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June 2019

Nissan’s Solar Powered Ice Cream Truck

Nissan’s Solar Powered Ice Cream Truck 150 150 Joshua Jones

The sun and ice cream go hand-in-hand. Nothing feels like summertime more than enjoying a cool frozen treat in the hot sun. And who doesn’t love the convenience and nostalgia of roaming ice cream trucks, with their bright colors and catchy jingles?

Of course, times are catching up for ice cream trucks too! As electric vehicles gain popularity and society transitions away from fossil fuels, the energy needs of ice cream trucks present a unique problem. Refrigeration requires a lot of energy, and no one wants melted ice cream! Traditional gas or diesel fueled ice cream trucks keep their refrigerators running using the motor as it idles. While it’s effective at keeping your popsicles cold, it’s far from good for the environment.

Fortunately, Nissan has designed a new prototype vehicle meant to change that! The Nissan ice cream van is a zero-emission vehicle and uses second life batteries. It’s based on Nissan’s e-NV200 electric light commercial vehicle. Unlike the fossil-fueled trucks that keep their refrigerators running by idling the engine, this vehicle uses a zero-emissions drive train along with “second life” EV batteries to keep the coolers at a low temp.

The motor of the van runs on a 40 kWh battery. However, its internal appliances run on a different system that Nissan calls ROAM. The ROAM system is a portable power-pack made up of lithium ion cells that are harvested from Nissan’s first generation of electric vehicles. This is why the company uses the term “second life” to describe the ROAM system. This also is beneficial for the environment because the batteries are all recycled!

At this point, you might be wondering why we’re so excited for this vehicle here at Elite Energy. The answer, of course, is solar panels! The new prototype has several roof-mounted solar panels to help keep the truck stay charged all day long. As an incredible bonus, you can even use the panels to generate power when the van isn’t out and about. You can then sell that energy back to the grid, just like you would with your home solar panel system!

To help promote their new prototype, Nissan partnered with ice cream maker Mackie’s of Scotland, who use wind and solar power to make all of their sweet treats. They’re the most popular ice cream maker in Scotland, and they also aim to be Scotland’s “greenest” by becoming completely energy-independent. At the time this post was published, they’re exporting 4.5 times more to the grid than they’re consuming. Now that’s some ice cream you can feel good about!

What do you think of solar powered ice cream trucks? What about solar vehicles in general? Let us know in the comments!

Solar array against cloudy sky with rainbow

U.S. Solar Flourishing Despite Trump’s Tariffs

U.S. Solar Flourishing Despite Trump’s Tariffs 1024 678 Joshua Jones

Clean energy is on the up and up again, and the U.S. solar industry is benefiting as a result. According to a new report, this year is expected to see solar installations increase despite a drop in installations last year.

Clean Energy on the Rise

The report from the Solar Energy Industries Association and Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, a market research group, was published June 4th. It shoes that 2.7 gigawatts of solar capacity had been added to the grid in the first quarter of 2019. That makes it the strongest in the U.S. solar industry’s history! The report projects new solar installations should grow 25 percent from 2018, to 13.3 gigawatts.The bounce back from the 2 percent dip last year was driven by large-scale utility solar projects. These types of projects account for 61 percent of the first quarter’s growth.

This marks a significant change from what was expected last year after President Trump’s announcement for tariffs on imported solar cells and modules. The industry was worried at the time that the tariffs would hinder solar, especially after 2017’s job losses. However, solar installations rose past the 2 million mark this year, which is a marker worth celebrating.

“We’ve now gone a full five quarters with the tariffs being in place, and the market has seemed to have really settled down and has grown quite robustly,” said Colin Smith, senior analyst with Wood Mackenzie, to Earther. “Now, we’re in a position where we’re seeing a lot of market growth beyond what we initially expected a year ago or simply overcome any impacts of the tariffs.”

Areas of Growth

The report notes that residential rooftop solar is seeing some growth. Meanwhile, non-residential solar is facing a decline. This refers to solar panels found on commercial and industrial facilities, as well as community solar projects. The real saviors are utility solar projects that feed into the grid. The report notes that this sector should grow by 46 percent this year from 2018. In particular, this is attributed to large solar projects in Florida and the Carolinas. Florida has been leading the charge in solar installations so far this year, followed by California.

