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Clean energy Western Massachusetts

By Mary C. Serreze

February 2018

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It’s been a busy year for clean energy in the state and region, and the months ahead promise yet more challenges and opportunities.

A new solar incentive program will go into effect in 2018, providing tariff-based payments instead of production credits. Utilities will firm up contracts to procure massive amounts of clean energy from offshore wind, Canadian hydro and other sources. Greater commitments to reducing emissions from the transportation sector are expected, and innovative pilot programs are helping homes and businesses transform their energy profiles.

In 2017, Massachusetts saw major solar gains, with more than 10,000 projects installed, representing around 480 megawatts of new capacity. The clean energy sector contributed $11.4 billion to the state’s economy, providing jobs for more than 109,000 people at 6,900 establishments, according to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. Statewide job growth in the clean energy sector has jumped 80 percent since 2010.

The 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act requires that all sectors of the Massachusetts economy reduce emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. In 2016, the state lost a landmark lawsuit filed by climate activists, and the state’s highest court ordered the Department of Environmental Protection to implement the law.

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Nebraska State Fair Adds Solar Panels

By Steve White

August 9, 2017

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While fairgoers seek the shade, the sun will help power this year’s Nebraska State Fair.

Solar panels are being installed this week, on the south side of the Nebraska Building, near the Game and Parks exhibit.

“You’re going to see about 25 kilowatts, which is roughly 90 solar panels,” said Jason Olberding of J-Tech Solar.

Olberding says his company agreed to put the panels in at no cost to the fair. It’s a welcome addition to a fair that strives to be the most innovative in the country.

The Fair’s facilities director Jaime Parr said, “I do see the solar panels as a great fit for the State Fair. They do touch on our technology needs as well as sustainability, environmental efforts.”

the fair has taken steps to go green, and is certified for keeping nearly everything from going to the landfill.

Parr said, “We do tons of waste diversion at the State Fair. We are a three-time zero waste event, so looking for number four this year.”

They also have a sustainability pavilion, that J-Tech will sponsor, featuring a monitor showing solar power’s impact.

“That will show us how much power is real time live being generated from the solar panels,” Parr said.

Olberding said the screens will “Talk about the footprint, carbon footprint it’s saving, how many computers it could run.”

This installation’s not enough to power even one building at the fair, but Jason says it shows what can be done on a typical home.

“It would take all of a home’s bill away for a month, for an average ranch home, plus some,” he said.

And it’s estimated to save the fair a few thousand dollars in utility bills.

Parr said, “The hope is that it will supply about 15% of the power to the Nebraska Building throughout the year.”

Located near the main entrance to the fair, hundreds of thousands of visitors will pass by and learn something on their way to eat corn dogs and funnel cakes.

Olberding said, “It’s a great place to bring awareness to what we talk about every day.”

J-Tech has a ten-year agreement with the Fair.

Massachusetts seeking bids for largest renewable energy contract in New England history

By Crystal Bui

August 1, 2017

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Massachusetts is now reviewing proposals to bring clean energy to the state.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration is seeking project bids worldwide to provide up to 1,200 megawatts of energy.

The governor is taking proposals from water, wind, and solar power companies, with local businesses looking to grab the largest renewable energy contract in New England history.

Other proposals from energy companies come from near and far, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island, as well as Vermont, Maine, Indianapolis, Canada and even the United Kingdom.

One familiar company is making a run for the contract: Rhode Island-based Deepwater Wind. They’re known for their first off-shore wind farm in the United States, right off Block Island.

Deepwater Wind shared their proposal with NBC 10 News on Tuesday.

“What we’ve proposed is the largest wind-battery combined power in the world,” CEO Jeff Grybowski said.

Grybowski plans to add 18 to 24 wind turbines about 20 miles off the coast of New Bedford — and they’re planning on to partner with an industry power-player: Tesla

Tesla’s new battery technology will store wind farm energy. The company’s founder, Elon Musk, recently visited Rhode Island

“So, it really helps us maximize the value of all that wind power,” said Grybowski.

The wind-farm energy could power about 80,000 Massachusetts households every year.

“But again, this a price competition,” said Grybowski.

The project, if approved, would be ready by 2023 to 2024.

