Category Archives: Clean Energy

Why California Built The World’s Largest Solar Farm

This is the largest solar energy plant in the United States, with more than eight million solar panels and an area roughly 16 kilometers in size. The project was announced back in 2011 and intended to transform the energy sector throughout California, but nearly 1.4 billion dollars later. Why did the U.S. government build this massive solar facility and how has it impacted, California’s goals of operating on 100% renewable energy? The desert sunlight solar farm was first announced back in 2011 and was completed just four years.

The solar farm is co-owned by three different companies: Next Era Energy Resources, GE financial services and the Sumitomo corporation of America. All share ownership of the facility. The solar farm generates enough electricity to power more than 160 thousand California homes after being produced.

The electricity is then sold to the Southern California Edison company under a 25-year power purchase agreement, in addition to the direct jobs created by the solar farm, it’s estimated that the project will create nearly one billion dollars in economic activity throughout the state over the life of the project.

To understand the real goal of this facility, we need to take a look at the current energy situation in California. Currently, natural gas is the largest source of energy for the state, accounting for about 50 percent of energy production, with roughly half of the state’s energy being produced by non-renewable forms of electricity.

Throughout the past few decades, solar energy in the state has been rapidly expanding into hundreds of new facilities. To date, the state government has spent upwards of 73 billion dollars on various solar energy projects throughout the state, and there are a number of reasons behind this.

For one studies have revealed that California is the best state to build solar farms resulting in the maximum effectiveness of each of the panels. The state sees nearly 300 sunny or partly cloudy days per year, allowing the solar farms to profit from electricity on nearly every single day of the year.

Additionally, the state has many vast areas of open land that can be turned into solar farms when it comes to desert sunlight, solar farm, the state needed a large area capable of storing nearly 8 million solar panels, while at the same time maximizing the effectiveness of this Multi-Billion dollar project in the end, the project’s success can be tied to the effectiveness of building solar farms in the state of California.

Today, desert sunlight solar farm supplies electricity to more than 160,000 homes and helps solar make up about 17 of the state’s total energy production. In all, there are more than 750 solar facilities across the state, and the government is continuously working to expand into even more facilities in the coming years.

California has a goal of using 100% renewable energy by 2045.. In order to meet these ambitious deadlines, the state government is developing a number of renewable energy projects and legislation to go along with them, in addition to the state having the best conditions for solar farms.

One of the most important factors is the economics behind building a solar facility in the past, solar has been unreliable and extremely expensive, making the return on investment take extremely long amounts of time.

This has then obstructed plans for large-scale solar facilities to be constructed, but recently the developments of new and advanced solar technology have allowed solar farms and solar panels to become a lot more affordable.

The types of panels that these large-scale farms are using are called photovoltaic panels. When the sun shines onto these panels, the energy from the sunlight is absorbed into the interior cells and into a conductive wire from there.

The electricity is distributed to either a storage facility or directly for usage in the past. Photovoltaic panels have been extremely expensive to build and operate, but throughout the past few years, prices for these panels have dropped by double digit figures.

This has then allowed more companies and state governments to begin investing into solar technology. Well, these panels are mainly for converting sunlight into electricity. Regular solar panels are mainly used for turning solar radiation into heat energy.

This then creates the difference between utility scale solar panels and residential scale. Solar technology will the availability of open land and the economics behind these panels are factors behind the rapid expansion of solar energy.

We also have to account for the reliability of solar power compared to other forms of electricity generation. Studies have found that for every 10,000 solar panels in operation, roughly five of them end up failing every year.

This very minimal percentage of the total panels allows them to be more reliable than other forms of power generation for a state such as California, solar energy is currently allowing the state to suffer the decrease in production by hydroelectric power as a result of the ongoing drought.

The production of hydroelectricity in the state has been steadily declining throughout the past few years as the water levels at the hoover dam and many other reservoirs have fallen to extremely low levels.

This is just another key cause of the state’s rapid expansion into solar energy production. As we can see, this project has worked out very well for the state of California and the U.S. Department of Energy.

The purpose of this facility was to profit from a very large area of land in central California and continue expanding the state’s network of solar farms. But not everyone is in agreement with this transition into renewable energy, while the state of California is promoting further construction of new solar farms.

Not everyone is in agreement with this transition into renewable energy. We have to keep note of the many disadvantages that solar energy farms come along with. They may alter the landscape and environment in negative ways, and they take up a very large amount of space.

These factors influence where solar farms can be built and if they receive permits for construction. The problem is that there has been disagreement between the state government and local residents debating as to where solar farms should be built, how large they will be and the local impacts of the projects.

Various studies have revealed that solar farms can reduce surrounding property values, and this has caused the disagreement when it comes to constructing new solar facilities. Because of this, the state has chosen to build some of the largest solar farms in remote areas of the state where they are not negatively affecting property values nearby.

In the end, these debates will unfortunately, continue as the state looks, to continue constructing even more solar facilities. Throughout the next few decades, in the end, the department of energy has invested such a large amount of money into this project because of the long-term benefits of solar energy production, while California does have ideal conditions to build solar farms.

There is a long list of benefits that come along with this technology. The economics behind these panels have also convinced many companies to dive into solar energy and build massive production farms across the state.

Today, California is seeing the most benefits from its investments into solar energy. As non-renewable forms of energy production have either become too expensive or not as effective as they previously were, while the state has invested billions of dollars into solar technology.