The industry expects this growth to continue well past 2019, as well. Several U.S. utilities – from Dominion to Duke Energy – have solar projects in the works. These projects are projected to become reality by 2024. Furthermore, non-residential solar is expected to see some growth in the coming years. The authors of the report expect community solar to make up close to 30 percent of non-residential solar capacity by 2023. Additionally, another roughly 20 percent will come from solar-plus-storage as energy storage starts to gain some steam.

clean energy solar array

Helping Hands

Corporations are also helping fuel solar’s growth, said Smith. Companies like Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google are procuring hundreds of megawatts-if not gigawatts-of solar to help fuel their internal renewable energy targets.

“In years past, we were really looking at distributed generation so residential and commercial rooftop projects as one segment,” Smith told Earther, “but we’re now seeing this emerging segment that’s really driving growth.”

Currently, solar makes up less than 2 percent of the U.S. energy generation. However, as costs have gone down solar has grown more than 1700 percent since 2008 according to the Department of Energy. Renewables, in general, are set to be the “fastest growing source of U.S. electricity generation for at least the next two years,” per the Energy Information Administration. Meanwhile, coal generation has been falling; it’s currently only 28 percent of U.S. energy generation.

Is this enough?

Still, solar and wind energy may not be enough to meet targets set by the Paris Agreement according to E&E News reports. Other renewable clean energy types may be necessary during winter months when energy demands are highest. Governments may need to step in to ensure that more research is done on nuclear, renewable hydrogen, biogas, and carbon capture. If we’re to break our dependency on fossil fuels, we need to find ways to bridge the gaps if times come when wind and solar cannot produce enough energy.

The energy market is changing, and we all need to be prepared.

Solar array at Chattanooga Metro Airport

First Full Solar Airport in US

First Full Solar Airport in US 1440 460 Joshua Jones

Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport in Tennessee has become the first airport in the United States to run entirely on solar power. The small facility recently announced the completion of a 12-acre, 2.64 megawatt solar farm. With this, they are now able to generate enough green energy to account for the facilities total energy needs, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The project, funded largely by the Federal Aviation Administration, cost a total of $10 million. It took nine years and three phases to complete. It utilizes onsite batteries to support night time power operations and has an expected life span of 30 to 40 years. The array is built in the southwest corner of the airfield on land deemed unusable for aviation purposes, and is visible from Chattanooga’s two runways. “It’s good for our environment and our bottom line,” Dan Jacobson, chairman of the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority, said at a press event. He made note that the solar panels produce enough electricity to power 160,000 light bulbs.

John Naylor, vice president of planning and development for the airport, told Bloomberg News in December that officials from nearly 50 airports around the world have visited or contacted the Chattanooga airfield in recent years. He said they came to learn more about their solar operations. Several major airports, including San Diego and the UK’s Gatwick, have installed solar panels capable of handling a portion of their power needs. Moreover, the world’s busiest airport, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, is looking to construct renewable energy microgrids to help power a portion of it’s operations. The trend looks to follow in the footsteps of the global leader in clean energy aviation, which is Cochin International in Kerala, India. Cochin as been 100% solar powered since 2015, with a 29.5 megawatt array.

Persian Gulf coast, Dubai

Dubai Joins Clean Energy Race

Dubai Joins Clean Energy Race 960 640 Joshua Jones

Taking Inititave

The Persian Gulf is speckled with oil and gas rigs. However, it may soon be home to a more environmentally sustainable energy source. Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) has stated they are thinking of developing floating renewable energy plants in the Persian Gulf. On June 9th, it launched a search for consultants to advise on the project.

DEWA’s plan fits with the over-arching goal of Dubai’s government to develop it’s renewable energy resources. The city-state has relatively little oil or gas compared to it’s neighbor, Abu Dhabi. Because of this, they’re following a plan known as the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050. This aims to ensure that 75% of it’s total power output comes from clean sources by 250

The Plan

In order to reach that target, the authorities estimate they will need to have 42GW of clean electricity-generating capacity in place by then. Large projects are already being developed to help reach that goal. These include the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in the desert outskirts of the city. This park is believed to be the largest single site solar energy project in the world! The first phases of the project are already up and running, but is still being expanded upon. Their aim is to have 5GW of installed solar capacity on site by 2030 at a total cost of AED50 billion ($13.6 billion).