NBC 10 asked Grybowski how many years it would take to bring the cost down for residents because of the initial investment.

“I think from day one, we think this will be a price-competitive project,” said Grybowski.

He also said it’s likely the wind-turbines won’t be seen from shore.

Deepwater Wind is hoping their off-shore wind farm will be a part of that mix for years to come.

It’s also unlikely any of the project bids will be subsidized.

Massachusetts Town Saves $101,000 in 12 Months with Solar

By Emily Holbrook

July 25, 2017

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Massachusetts, announced that using solar electric power has saved $101,000 in electricity costs in 12 months.

According to recorder.com, the purchase agreement has met expectations each of the three years of its existence. The contract guarantees a minimum of 85% of the estimated production, but the town has received 97%.

Orange has agreed to purchase 20 percent of the electricity produced for the next 20 years at a fixed price of $0.08 per kilowatt-hour. The town receives net metering credits applied to most of its municipal accounts.

Other towns across the nation have also turned to solar power recently. In April, city officials in St. Paul, Minnesota, negotiated an agreement with GreenMark Solar to power one-quarter of the state capital’s municipal buildings with electricity derived from community solar gardens. Also in April, city council members announced that Albuquerque has begun the process of deploying over $25 million worth of solar projects on the rooftops of municipal buildings.

Massachusetts landfill gets solar panels

By “Waste Today” Staff

July 3, 2017

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A capped landfill in Brockton, Massachusetts, has become a solar energy producer. According to the local CBS affiliate WBZ-TV, the landfill, once nicknamed Mount Trashmore because of the odors it produced is now doing something positive for the environment.
A new solar power system opened on top of the old Thatcher Street landfill in late June. Officials from the city claim the energy produced from the panels is equivalent to offsetting the carbon emissions of 12,000 cars annually. The report adds, the city officials estimate more than $300,000 in revenues generated from the project annually.

 

 

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Major solar power project to provide electricity at night

By Ian Johnston

July 18, 2017

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A major solar power project in the Middle East will provide electricity during the night, the developers have said.

The $1bn (£770m) scheme will provide up to 200 megawatts to the grid in Dubai between 4pm and 10am, according to the news service Bloomberg.

Instead of generating electricity using photovoltaic cells, the system works by using mirrors to concentrate the sun’s energy and heat water. The heat is stored in molten salt and then used to create steam that drives a turbine.

Paddy Padmanathan, chief executive of the Saudi Arabia-based company behind the project, ACWA Power International, told the news service that this system was likely to become more popular around the world.

“I expect concentrated-solar power, within 18 months, to be head-to-head with combined-cycle gas, if not more competitive,” he said.

“The focus has been on photovoltaic and batteries, but there’s a limit on how long they can hold a charge for. We’re proving that CSP [concentrated solar power] can work through the night.”

The system can heat the molten salt to a staggering 490 degrees Celsius.

Mr Padmanathan said there were currently only two companies supplying solar CSP devices.

“The others have gone bankrupt,” he said, but he added: “I know of at least five Chinese companies that are starting to enter the market.”

ACWA has built CSP plants in Morocco and South Africa and hopes to build another in Saudi Arabia.

“Right now they’re tendering for solar PV and wind, but I think they’ll want a CSP project as well, especially when they see how cost competitive it can be,” Mr Padmanathan said.

Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said the plunging costs of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels was reducing the chance that this rival method of harnessing the sun’s energy would take off.

“This plant in Dubai is for delivery by 2021,” she said. “By then, we’re expecting solar PV and batteries to be in the same order of magnitude for cost and will be a lot more flexible than a solar thermal plant.”

 

Want more solar news? Check out SGE Solar’s News Feed or follow our forays into social media on Twitter!

NIU staff member’s new children’s book explores the science of solar energy

By Northern Illinois University

July 11, 2017

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On July 5, Gillian King-Cargile, director of NIU’s STEM Read program in the P-20 Center, released her new children’s book, The Toy and the Test Drive. The book is the third installment in the Stuffed Bunny Science Adventure Series published by NIU Press. It explores concepts of solar power and potential and kinetic energy in a fast-paced children’s narrative designed to engage young readers.