Recent reports have stated that the entire state may still face electricity shortages as a result of transitioning away from fossil fuels. While we have yet to see the full effect of this initiative, only time will tell if california’s investment into solar energy really pays off.

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Source : Youtube

Major Solar Panel Manufacturers Increase Production As Polysilicon Prices Fall

New manufacturing capacity in the polysilicon wafer market has helped boost the production of solar panels at three major Chinese manufacturers.

Several new polysilicon production factories have come online, resulting in a major decline in the price of polysilicon wafers. Those wafers are the building blocks for solar panels, being pieced together into a complete module.

This is great news for the solar industry as a whole, for customers looking to buy panels in the next few months, and for fighting climate change worldwide.

Bloomberg reports:

Several big solar-panel makers are ramping up production in a boon to clean energy. A key reason: the collapse of material costs that had been elevated for more than a year.

Three leading Chinese module manufacturers are bumping up January output forecasts, according to Shanghai Metals Market, which didn’t identify its sources. Promising near-term demand is another factor driving the output boost.

The world is racing to fight climate change, but accessing solar panels has been a challenge in some markets including the US. A surge of cheap panels would help countries reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and potentially lower power prices.

Solar demand has been growing for several years, but manufacturers were hamstrung in 2021 and 2022 by a rare stretch of increasing material costs for polysilicon — a key material for most panels.

You can read the full story at

Wind And Solar Could Provide More Energy To The Grid In 2023 Than Coal And Nuclear

If the current pace of growth of industrial-scale renewable energy projects coming online continues, wind, solar, biomass and other forms of renewable energy could surpass coal and nuclear in the amount of energy supplied to the grid in 2023.

A recently released report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), estimated that renewable energy provided 22.6% of U.S. electricity over the first 10 months of 2022, outpacing both coal and nuclear.

The EIA figures indicate that solar output surged by 22.6% for the first 10 months of 2022, as compared to the previous year. In October, solar energy output was an impressive 31.2% greater than the year before.

Solar demand is skyrocketing, and forecasts project significant growth rates for many months to come.

EcoWatch reports:

A new analysis of federal data shows that wind and solar alone could generate more electricity in the United States than nuclear and coal over the coming year, critical progress toward reducing the country’s reliance on dirty energy.

The SUN DAY Campaign, a nonprofit that promotes sustainable energy development, highlighted a recently released U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) review finding that renewable sources as a whole—including solar, wind, biomass, and others—provided 22.6% of U.S. electricity over the first 10 months of 2022, a pace set to beat the agency’s projection for the full year.

“Taken together, during the first ten months of 2022, renewable energy sources comfortably out-produced both coal and nuclear power by 16.62% and 27.39% respectively,” the SUN DAY Campaign noted Tuesday. “However, natural gas continues to dominate with a 39.4% share of total generation.”

The new EIA figures show that electricity output from solar alone jumped by more than 26% in the first 10 months of last year. In just October, the SUN DAY Campaign observed, “solar’s output was 31.68% greater than a year earlier, a rate of growth that strongly eclipsed that of every other energy source.”

Ken Bossong, the campaign’s executive director, said that “as we begin 2023, it seems very likely that renewables will provide nearly a quarter—if not more—of the nation’s electricity during the coming year.”

You can read the full story at

International Energy Agency Report Identifies Ukraine Conflict As Large Driver Of Increased Demand For Green Energy

Economic analysts of every persuasion rarely agree. However, on one point they are nearly unanimous in agreement: the Ukraine conflict has added to the global energy crisis.

And it is the global energy crisis that is powering strong demand for a solution. The solution being a more rapid transition to green sources of energy.

Singularity Hub reports:

In its latest assessment of the state of renewable power, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says that the global energy crisis the conflict has caused is driving a significant acceleration in the roll-out of green energy projects as governments try to reduce their reliance on imported fossil fuels.

The upshot is that global capacity is expected to grow by as much as 2,400 gigawatts (GW) between now and 2027. That’s equal to China’s total power capacity today, and more renewable power than the world has installed in the previous 20 years.

It’s also about 30 percent higher than the agency was predicting last year, making this the largest-ever upward revision of its renewable energy forecasts. The report predicts that renewables will make up 90 percent of all new power projects over the next half-decade, and by 2025 solar is likely to overtake coal as the world’s single biggest source of power.

“Renewables were already expanding quickly, but the global energy crisis has kicked them into an extraordinary new phase of even faster growth as countries seek to capitalize on their energy security benefits,” IEA executive director Fatih Birol said in a statement. “This is a clear example of how the current energy crisis can be a historic turning point towards a cleaner and more secure energy system.”

Nowhere has the energy crisis spurred a bigger reaction than in Europe. Much of the continent has long been reliant on Russian fossil fuels, with the EU importing nearly half its natural gas from the country. Given the growing rifts with its neighbor, the bloc is keen to rectify this situation.

In May, the European Commission released its REPowerEU plan in response to the Russian invasion, which outlines how the bloc plans to reduce its energy use, boost renewables, and diversify the sources of its fossil fuel supplies. This includes commitments to end reliance on Russian fossil fuels by 2027 and boost renewables’ share of the energy mix to 45 percent.

You can read the entire article here.

How Solar Panels Are Made

Gigawatts upon gigawatts of clean, green  solar capacity is being churned out by high-tech factories all around the world.  But how are solar panels actually made? Join us now on a sun-seeking sojourn as  we look inside a solar panel factory.

