Displaying items by tag: solar energy

As Hellbender Press reported in April, the Tennessee Valley Authority plans to phase out its use of coal. And as we mentioned in an action alert, TVA is conducting a scoping process pertaining to the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for retirement and replacement of the Kingston Fossil Plant. TVA is preparing similar EIS for its other remaining coal-fired power plants as well.

Although TVA lists "construction and operation of solar and storage facilities" in these scoping documents as an alternative for replacement of coal as the power source, it has made no secret of its belief that construction of gas-powered combustion turbines (CT) and natural gas pipelines to feed them will be the best solution to replace the outdated generation capacity.

Unlike other power utilities, TVA has been making it more difficult, financially unattractive or impossible for distributed renewable energy, storage and even efficiency projects to get realized, according to proponents of renewables and some of TVA’s local power distribution partners. TVA also reneged on its agreement with other utilities to make large amounts of wind power available to the Southeastern United States through the Plains & Eastern Clean Line high-voltage direct-current power line project.

Below, we reprint the statement submitted by FGS during the public comment period for the Kingston Fossil Plan Retirement.

(Hellbender Press is a self-funded project of FGS).

 

The Foundation for Global Sustainability urges TVA to truly step up to the challenges of climate change

The action alternatives in the dockets for the replacement of TVA’s coal fired power plants are shortsighted and most disappointing.

As a quasi-federal entity with a de-facto monopoly over a vast area of our nation, the Tennessee Valley Authority should strive to spearhead, exemplify, and not only meet — but exceed — most of the federal goals for decarbonization.

By basing plans primarily on data of historic trends — unquestioningly projected into the future — TVA is apt to commit yet another horrendous miscalculation; it is prone to saddle itself with even more stranded assets.

Addressing the climate change crisis

Rarely a month passes without scientific discoveries of natural feedback mechanisms that aggravate the consequences of climate change. Signs that Earth’s natural life-support systems are approaching tipping points are multiplying.

At the same time that uncertainty about prevailing conditions over the lifetime of infrastructure investments is growing, technologies are evolving at an increasing pace. Many private-sector corporations have already realized that time-proven business practices are no survival strategy.

What’s called for today is more nimble management. TVA needs to focus on cooperative, adaptive planning for more flexible, responsive operations.

A multitude of smaller investments that seek to attack problems from a diversity of facets will have greater probability of success than monolithic huge investments that are hard to revert, abandon, or repurpose.

We encourage TVA to take a step back, to first look at what it can do to help improve the sustainability and resilience of our regional and local economies and of its large, small, and individual customers, WITHOUT investments that lock in carbon emissions for decades.

Although we welcomed, appreciated, and supported TVA initiatives such as Energy Right, Green Power Switch and Generation Partners, one has to admit that in the larger context they amounted to little more than public relations Band-aids.

Distributed renewable energy generation and storage

It is high time for TVA to stop stonewalling renewable energies.

The promising potential of widely distributed renewable energy generation and storage to minimize transmission losses and to boost community resilience is still largely untapped. It lends itself to easily manageable, quick turn-around, incremental projects that can readily be evolved and fine-tuned as new conditions, greater insights, and better technologies emerge.

People in TVA’s service areas are no less likely to welcome and personally invest in solar energy and storage than the people of Germany have done, despite getting far less sunlight in their northern latitudes than we enjoy here; if only TVA relaxes its severe restrictions and abandons its adversarial stance.

We call upon TVA to embrace, as major planning objectives, environmental sustainability and efficiency from energy generation all the way through end use.

Sincerely,

Wolf Naegeli, PhD
President
Foundation for Global Sustainability

Published in Voices

PV Magazine & BO Klima: Berlin macht Solardächer zur Pflicht

The rooftop solar law, passed on June 16, says every new building and substantial renewal of an existing building’s roof must be equipped with solar panels covering at least 30 percent of the roof surface.

The German capital — which is on the same latitude as Labrador City — intends to become more climate friendly. It wants to act as a role model for other municipalities and states in how to accelerate the energy transition. It aims for solar to cover 25% of its electricity consumption.

The city contends, the solar potential of its roofs has gotten inadequate consideration and expects the new law will create many future-proof jobs in planning and trades.

Building owners may opt to use solar facade panels or contract with third parties to build and operate equivalent solar capacity that fulfills the mandate elsewhere in the city. But critics of the law say it does not address how to optimize its implementation with present practices, regulations, and tariffs. They predict, this law will be inefficient and costlier than other methods to stimulate renewable energy generation.

Bavaria, for example, launched an incentive program that awards combined new solar and battery storage installations. Applications for that program have multiplied quickly and now are deemed likely to surpass the 100,000 installations mark by the end of its third year.

Germany, whose entire southern border is farther north than Quebec City or Duluth, has a long history of technology and policy leadership in renewable energies. In 1991 the German Electricity Feed-in Act was the first in the world that mandated grid operators to connect all renewable power generators, pay them a guaranteed feed-in tariff for 20 years and prioritize these sources.

Published in Feedbag
Close-up photograph showing the top and bottom of two solar cellsThe rainbow colors show the diffraction of sunlight by a mirror with a nanostructured grating, which was applied to the back of the silicon subcell. The sun’s spectrum is thus captured even better in the silicon bottom cell.  © Fraunhofer ISE / Photo: Michael Schachtner
 
Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems: Tandem Photovoltaics Enables New Heights in Solar Cell Efficiencies – 35.9 % for III-V//Silicon Solar Cell

The photovoltaic (PV) solar panels most commonly used for commercial applications today have an efficiency in the range of 16 to 22 percent. On the lower side of this range, one finds less-expensive panels, mostly made with poly-crystalline solar cells, while monocrystalline cells dominate the upper side.

The highest-efficiency panel presently on the market is SunPower’s A-Series residential panel, with a claimed 22.8 percent efficiency in converting photons to electrons under standard conditions. That's up just slightly by 0.73 percent from five years ago. Although many other manufacturers have caught up to offer panels rated at more than 21 percent, development progress of silicon-based monocrystalline PV toward the theoretical limit of around 30 percent has slowed to a crawl.

Over the same period, newer technologies for multijunction PV cells with thin subcell layers of gallium-arsenide and similar semiconductors, grown on top of silicon or perovskite crystalline materials, has been progressing rapidly and may be capable of exceeding 50 percent efficiency in the future. Lab results still require years of research and manufacturing development before panels come to market. Initially their high price will limit them to market niches where low-weight and small-surface per Watt will justify the cost, such as for aerospace applications or covering electric vehicle surfaces. The following links provide a good overview of such technologies and discuss their longer-term outlook.

DOE Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy: Multijunction III-V Photovoltaics Research
Frauenhofer ISE: Tandem Photovoltaics – The Road to Higher Conversion Efficiencies
Published in Feedbag