“If we can create fun, exciting picture books that will get kids interested in the characters and the pictures, then science is exciting for kids who don’t necessarily see themselves as scientists or engineers,” King-Cargile says. “The fiction books might spark their interest in a way that more traditional non-fiction books might not.”

The book includes an interview with Seth Darling, a Nanoscientist working at Argonne National Laboratory whose work focuses on next-generation solar energy devices and solar energy systems, among other topics. Darling was a science consultant on the book.

King-Cargile is excited to release a book that addresses solar energy right now. “In a time when green energy is under attack, it’s important to keep ideas about alternative energies alive in our education system,” she says.

The Stuffed Bunny Science Adventure Series arose as a partnership between King-Cargile and the P-20 Center’s STEM Read program. The series is designed to teach science, technology, engineering, and math concepts aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)..

The STEM Read website (stemread.com) provides free lesson plans, video games and other activities for each book that parents and teachers can use to further engage children in the science behind the stories. Hands-on activities, such as building a solar oven and making s’mores, bring the science of solar energy alive for children.

Jeffrey R. S. Brownson, associate professor of energy and mineral engineering at Pennsylvania State University, praises the book: “This is a fun story that provides a good introduction to the science and engineering concepts surrounding solar energy.”

King-Cargile will be presenting readings and activities for children at the following times and locations.

  • 4:30 PM on Wednesday, July 12 at the Maple Park Public Library
  • 10:00 AM on Thursday, July 13 at the Cortland Community Library
  • 10:30 AM on Monday, July 17 at the DeKalb Public Library

The readings are free and open to the public. Books will be available for purchase. Proceeds from the book sales benefit STEM Read’s programs for readers of all ages.

For more information, contact Gillian King Cargile at 815-753-6784 or gkingcargile@niu.edu.

Geneva company goes 97% solar for its energy

By Brenda Schory

July 7, 2017

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GENEVA – Riverbank Laboratories Inc. in Geneva installed a solar panel system that is expected to provide nearly all of the company’s electricity needs.

Company owner and president, 5th Ward Alderman Robert Swanson, said it was a step in the right direction for the environment.

“Every day, we are saving trees and keeping C02 emissions from going into the air – and it’s renewable energy,” Swanson said. “It’s not using coal or oil or natural gas that has a finite quantity.”

Carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels raise global temperatures by trapping solar energy in the atmosphere, according to the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine website, nasonline.org.

Riverbank Laboratories, which manufactures and ships tuning forks, put on a new roof in April with installation of the solar system beginning soon after in May, company spokeswoman Mary Robinson said.

“Once you put the solar panels on, you do not want to take them off for a new roof,” Robinson said.

Rethink Electric, a Geneva company, performed the installation on the 6,500-square-foot roof, she said.

Swanson said he does not have solar panels on his house because large trees shield it from the sun.

“But it makes sense on a large, flat roof with no trees nearby,” Swanson said of his company building.

Since the panels went live May 31, they have produced enough energy to power 11,600 light bulbs for a day and saved 6,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from being emitted – the equivalent of planting 150 trees – Swanson said.

“It’s the right thing to do, reducing our carbon footprint,” Swanson said. “Our customers appreciate our commitment to the environment.”

The system is designed to produce more electricity than will be used in the longer, sunnier spring and summer days, Swanson said. Excess power generated by the solar panels will go back to the grid for use by others.

“We get credit for that shared power on cloudy days when we draw our electricity from the grid,” Swanson said. “Over the course of a year, we expect to generate 97 percent of our electrical power needs via our solar panels.”

Mike Nicolosi, owner of Rethink Electric, said he has worked in the solar industry for 11 years and started his company three years ago.

“They are stepping out and showing, ‘Why not get power from the sun than from coal or a nuclear power plant?’” Nicolosi said of Riverbank Labs. “With solar power, there is no turbine or machine or anything turning or making smoke. You are eliminating the amount of CO2. That is a feel-good thing.”

While everyone might not care about reducing their carbon footprint, Nicolosi said, most will care that the cheapest way to get power is through solar energy – not buying it from ComEd or even from Geneva’s own electric utility.

“The cheapest is buying solar,” Nicolosi said. “There is nothing cheaper.”