Last month the Indian government announced it had  reached the psychologically important milestone of 100 gigawatts in nationwide renewable energy  capacity. India, eager to develop its renewable infrastructure, may yet reach its ambitious target  of 175 gigawatts on-stream in the year 2022, and 450 GW overall renewable energy  capacity by the close of this decade.

To do that, Indians will need to make solar panels. Lots of them. Vikram Solar is one of a few big players in the field vying for a slice of this lucrative growing market.   And Vikram recently expanded its  own capacity by a not-insignificant 1.3GW through the opening of its new 130,000  square feet plant in Oragadam, Tamil Nadu. So let’s see what goes down inside. Solar panels, also called solar modules, are  made up of a number of individual solar cells.

These cells can trace their origins back to simple silica sand, from which silicon is extracted.   Silicon is the second-most-abundant element  found in the earth’s crust by the way. So we’re not likely to run out any time soon.

Cooked at 2,000 degrees Celsius in a furnace along  with a source of carbon, the raw element is then cooled to create metallurgical grade silicon.  This is usually liquified again in order to   remove remaining impurities.

It’s then blended  with a pinch of boron and a dash of phosphorus, molded into ingots then sliced into  tiny wafers less than 0.2mm thick. These wafers are then coated with silicon nitride  and roughed up a bit to create texture and reduce reflectivity – any light that bounces off a solar panel is wasted, of course.

A silver paste is then applied to the front and rear surface and, pretty much, that’s your solar cell. At Vikram Solar’s new Tamil Nadu facility,  these incoming cells are visually inspected to find any obvious cracks or breakages.

Cracks in the solar cells render them useless for large modular applications like solar panels. But more  often than not, smaller sections of solar cell can be cut away and used for smaller, less intensive  off-grid applications, like solar powered toys.

After this manual visual inspection,  the first of several tests under blasts of artificial sunlight, to  check they work, is undertaken. Then a hydraulic conveyor system  introduces a layer of EVA – that stands for Ethylene-vinyl acetate – to a flat  pane of tempered glass.

This EVA layer serves as an adhesive to hold fast the rows of solar cells that are automatically laid on the pane in a careful tile pattern, by this six-axis  robot arm that can move 12 cells at once.

The cells are connected to each other, and ultimately the grid, via a criss-cross pattern of narrow metal ‘fingers’ and fatter ‘busbars’  . These carry electrons generated from the   activated cells to the tab wires and beyond,  to whatever the panel will ultimately power.

Engineers looking to maximize efficiency of solar cells have debated whether its better having more busbars – conventional wisdom says 5 is a good  upper limit – because resistance is lowered, although the additional hardware inevitably shades parts of the solar cell.

More fingers and busbars can also mitigate the  risk of micro cracks appearing in the cell, or at least prevent cracks  spreading too far across the cell. Once all the cells are in place, another  layer of EVA is laid over the panel and an additional backsheet is added to  encapsulate the cells and internal wiring.

The next stage is called  ‘pre-lamination electroluminescence’.   Exploiting one curious property of photovoltaic cells – that they light up whenever a current is passed through them – inspectors can look  even closer for microcracks that might render the final panel inefficient or at worse useless.

All they need to do is identify the dark spots. These microcracks, incidentally, can  creep in at any stage of the process. Silicon wafers are notoriously brittle, and  mishaps during the manufacturing or transportation phase are common.

Wild fluctuations in ambient  temperature can also cause irreversible damage. After this pre-lamination electroluminescence  phase comes – you guessed it – lamination. An industrial laminator applies heat and vacuum  pressure to the ‘sandwich’ of glass, EVA, solar cells and wires, bonding everything together in a taut, weatherproof panel.

Following this stage, circuit ribbons are attached to the edges,  and an aluminum frame placed around the edge. This aluminum frame offers the panel sturdiness,  which helps prevent nasty cracks.

These frames also make the panels much easier to handle and  store, as well as offering some resistance to the day-to-day mechanical loads the panel will be subjected to, like heavy snow or gale-force winds.

Another electroluminescence test follows, and the installation of a so-called ‘junction box’ on the backside of  the module using strong silicone adhesive. This junction box serves not only as the collector  of electricity, but its diodes ensure power only ever flows in one direction.

This is important,  because solar panels by their very nature generate differing and unpredictable amounts  of electricity throughout their working lives. Final testing looks for weaknesses in the panel’s weatherproofing.

Next, the completed panel is subjected to a final blast of artificial  sunlight. And now our panel is ready to ship. Vikram Solar’s shiny new Tamil Nadu facility is part of a wider drive within India to achieve what prime minister Narendra Modi has  called his ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ initiative.

This translates, pretty much,  to ‘self-reliant India’,  the idea being to wean the subcontinent off  of its dependence on foreign expertise and expensive imports. The new plant is all set up  to embrace emerging technologies, for instance using Artificial Intelligence algorithms to spot  microcracks early in the manufacturing process.

As Vikram Solar’s managing director Gyanesh Chaudhary puts it. ‘This is an extension of our  endeavor to provide high quality, reliable, technologically superior products  and timely delivery to our customers.

It will further contribute as an R&D  platform for next-gen module technology’. Talk about sunny optimism. What do you think? Is solar still exciting? Let us know in the comments,   and don’t forget to subscribe for more  utterly illuminating tech content.