DEWA has asked consultants to bid on a contract to advise them on developing and constructing solar plants out at sea. The contract will cover feasibility studies and an environmental impact assessment report, among many other topics. It is not yet known the quantity or location of offshore solar capacity Dubai is planning to develop.

Yanfa Yan solar cell research at UToledo

Breakthrough in New Material to Harness Solar Power

Breakthrough in New Material to Harness Solar Power 650 433 Joshua Jones

One step closer to the most clean and renewable source of energy in the world

The University of Toledo has made a significant breakthrough in the chemical formula and process to make a new material to replace silicon in solar cells. Dr. Yanfa Yan, UToledo professor of physics, has been working closely with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab and The University of Colorado. He envisions the ultra-high efficiency material called a tandem perovskite solar cell will be ready to debut in full-sized solar panels in the consumer market in the near future.

Perovskites are compound materials with a special crystal structure formed through chemical reactions. They would replace silicon, which — for now — remains the solar-cell material of choice for converting the sun’s light into electrical energy. “We are producing higher-efficiency, lower-cost solar cells that show great promise to help solve the world energy crisis,” Yan said. “The meaningful work will help protect our planet for our children and future generations. We have a problem consuming most of the fossil energies right now, and our collaborative team is focused on refining our innovative way to clean up the mess.”

The Research is Here

A new research paper outlines how the photovoltaics team is fine-tuning a mix of lead and tin. This will advance the technology closer to it’s maximum efficiency. These efforts have increased the efficiency of the new solar cell to about 23 percent. That’s a 5% increase over the current efficiency rating of 18% with silicon panels. Scientists used a chemical compound called guanidinium thiocyanate to dramatically improve the structural and optoelectronic properties of the lead-tin mixed perovskite films.

Dr. Sanjay Khare, professor and chair of the UToledo Department of Physics and Astronomy, said “Science is the top academic journal in the world, alongside Nature, which published other research by Dr. Yan only five months ago after he discovered a single material that produces white light, which could boost the efficiency and appeal of LED bulbs. His significant sustainability work at The University of Toledo can help power the world using clean energy.”

About five years ago Yan’s team identified the ideal properties of perovskites. He has since focused his 20 years of experience on producing an all-perovskite tandem solar cell that brings together two different solar cells to increase the total electrical power generated by using two different parts of the sun’s spectrum. In April, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded Yan a $1.1 million grant to continue his research in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Lab.

Moving Forward

“This is the material we’ve been waiting for for a long time,” Yan said. “The solar industry is watching and waiting. Some have already started investing in this technology.” Yan is an expert in theory of defect physics and electronic properties in semiconductors, materials synthesis and thin-film solar-cell fabrication.

“Our UToledo research is ongoing to make cheaper and more efficient solar cells that could rival and even outperform the prevailing silicon photovoltaic technology,” said Dr. Zhaoning Song, research assistant professor in the UToledo Department of Physics and Astronomy and co-author on the study. “Our tandem solar cells with two layers of perovskites deliver high power conversion efficiency and have the potential to bring down production costs of solar panels, which is an important advance in photovoltaics.”

Yan’s team has improved the quality of the materials and the process to manufacture them at a low cost. However more progress still needs to be made. “The material cost is low and the fabrication cost is low, but the lifetime of the material is still an unknown,” Song said. “We need to continue to increase efficiency and stability. Also, lead is considered a toxic substance,” Yan said. “I am determined to work with the solar industry to ensure solar panels made of this material can be recycled so they don’t cause harm to the environment.”

black solar cells

Scientists Pinpoint Solar Cells Defect

Scientists Pinpoint Solar Cells Defect 2816 1880 Joshua Jones

After Decades of Global Effort, Scientists Solve Mystery of Solar Cell Defect

Solar panels are among the most available system of generating energy through renewable sources due to their relative cost and consumer availability. However, the majority of solar cells only achieve 20 percent efficiency-for every kW of equivalent sunlight, about 200W of electrical power can be generated. An international team of researchers have found the key fundamental issue. A material defect which limits and degrades solar cell efficiency. Knowledge of this issue is not new; it has been known about and studied for over 40 years. There are more than 270 research papers attributed to the issue with no solution.