According to a report by the nonprofit foundation World Economic Forum, the cost of solar and wind generation has dropped so much that it is competitive against coal and natural gas.

Solar power, shade coming to MSU parking lots

By RJ Wolcott

July 7, 2017

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EAST LANSING – Among the active construction projects on Michigan State University’s campus this summer is one that will keep parked cars cool. And research labs, too.

Solar panel parking bays — covered parking capable of collecting energy from the sun — are going up on five parking lots along the southern portion of campus.

Standing more than 14 feet tall at their lowest point and collectively spanning more than 700,000 square feet, the bays will collect between 10 and 11 megawatts of power during peak hours, according to Wolfgang Bauer, a professor of physics and senior consultant with the Office of the Executive Vice President.

“It’ll be the largest non-utility solar array in the state,” he said, adding that MSU’s array will provide an example to other institutions of what can be done.

Around noon on a sunny summer day, the array is expected to generate about one-sixth of the campus’ total energy needs. Annually, it’s expected to save MSU from having to generate or purchase around 15,000-megawatt hours of electricity, between five and six percent of energy consumption on campus.

“It’s a big chunk,” Bauer said, standing in the shadow of the first series of panels built on lot 89 at the corner of Farm Lane and Mt. Hope Road.

The bays are built tall to allow RVs and other vehicles driven by tailgaters on football Saturdays to park under them with ease.

The number of parking spaces in each lot isn’t expected to change as a result of the project, and parking fees won’t be impacted, Katie Gervasi, a spokesperson for MSU’s Infrastructure Planning and Facilities Office, said.

The parking bays at lot 89 will be ready for motorists by the start of the fall semester, with the other four lots coming online before the end of the year.

The array will consist of more than 40,000 individual solar panels measuring 6 feet wide by 3 feet tall.

Once operational, the solar panel parking bays will generate roughly 200 times more electricity than what’s created by the few hundred panels located on the main campus, Bauer said. Generating solar power instead of purchasing it off the grid could save MSU as much as $10 million over the next 25 years.

The parking bays are being built by Inovateus Solar, which will own the structures and sell all of the power collected to MSU at a fixed rate during the 25-year agreement. The panels are capable of turning 17% of the solar power collected into usable electricity, Bauer said, in line with the most advanced panels available today.

It’ll be Inovateus’ largest carport project once completed, said John Gulanick, a field installation supervisor with the South Bend company.

Each section is being anchored to the ground by a steel rod plunging 28 feet into the earth encased in concrete to ensure the bays can’t blow away. The panels can withstand hail and generate a small amount of heat, causing any snow to slide off.

 

The cutest solar farm ever is now live on the grid

By Yi Shu Ng

July 5, 2017

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Who knew clean energy could be this cute?

China connected a panda-shaped solar power plant to the grid last week.

The project was built by the aptly-named Panda Green Energy, and has an output of 50MW, enough to power more than 8,000 U.S. households, according to Inhabitat.

It’s located in Datong, a city in the province of Shanxi, northern China.

Another panda is in the works on the site.

Two types of solar panels — white thin film photovoltaic (PV) cells and black monocrystalline silicon PV cells — give the plant the look of China’s favourite monochromatic animal.

It’s hoped that when the plant is complete, it will have an output of 100MW, and output 3.2 billion kWh of solar energy in 25 years.

The power plant is part of a UN Development Program (UNDP) effort to promote clean energy to China’s youth, and aims to teach young people about sustainable energy. It will host a summer camp organised by the UNDP and Panda Green Energy in August, for teenagers aged 13-17.

The UNDP is also organising open design challenges with Panda Green Energy.

“Designing the plant in the shape of a panda could inspire young people and get them interested in the applications of solar power,” Panda Green Energy’s CEO, Li Yuan, told state-owned Xinhua in May last year.

Panda Green Energy is hoping to build panda-shaped power plants in other countries in central and Southeast Asia, too.

The company is planning to expand into countries like Fiji and the Philippines, and wants to build over 100 panda-shaped plants in the next five years. The plants will include motifs inspired by local animals, like the koala or rhinoceros.

“I believe that the panda solar power plants will become a tourist hotspot, and in future we’ll export these panda power plants to other parts of the world,” Li told Xinhua.