Source : Youtube

Solar Panels Plus Farming? Agrivoltaics Explained

We have a world population expected to  grow by 1.2 billion people within 15 years, coupled with a growing demand for meat, eggs and dairy, which soak up over 70% of fresh water for   crops, plus electricity demand that’s growing  even faster than population growth … what are   we supposed to do about all of that? Well, we can  combine two of my favorite things: technology and food.

Both of which I’ve been accused of having  too much of. But, could combining solar panels   plus farming be a viable solution to all of those  problems? Let’s take a closer look at electrifying our crops … not literally electrifying crops …  never mind … let’s take a closer look at adding solar to our farm land as well as some of the  side benefits … and challenges … it creates.

I’m Matt Ferrell … welcome to Undecided. The problem with solar panels is that they need  a lot of space to generate serious amounts of electricity. Agrivoltaics or APV for short,  combines agriculture with electricity generation by farming under a canopy of solar panels … and  there’s some really interesting recent examples that make a compelling case for it, but before  getting into that it’s a good idea to understand the challenges around solar parks in general and some of the solutions that have been developed.

Solar parks in rural areas have been around  for almost two decades. The major problem with this type of solar installation is that  the ground beneath the panels can’t be used, mainly due to the small spaces between the rows of panels which aren’t large enough for modern farming  equipment to pass through.

It is possible to convert a typical solar park into dual land use when it’s designated as a living area for  grazing by small livestock like chicken, geese, and sheep, as well as for beekeeping.

These animals are beneficial to solar farms because they reduce the cost of maintaining vegetation growth and don’t introduce any risk to the panels themselves. The same can’t be said  of something a bit larger like pigs, goats,   horses, or cattle … it’s a known  fact that cattle hate solar panels.

When more space is allowed in between the solar panel rows, crops can be grown there.   However, the space beneath the panels still isn’t usable and needs to be maintained.   This is considered alternating land use  instead of dual land use because there   are areas of the land that are one or the  other, not both solar and crops at the same time. The land between the rows will  be shaded during some hours of the day,   meaning you’re altering the characteristics of  the land and the types of crops that can be grown.

So what if we started to go vertical with our solar panels? That’s where we start to get some interesting alternatives to standard  ground mounted solar park style installations. Using vertically mounted bifacial modules allows  for more arable land.

And if you don’t know what bifacial solar panels are, they can collect solar energy from both sides of the panel. This type of installation would work particularly  well in areas that suffer from wind erosion, since the structures reduce wind speeds which  can help protect the land and crops grown there.

The bifacial panels also can generate more  power per square meter than traditional single faced panels and don’t require any moving parts. Then there’s also the option  of mounting panels on stilts, which allows farming machinery to pass underneath.

In this design you have to maintain a certain clearance between rows to protect the stilts   from the machinery, so there is a modest  arable land surface loss … usually 3-10%.   Many variations on this theme are currently under  active research.

Instead of fixed panel mounting, panels can be mounted with actuators, allowing the panels to tilt in one or two directions, which allows for both solar energy and plant growth optimization.

This can be particularly important during  the initial stages of growth for some crops. But what about growing crops  … UNDER … the elevated panels? You’d think that solar panels casting shade on plants would be a bad thing, but the way photosynthesis works makes things interesting.

Plants grow their mass out of CO2 with the help of sunlight. They literally are growing from the  air … BUT … not all available sunlight can be converted into biomass. After a certain threshold,  which is called the light saturation point, plants can’t absorb any more energy, so they need to get  rid of that excess energy by evaporating water.

If we oversimplify this, we can divide  the plants into two groups: “I’ll have my light supersized” plants and “can I order my  light off the kids menu” plants. That group, the so-called shade plants, are particularly useful in combination with solar panels, since the panels obviously block  some of the available sunlight.

Now sun plants are sometimes referred  to as shade-intolerant plants, which makes them sound like jerks. This is a slight misnomer, since these plants just require more sunlight than shade plants  but can also suffer from too much sunlight.

When any plant reaches their threshold, they  can suffer from ‘sunburn’ and heat stress,   just like me, causing increased amounts  of water evaporation … just like me. According to a report from the German Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy, nearly all crops can be cultivated under solar panels, but there may be  some yield loss during the less sunny seasons for sun hungry plants.

In the RESOLA project conducted  between 2016 and 2018 in the German area of Lake   Constance or the Bodensee as the Germans call it,  they demonstrated that during a relatively ‘wet and cold’ year in 2016 APV-crop yields were 25% less than the non-solar reference field,   but in the ‘dry and hot’ years of 2017 and 2018  the APV-crops yields exceeded the reference field.

That’s a sign that APV could be a  game changer in hot and arid regions. The amount of experience with agrivoltaics is still fairly limited and the big successes have been mainly with shade tolerant crops like  lettuce, spinach, potatoes, and tomatoes.

Which leads us to some of the  super promising examples that make a compelling case for agrivoltaics. But before I get to that, I want to give a  quick shout out to today’s sponsor … me!   Seriously though, be sure to check out my follow  up podcast based on your feedback and comments on these videos, Still To Be Determined, which  you can find on all the major podcast services out there or at, as well as a video  version here on YouTube. I’ll put all the links   in the description. It’s a fun way to  continue the discussion on these topics. Let’s switch over to The  Netherlands. Tiny as it is,   it is the second largest  exporter of food in the world! The company “GroenLeven”, a subsidiary of the  BayWa group, which is headquartered in Munich Germany, has started several pilot projects  with local fruit farmers.

