar power systems. Verizon has long been focused on energy efficiency and instituting sustainable real estate practices. As an early adopter of fuel cell technologies, Verizon invested in one of the largest fuel cell sites of its kind in 2005 – helping to power a call-switching center and office building in Garden City, New York. Verizon also uses 26 solar-assisted cell sites in remote areas in the western United States to help power a portion of the nation’s largest and most reliable wireless network.

In addition to various solar and fuel cell installations at Verizon Data Centers, the company has also implemented better cooling efficiency and energy-consumption reduction measures in its data centers. In 2009, Verizon developed new standards for energy consumption on select telecom equipment, with a target of 20 percent greater efficiency.

All of Verizon’s energy-efficiency strategies support the company’s ultimate goal of cutting its carbon intensity – carbon emissions produced per terabyte of data flowing through Verizon’s global wired and domestic wireless networks – in half by 2020.

This article is a repost, credit: Verizon. Video courtesy of Verizon.

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Solar energy that doesn’t block the view

August 22, 2014 in Environment, EV News, Greentech, Solar

Solar power with a view: MSU doctoral student Yimu Zhao holds up a transparent luminescent solar concentrator module. Photo by Yimu Zhao.  Courtesy of MSU

Solar power with a view: MSU doctoral student Yimu Zhao holds up a transparent luminescent solar concentrator module. Photo by Yimu Zhao.
Courtesy of MSU

By Michigan State University

A team of researchers at Michigan State University has developed a new type of solar concentrator that when placed over a window creates solar energy while allowing people to actually see through the window.

It is called a transparent luminescent solar concentrator and can be used on buildings, cell phones and any other device that has a clear surface.

And, according to Richard Lunt of MSU’s College of Engineering, the key word is “transparent.”

Research in the production of energy from solar cells placed around luminescent plastic-like materials is not new. These past efforts, however, have yielded poor results – the energy production was inefficient and the materials were highly colored.

“No one wants to sit behind colored glass,” said Lunt, an assistant professor of chemical engineering and materials science. “It makes for a very colorful environment, like working in a disco. We take an approach where we actually make the luminescent active layer itself transparent.”

The solar harvesting system uses small organic molecules developed by Lunt and his team to absorb specific nonvisible wavelengths of sunlight.

“We can tune these materials to pick up just the ultraviolet and the near infrared wavelengths that then ‘glow’ at another wavelength in the infrared,” he said.

The “glowing” infrared light is guided to the edge of the plastic where it is converted to electricity by thin strips of photovoltaic solar cells.

“Because the materials do not absorb or emit light in the visible spectrum, they look exceptionally transparent to the human eye,” Lunt said.

One of the benefits of this new development is its flexibility. While the technology is at an early stage, it has the potential to be scaled to commercial or industrial applications with an affordable cost.

“It opens a lot of area to deploy solar energy in a non-intrusive way,” Lunt said. “It can be used on tall buildings with lots of windows or any kind of mobile device that demands high aesthetic quality like a phone or e-reader. Ultimately we want to make solar harvesting surfaces that you do not even know are there.”

Lunt said more work is needed in order to improve its energy-producing efficiency. Currently it is able to produce a solar conversion efficiency close to 1 percent, but noted they aim to reach efficiencies beyond 5 percent when fully optimized. The best colored LSC has an efficiency of around 7 percent.

The research was featured on the cover of a recent issue of the journal Advanced Optical Materials.

Other members of the research team include Yimu Zhao, an MSU doctoral student in chemical engineering and materials science; Benjamin Levine, assistant professor of chemistry; and Garrett Meek, doctoral student in chemistry.

Yimu Zhao, a doctoral student in chemical engineering and materials science, and Richard Lunt, assistant professor of chemical engineering and materials science, run a test in Lunt’s lab. Lunt and his team have developed a new material that can be placed over windows and create solar energy. Photo by G.L. Kohuth. Courtesy of MSU

Yimu Zhao, a doctoral student in chemical engineering and materials science, and Richard Lunt, assistant professor of chemical engineering and materials science, run a test in Lunt’s lab. Lunt and his team have developed a new material that can be placed over windows and create solar energy. Photo by G.L. Kohuth.
Courtesy of MSU

This article is a repost (8-19-14), credit: Michigan State University.