New research shows the first observation of a material defect that limits silicon solar cell efficiency.

Prof. Tony Peaker, who coordinated the research now published in the Journal of Applied Physics said: “Because of the environmental and financial impact, solar cells ‘efficiency degradation’ has been the topic of much scientific and engineering interest in the last four decades. However, despite some of the best minds in the business working on it, the problem has steadfastly resisted resolution until now.”

“During the first hours of operation, after installation, a solar cells efficiency drops from 20 percent to about 18 percent. An absolute drop of 2 percent in efficiency may not seem like a big deal, but when you consider that these solar panels are now responsible for delivering a large and exponentially growing fraction of the world’s total energy needs, it’s a significant loss of electricity generating capacity.”

The energy cost of this defect across the globally installed solar capacity is in the 10’s of gigawatts.

That’s equivalent to more energy than the UK’s 15 nuclear power plants combine! Less sustainable energy options such as fossil fuels have to be implemented to bridge the gap because of this.
Researchers were able to identify the mechanism responsible for Light Induced Degradation (LID) thanks to the theoretical and experimental approach of many scientific disciplines. The team uncovered the existence of the defect, which initially lies dormant within the silicon used to manufacture the cells. A process known as ‘deep-level transient spectroscopy’ in which the electronic charge within the bulk of the silicon solar cell is transformed under sunlight. This is part of its energy generating process. The team found that this transformation involves a highly effective “trap” that prevents the flow of electrons.

Dr. Iain Crowe said: “This flow of electrons is what determines the size of the electrical current that a solar cell can deliver to a circuit, anything that impedes it effectively reduces the solar cell efficiency and amount of electrical power that can be generated for a given level of sunlight. We’ve proved the defect exists, it’s now an engineering fix that is needed.”

The industry standard technique, used to determine the quality of silicon material, measures the lifetime of charge carriers. Higher quality material with fewer “traps” have a longer lifetime. Researchers in Manchester lead by professor Mathew Halsall found that their observations have strong correlation with this charge carrier lifetime. It was reduced significantly after transformation of the defect under illumination. They also noted that the effect was reversible. The lifetime increased again when the material was heated in the dark, a process commonly used to remove the “traps.”

The paper, “Identification of the mechanism responsible for the boron oxygen light induced degradation in silicon photovoltaic cells,” is published in the Journal of Applied Physics.

Connecticut Green Bank Makes Active Effort to Boost Solar in Communities of Color

Connecticut Green Bank Makes Active Effort to Boost Solar in Communities of Color 150 150 Joshua Jones

CT is changing the trend of disparity regarding solar adoption in communities of color.

According to figures from Connecticut Green Bank, adoption of solar in communities of color is on the rise. This is due to Green Banks successful efforts to make solar energy more affordable for homeowners in these communities, as well as low-to-moderate income (LMI) households by actively engaging these traditionally unserved communities.

In the past seven years, the number of rooftop solar installations has increased by more than 50% per year. However, in many states, communities of color haven’t joined in this rapid adoption of solar. A 2019 Tufts University study found that majority Black and Hispanic neighborhoods have installed less rooftop solar compared to neighborhoods with No Majority race by 61% and 45%, respectively, while majority White neighborhoods installed 37% more.

Addressing the Problem

Green Bank launched the Residential Solar Investment Program (RSIP) in 2012 to make rooftop solar installations more affordable. This provided Connecticut homeowners with rebates and performance-based incentives (PBI) meant to lower the initial out-of-pocket costs. RSIP has helped over 30,000 households add solar to date. They continue to approach the current 300 megawatt program allocation. The Green Bank and it’s Board of Directors addressed an observed income disparity in solar adoption in 2015. They added special incentives for low and moderate income households to the residential solar program. Thus quickly accelerated solar adoption in low and moderate income communities.

Recent studies show that this has also been very successful in reaching communities of color in the state. Today, on a per owner-occupied household basis, there are 86 percent more RSIP installations in majority Black neighborhoods, 18 percent more in majority Hispanic neighborhoods, and 20 percent more in No Majority race neighborhoods as compared to majority White neighborhoods.