Their largest site is in the village of Babberich in the east of  the Netherlands, close to the German border, at a large 4 hectare raspberry farm, which is about 10 acres for those of us not on metric.

They’ve converted 3 hectares into a 2 MW  agrivoltaics farm. The remaining part was left in a traditional farming setup. Raspberries are  a fragile, shade tolerant fruit that’s typically grown in rows covered with plastic to help protect  them from the elements and ensure high yields.

In this project the raspberry plants are grown directly under the solar panels, which have been   placed in alternating rows facing east and west.  This maximizes solar yield, but also protects the plants from the prevailing winds.

They did test traditional solar panels in this project, but they took away too much of the available sunlight, so they switched to panels with a larger spacing between the solar cells to let more light through.

The amount and quality of the fruit produced under the panels was the same or better as the fruit  produced under the traditional plastic tunnels. One big benefit for the farmer was the amount  of work saved from managing the plastic tunnels, which are easily damaged  by hail and summer storms.

In those cases fruits may become  unsellable from the damage, but they still have to be harvested anyway.  During the last summer storms, the fruits under the panels didn’t sustain any damage, while the  harvest from the reference field was destroyed.

Another major difference between the agrivolatic test field and reference field: the temperature was several degrees cooler under the solar panels.  Not only is it more pleasant for the farm workers, but it also reduced the amount of irrigation water by 50% compared to the reference field.

Even cooler is how the crops affect the solar panels. The crops and their limited water   evaporation actually keep the panels cool. Solar panels actually don’t like to be hot, since it   reduces their energy efficiency; the cooler a  panel can be, the more energy it will provide.

So just based on that, agrivoltaics appears  to be a winning strategy. If we were to convert even a fraction of our current  agricultural land use into agrivoltaics, a large portion of our energy needs can be met  … easily.

And with the added benefits in reduced water consumption, agrivoltaics can also be a  game changer in hot and arid regions of the world. So what’s keeping us from rolling out this  dual-purpose, game-changing system at a massive scale? What’s the catch? Energy production  is a different ball game from agriculture, which can slow down farmers  from embracing the technology.

But the actual obstacles are sadly  … mundane … and some frustrating. It boils down to the the not-in-my-backyard  effect (NIMBY), bureaucracy, and the free market. So let’s start with the NIMBY crowd.

Not all renewable energy solutions are receiving a  warm reception. Prime example is obviously the  sight and sounds of a giant wind turbine in the   vicinity of your home. Community pushback  from the residents of Reno County in Kansas   killed a proposed NextEra Energy  Inc. wind farm. Also in agriculture, there are examples where current laws enabled  building giant biogas plants that weren’t always   welcomed by the local communities. No matter the  reason behind the community outrage and pushback, it’s this type of reaction that has  killed or delayed many projects,   as well as made many local governments  gun-shy on pushing them forward.

So in order to prevent communities turning against agrivoltaics it’s important to control its spread, especially pseudo-agrivoltaics (a  practice to build large solar farms under the guise of agriculture).

In protecting the people’s interest it helps to build  community support, which is essential. The Fraunhofer institute recommends that 1. Agrivoltaics should be deployed mainly  where synergistic effects can be achieved,   for instance by reducing the  water demand for crop production.

And… 2. To maintain proper local  support, agrivoltaic systems should preferably be operated by local farms,  energy cooperatives or regional investors. With these guidelines in  mind, community resistance   against agrivoltaics can be kept to a minimum.

Next, rules, regulations,  and bureaucracy can also hold it back, which varies from country  to country or even from city to city. “As part of its agricultural policy, the EU  grants direct payments for land used primarily for agriculture. So, an important question  is whether farmland loses its eligibility for financial support due to the use of  agrivoltaics [….] … Whether the land is   mostly used for agricultural  purposes is decisive here”.

In the EU, agrivoltaic systems are usually  considered to be physical structures in terms of the building regulation laws, so they need  a building permit. In Germany for instance, it’s usually prohibited in rural areas unless it  doesn’t conflict with a list of public interests.

Agrivoltaics, however, isn’t on  the list of public interests yet. Lastly and maybe most important is the free  market, which is pretty easy to wrap your head around because it all comes down to costs and  investment.

Just like putting solar on your home,  the big number to look at is cost per kWh. Because agrivoltaic solar doesn’t yield as much energy per square meter  compared to a traditional solar park, on top of the construction costs, the  cost per kWh can be 10-20% higher.

And there’s the big question of who owns the solar panels. In the Dutch example, the farmer   wasn’t the investor or owner of the installation.  A farmer’s willingness to participate all comes   down to avoiding negative impacts to the crop  yield and having lower operational costs from   the solar panels.

In this case the solar array owner was able to demonstrate those benefits. The Fraunhofer institute found that farmers  are only willing to engage in a project if the crop yield never falls below 80% of the reference  field, but … that’s only if the farmer owns the solar array. That’s because the farmer can make  up the crop shortfall from the energy produced.   But that also raises the question, if they own  the array, how are they going to optimize the solar panels … for solar energy production or for  crop yield? For the highest energy production per square meter, solar parks win out.

For the highest guaranteed crop production, dedicated farming wins out. It all comes down to costs and investments.  Without government intervention through subsidies or price guarantees, agrivoltaics may not  stand a chance against other solar initiatives.