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Solar Power, Origami-Style, By Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA)

August 18, 2014 in Environment, EV News, Greentech, Solar

Shannon Zirbel, a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, unfolds a solar panel array that was designed using the principles of origami. She worked on this project with Brian Trease at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. Image copyright BYU Photo  Courtesy of NASA

Shannon Zirbel, a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, unfolds a solar panel array that was designed using the principles of origami. She worked on this project with Brian Trease at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. Image copyright BYU Photo
Courtesy of NASA

As a high school student at a study program in Japan, Brian Trease would fold wrappers from fast-food cheeseburgers into cranes. He loved discovering different origami techniques in library books.

Brian Trease, a researcher at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, holds a prototype of a solar panel array that folds up in the style of origami. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech Courtesy of NASA

Brian Trease, a researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, holds a prototype of a solar panel array that folds up in the style of origami. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Courtesy of NASA

Today, Trease, a mechanical engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, thinks about how the principles of origami could be used for space-bound devices.

“This is a unique crossover of art and culture and technology,” he said.

Trease partnered with researchers at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, to pursue the idea that spacecraft components could be built effectively by implementing origami folds. Shannon Zirbel, a doctoral student at BYU, spent two summers at JPL working on these ideas, supported by the NASA Technology Research Fellowship, with Trease as her research collaborator.

Researchers say origami could be useful one day in utilizing space solar power for Earth-based purposes. Imagine an orbiting power plant that wirelessly beams power down to Earth using microwaves. Sending the solar arrays up to space would be easy, Trease said, because they could all be folded and packed into a single rocket launch, with “no astronaut assembly required.”

Panels used in space missions already incorporate simple folds, collapsing like a fan or an accordion. But Trease and colleagues are interested in using more intricate folds that simplify the overall mechanical structure and make for easier deployment.

Researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, collaborated to construct a prototype of a solar panel array that folds up in the style of origami, to make for easier deployment. Image copyright BYU Photo Courtesy of NASA

Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, collaborated to construct a prototype of a solar panel array that folds up in the style of origami, to make for easier deployment. Image copyright BYU Photo
Courtesy of NASA

Last year, Zirbel and Trease collaborated with origami expert Robert Lang and BYU professor Larry Howell to develop a solar array that folds up to be 8.9 feet (2.7 meters) in diameter. Unfold it, and you’ve got a structure 82 feet (25 meters) across. Their 1/20th-scale tabletop prototype expands to a deployed diameter of 4.1 feet (1.25 meters).

One technique that has been used for an origami-inspired solar array is called a Miura fold. This well-known origami fold was invented by Japanese astrophysicist Koryo Miura. When you open the structure, it appears to be divided evenly into a checkerboard of parallelograms.

With this particular fold, there’s only one way to open or close it: Pull on one corner and — voila — the whole thing is open with minimal effort. The mechanical structure of a device that folds this way is greatly simplified because only one input is required to deploy it.

Miura intended this fold for solar arrays, and in 1995 a solar panel with this design was unfolded on the Space Flyer Unit, a Japanese satellite. Despite this test, the technology is still in its early stages. But now, with an emphasis on small satellites and large structures, Trease says arrays inspired by this fold could see renewed usefulness.

“The fact that we’re going both bigger and smaller may open up domains where it may be relevant again,” Trease said.

The fold that Trease and colleagues used is not a Miura fold, but rather a combination of different folds. Trease’s prototype looks like a blooming flower that expands into a large flat circular surface.

Trease envisions that foldable solar arrays could be used in conjunction with small satellites called CubeSats. And he says the origami concept could be used in antennas as well. It could be especially appropriate for spacecraft applications where it’s beneficial to deploy an object radially — that is, from the center, outward in all directions.

Origami was originally intended for folding paper, which has almost no thickness, so Trease and colleagues had to be creative when working with the bulkier materials needed for solar panels.

“You have to rethink a lot of that design in order to accommodate the thickness that starts to accumulate with each bend,” he said.

Origami has been the subject of serious mathematical analysis only within the last 40 years, Trease said. There is growing interest in integrating the concepts of origami with modern technologies.

“You think of it as ancient art, but people are still inventing new things, enabled by mathematical tools,” Trease said.

A short video clip of the origami-inspired prototype is online at: https://vimeo.com/103446030.

This article is a repost (8-14-14), credit: NASA