Solar For All

The Green Bank’s Solar for All program has been a primary driver of democratic access to solar energy in the state. The organization released a request for proposals seeking contractors to help reach under served markets in 2015. This RFP resulted in their partnership with solar provider PosiGen and the creation of the Solar for All program.

Solar for All utilizes Green Bank’s elevated incentive to offer LMI homeowners a solar lease along with energy efficiency upgrades. The upgrades are customized for each home and include air sealing, LED light bulbs, pipe wrap and programmable thermostats. These are in addition to the measures installed as part of the state’s Home Energy Solutions (HES) program. PosiGen’s Solar for All program has been even more successful than the overall RSIP program in reaching communities of color. PosiGen has more projects per home in majority Black (1275%), Hispanic (408%) and No Majority race (427%) neighborhoods than in majority White neighborhoods.

“In 2015, when we realized that all homeowners in Connecticut did not have access to the benefits of the clean energy economy, our mission compelled us to act. This study confirms that the response to our programs in under served communities of color has been even more positive than we anticipated,” said Bryan Garcia, president and CEO of Green Bank. “Today, there are still significant opportunities for residential solar growth in owner-occupied homes across the state, and we are committed to working with partners like PosiGen to continue to make green energy available and affordable for all Connecticut neighborhoods.”

Green Bank to Boost Solar in Communities of Color

Solar Array at Middletown water treatment planr

Greenskies Installs Solar Array for Middletown Water Treatment Facility

Greenskies Installs Solar Array for Middletown Water Treatment Facility 960 540 Joshua Jones

Middletown calling it a victory for the local economy and environment!

City officials praised the installation of a 714-panel solar array to help off-set the effects of the “single largest energy hog in the city” – its water treatment plant. These solar panels, installed June 2018 by Greenskies Renewable Energy, are projected to save the city 280,000 kilowatts of electricity per year.

“This is an important project, especially now with people conserving more and more water, and the demand for water is trending downward. Without this project, we would eventually need to raise rates. It will produce clean water using less electricity from the grid, which, in turn, helps stabilize water rates we charge customers,” said Joe Fazzino, acting director of Middletown Water & Sewer.

The solar array, installed at the Higby water treatment plant on the Middletown line, are projected to power 75-85 percent of facility’s electricity usage.

Many were delighted that the city enlisted a Middletown-based small business to complete the project including State Sennator Len Suzio and R-Meriden. Greenskies, which paid for the system and installation, are selling the power produced to Middletown at a discounted rate over the next 20 years, as per their contract. This firm has also installed solar arrays on the roof of the city-owned R.M. Keating Historical Enterprise Park on Johnson Street where its office is based.

The project is estimated to save the city $9,00 annually in electricity costs, greatly reducing the environmental effects of burning fossil fuels. Emission rates are expected to be one tenth of the previous total output at the water treatment plant. This project, which had been in the making for about 6 years. It was started in late fall of 2017 and completed in the spring of 2018 according to the vice president of construction at Greenskies, John Beauton.

In Connecticut, as well as other parts of the northeast, peak solar months are July through September when the sun’s elevation is lower and there is less sunlight, mentioned Beauton. In the winter months, output is low due to the concentrated snowfall, particularly January and February, he added.

Jeff Hush, member of the city’s Clean Energy Task Force, represents low-income interests on the panel. Comfortable, Healthy, Energy Efficient and Renewable Middletown, dubbed CHEER, is a collaboration between the task force, North End Action Team, Home Energy Services, New England Conservation Services, Sunlight Solar and others which hopes to lessen the city’s dependence on fossil fuels. The task force is increasing it’s efforts to improve housing costs for low- and middle-income communities in Middletown, who carry an energy burden disproportionate to their household income.

“With the solar project, we are able to produce clean, potable water using less electricity from the grid,” said Acting Water and Sewer Director Joseph Fazzino. “This is a very important project, especially now with people conserving more and more water, the demand for water is trending downward. Without this project we would eventually need to raise rates, so this will help us stabilize our water rates. Nobody really likes to have their water rates going up.”