Agrivoltaics is a very promising concept that has  the potential to kill two birds with one stone:   helping our food supply and transitioning  us to a cleaner energy source. The main benefit comes from the fact that solar panels are great at reducing GHG emissions, without sacrificing arable land.

Especially  if we can convert land that’s currently being used to grow biofuel crops, like palm oil and corn  farms, into land for actual human food production  and consumption … or even reforestation, that  would be a huge win! Looking at the big picture and deciding where we want to go can help us find  ways to overcome the difficulties along the way.

Dave Borlace over at the ‘Just Have A Think’  YouTube channel created an incredible introductory video on the agrivoltaics concept as well, so  be sure to check out that video too. But what do you think? Should we be trying to use agrivoltaics  everywhere? Are there any other dual use renewable energy examples that you know about? Jump into  the comments and let me know.

And a special thank you to Patreon producer Rob van der Wouw  for all his help on pulling this script together. Thank you, Rob. And thanks to all of my patrons  for helping to make these videos possible.

If you liked this video be sure to check out  one of the ones I have linked right here.   Be sure to subscribe and hit the notification  bell if you think I’ve earned it.   Thanks so much for watching and  I’ll see you in the next one.

Source : Youtube

What is Community Solar, and how does it work?

Welcome to the solar energy channel where you will get an honest inside, look at all things solar. In this video, we’re going to be talking about community solar versus owning your own solar system. – I’m Charles – And I’m Warren.

And please be sure to subscribe to this video to be notified when we release future videos, just like this. – So, Warren help us understand briefly what is community solar? – Sure, community solar are large solar arrays that are put in place to serve the community.

Primarily for people who don’t have the roof space or who don’t own their home for them, give them the ability to go solar. Yeah, so it’s a hybrid approach between something behind the meter where it could go on their roof or on their ground to say a utility scale, something in between that.

That that’s exactly right, Charles. If you think about solar for people who put solar on their homes, it’s behind the meter versus these large farms that you see out there. It’s, in-between those to serve those people who can’t otherwise go solar.

So, someone who is enrolled in a community solar project, do they actually own a part of the solar system? – They do not. So that’s one of the downsides to community solar is that you don’t get to own it.

And along with that, you don’t get to take advantage of the incentives that come along with solar. Yeah so definitely one of the pros of ownership is getting the incentives. What is one of the pros of going with the community solar subscribership? – Yeah, one of the pros is that you don’t have that initial outlay or the expense of going solar.

You get to participate and use renewable energy without the initial expense. In addition, if you happen to be a renter, or if you don’t have roof space or a ground space for solar, you can still use renewable solar energy by exploring community solar.

One of the other reasons for community solar is the idea that as the project grows in size, it gets cheaper per panel. – Correct. – So therefore I can be buying power from renewable sources that may be a little bit cheaper per se, than if I went and bought it myself.

Correct, so if you’re buying your electricity from the utility company and you rent, or you don’t have space for solar, it might be less expensive for you to look into community solar if that’s an option where you live.

Yeah, it should be said that there’s quite a few states that do not have the opportunity for people to buy into this community solar idea. – Community solar is new, solar in itself is new, but community solar is just starting to take off in most of the states around the Mid-Atlantic region.

So you may or may not have it in your state just yet. – Thanks for watching. If you enjoyed this information, be sure to like this video and subscribe to our channel for future releases.

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Tesla Powerwall Review – Angela’s Story

A lot of people wonder whether buying a Tesla Powerwall, is a good investment. Well, we recently spoke to Angela, one of our recent customers about what she’s getting from her Tesla Powerwall. So when the installation happened and part of that sort of sign over process was like, Okay, now we’re gonna show you what it would be like, in a blackout and obviously, nothing happened for me.

It was an experience because my fridge kept being on, I think that was all that was running at the time. But you know, that’s probably the most important thing. For me, is probably only the kettle cause I love a cup of tea.

My computer – I could probably do without it because you know, as long as I can charge my phone, I can run my business. But my children would probably argue that they would need every powerpoint for their … To charge their devices. But for me the kettle is the most important thing we moved from a very small property, like 90 square meters to now sort of a two story house with a pool. So I thought oh my gosh, like, we’re gonna use power a lot more.

I could see it only being an advantage. And in the end, it has been. No one actually said to me, you’re going to get 99%, and I think on a yearly average I’m I think I’m at 96% self sufficient every day.

But that’s because there are some days in winter where you know, you might have rainy days, so that brings the average a little bit down, but really in the last two or three months, I’ve been 99% every day.

I was at $600 per quarter. And my last bill, which was the first bill with a fully installed Powerwall was minus, I think minus $45 But that was sort of running at the end of spring. So now summer I can see I have contributed a significant amount more of energy or kilowatts.

Back to the grid, so I’m expecting a little bit more. And, I actually put that towards my gas bill. This is no surprise to anyone we mean we’re putting a big pressure on Mother Earth. And I really feel you have to start with yourself.

So if I can do this in my own household, then other people could do it too. Yes, I’m also contributing back energy into the grid on a small scale, but still I’m doing something and I think if anyone, if anyone could do the same, then together we can really make a difference.

Source : Youtube

Basics & Benefits of Going Solar | SCE & Solar Power

Nowadays, more and more people are going solar and taking advantage of the benefits of a residential solar energy system. A solar energy system will produce much of the energy your home needs which can help to offset how much energy you need to buy from your utility company.

And you’ll reduce your carbon footprint as well which is something else to feel good about. If you manage and monitor your usage, your solar panel system may generate more energy than you need. So, you could earn credits for the surplus energy you export back to the grid.

This part gets a little science-y but all you really need to know is this. Solar panels or solar photovoltaic systems absorb direct sunlight and convert it into electricity. Every panel is made up of solar cells which produce direct current or DC electricity.

That means the electricity flows in a single direction. Your home and appliances run on alternating current or AC electricity, which means electricity currents can flow back and forth in two directions.

So, to put solar energy to work in your home, your system must include an inverter that converts DC electricity to AC electricity. When your solar energy system is not producing enough electricity for your home when it’s say, a really cloudy day or at night, your home grid-tie solar system is still connected to receive electricity from the grid so you’ll have uninterrupted power.

Before you install solar on your Maine home, there are a few things you’ll need to remember. Every solar installation needs to be permitted in advance by your city or county. This is primarily for safety reasons and your contractor can help you with this.

If you’re part of a homeowners’ association, you’ll need to first obtain approval from your HOA. Not all solar panels are alike. Your contractor can help you select a solar technology that’s best for your home.

For more information on solar technology, visit our solar knowledge base. Congrats on your first step to going solar.

Source : Youtube

The Truth About Solar Panels

Thanks to a 70% drop in price since  2010 and plenty of government subsidies,  solar panels have become an integral part of  the utility grid, as well as many home rooftops.

However, this renewable energy technology isn’t  all sunshine. There’s shadows looming over its bright future. There’s a potential tsunami of solar panels that will be nearing their end-of-life   in the coming years.

That fact has concerned many  people, as the vast majority of panels here in the   U.S. aren’t recycled. Why is that and what happens  to these panels at the end of their service life?   Is it even possible to recycle them? There’s  some interesting advances there that we have   to talk about.

Let’s see if we  can come to a decision on this. Solar panel recycling has been a topic I’ve wanted  to talk about for a while, but just haven’t gotten   around to it. Not too long ago, the LA Times  published an article that painted a pretty   grim picture and a bunch of you started asking  me about it.

So, can we recycle solar panels and is the problem really that bad? Yes, we can  recycle them … but it’s complicated. And as a big proponent of solar energy, I can’t  ignore that this is a big, looming issue.

Unlike solar energy, solar panels aren’t  a never ending resource and most panels   will hit their end-of-life in 30 to 40  years. Many people talk about 20-25 years,  but often they’re talking about the panel warranty  period.

They can last much longer than that, but   when they do hit end-of-life, what happens to them  at that point? The answer is kind of complicated, as photovoltaic (PV) panels are multi-layered  sandwiches made from different materials.

According to the Solar for Energy Industries Association (SEIA), easy-to-recycle materials   like the glass pane and aluminum frame make up 80%  of a typical PV module. How about the remaining   20%? This changes depending upon the type of  panel.

Let’s take silicon-based PV modules, which represent 90% of the global market. In this case,  you have a silicon cell with a silver grid on top. Also, there’s an ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA)  layer sandwiching the cell.

Finally, at the back of the panel, you have a plastic junction box  with copper wiring inside. While all of these materials are potentially recyclable, separating  them out is a labor-intensive and complex process.

In the best case scenario, solar panels end up in glass recycling facilities, where they mechanically pop off the  aluminum frame and the plastic junction box, and they strip off the copper wiring.

Then, recyclers shred the glass pane without isolating the sandwiched components  and sell a not-so-shiny glassy powder,   a.k.a. cullet, which can be used as building  material or for other industrial applications.

In the worst case scenario, solar panels are  shredded as received. However, this isn’t worth   the effort for recyclers. A paper estimated that  you can barely make $3 from the recovered glass, aluminum, and copper of a 60-cell silicon  module.

That amount is dwarfed by the expenses, as the cost of recycling a panel in the U.S. can  cost up to $25. In contrast, sending a module to a landfill costs just $2. So, you may see  why only about 10% of US panels get recycled.

Things could change if we could recover  silicon and silver, accounting for 60% of   the module’s value. To do this, you would need  high-temperature thermal and chemical treatments on top of the mechanical steps,  which translates into higher costs.

Recovering silicon may not even be  enough to offset the cost. That’s what researchers found out when assessing the  feasibility of a 2,000-ton recycling plant. According to scientists, the process wouldn’t  be profitable as, unlike thin-film modules, silicon-based panels lack valuable metals like  indium and gallium.

Besides their low intrinsic economic value, solar panels are fragile and could  be classified as hazardous waste when they fail a heavy metals leach test. This means you need  a specialized workforce, treatment, packaging, and transport to handle them safely.

Not to  mention the potential environmental impact of contaminating the soil and groundwater with nasty  chemicals like lead and cadmium when being chucked into a landfill. As reported by the LA Times,  panels go through a treatment, such as glass laminate encapsulation (GLE).

This process seals the panel and minimizes heavy metals leaching out. Researchers simulated and ran multiple tests on  the effect of GLE on lead leaching potential. How well does it work? In one case, GLE reduced  the lead mobility by up to 9 times, making it nearly harmless for the environment.

However, one  of the tests revealed that GLE was not enough to limit lead spreading. Factoring in solar panel  disposal and panels getting early retirement for newer more efficient panels, the Harvard Business Review predicted that the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of solar panels could quadruple  by 2035.

I think that’s a little aggressive, but we’re in uncharted territory here. The absence  of a nation-wide law mandating recycling doesn’t   help either. In fact, only 5 states have put in  place solar panels end-of-life policies so far.

With a solar trash wave looming, we’d better find a way to recycle more … and we need to be quick to   stay ahead of it. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IEA), by 2050 we could   have nearly 80 million metric tons worth of solar panel waste.

That sounds like a pile   of solar garbage that could eclipse the sun. That  sounds like something Mr. Burns could get behind. Clearly, the sun isn’t shining on solar panel  recycling…yet … but we shouldn’t get stuck in doom and gloom here.

We’ve already managed to  sort out similar problems in the past and we can learn from that. Let’s look at the lead acid batteries (LAB) success story, for instance. A study from the Battery Council International  (BCI) reported a LAB recycling rate of 99%   between 2014 and 2018 here in the US.

LABs  are the most recycled American product today,   but how long did it take us to get there?  According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we recycled around 70%  of LABs on average in 1985.

Back then, lead price was so low that recycling LABs wasn’t  economically attractive. It’s not that different from what we’re seeing today. Yet, pushed by  strategic legislation, it began to ramp up.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) was one of the most important   nation-wide regulatory drivers. Signed off by the  US government in 1976, this law identified some   “metals of concern”, including lead.

However,  it took us another 15 years or so to really   see the impact. In the early 1990s, several  states finally banned LABs from landfills.   On top of that, local authorities implemented some  policies to build their recycling supply chains.

First, they required retailers to accept used  LABs from consumers, who were charged a deposit for each new battery bought without returning  an old one. Also, a take back program forced manufacturers to purchase recycled LABs from  retailers.

The benefit of this was that recycling LABs remained profitable even when the lead  price plummeted. And these policies worked. One year after introducing them, Rhode Island  increased its LAB recycling rate by up to 40%, reaching a whopping 95% rate in 1990.

While  that was a localized exception at that time,   BCI estimated that we reached a 99%  recycling rate on a national scale in 2011. A relatively simple chemistry and a  well-established technology such as pyrometallurgical smelting supercharged  LABs recycling rate over the years.

On the other hand, LABs conventional recycling  process is neither eco-friendly or safe,   as it consumes a lot of energy and releases lead  and greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere,   which is why researchers have been focusing  on the development of a greener method over the last decade.

On that note, something  interesting has already come out of the lab.   Instead of relying on the traditional smelting at  over 1,000 °C, ACE Green Recycling has designed an electricity-powered LABs recycling process.

They’re going to start building their first plant in Texas very soon, which is scheduled to go  live by the end of 2023. It’s expected to recycle   over 5 million LABs and avoid 50,000 metric tons  of GHG emissions once they reach full capacity.

Funny enough, the startup is looking into using  solar panels to power their whole facility…I   wonder if they’ll recycle their expertise  to promote PV module recovery too. The LABs example highlights how far-sighted  policies can catalyze recycling efforts.

Clearly, from the technological point of view,  the solar panels case is a bit more complex.   However, researchers, companies, and regulators  are working to improve the cost-to-revenue ratio.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the main economic  challenges is to recover the higher-value   materials like silicon and silver. The current  method to etch pure silicon out of solar cells   means using hydrofluoric acid, which is  highly toxic and corrosive.

Last November,   Indian researchers came up with a  safer and more cost-effective recipe,   including sodium hydroxide, nitric acid  and phosphoric acid as ingredients.   Adopting a 3-step sequential procedure,  scientists not only extracted 99.998% pure silicon   but also recovered silver. As a result, they  estimated that integrating their technique into the recycling process of a 1-kg solar  cell would yield a profit of around $185.

Just a month later, a team including Arizona  State University (ASU) researchers, the TG   companies startup, and the energy firm First Solar  received a $485,000 grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) for developing a process that  recovers high-pure silicon and silver from PV cells.

So, what’s their silver lining? First, TG  companies claim to have designed a heat treatment   to boil off the EVA protective layer without  damaging or contaminating the solar cell.   Unlike conventional furnaces, their oven will  operate at a temperature lower than 500°C,   which prevents iron and copper from leaching  into the solar cell.

At that point it gets a little fuzzy because they use their patent-pending  secret sauce to isolate silicon and silver. Their CEO said they’ll rely on less harsh chemicals that  can be regenerated indefinitely.

Having said that, as flagged by an industry expert, the startup  may likely face material losses when separating silicon cells from their polymeric coating. It’s  just a matter of waiting at least a couple of years to fact check their progress.

That’s when  the startup is aiming to have their first pilot   plant up and running, with a recycling  target of 100,000 solar panels per year. Aside from research and private sector efforts,  legislators need to do their part to power solar recycling, just like they did with lead acid  batteries.

Europe has been a pioneer in this, labeling solar panels as e-waste since 2014.  The Waste of Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive … known as WEEE … first defined   the ‘extended producer responsibility’ concept.

In short, the regulation compels solar panel manufacturers to fund their own products recycling  at the end of life. It also requires recycling 80% of the materials used in PV panels. This policy  led to opportunities for the EU recycling market.

For instance, PV Cycle developed a recycling  program to help manufacturers fulfill WEEE obligations. In February 2020, the  EU-funded company recycled nearly 95% of solar module content in France, which  is well above what’s required by WEEE.

They achieved this exceptional  result by partnering with Veolia,   who launched Europe’s first solar panels recycling plant in 2018. Leveraging robots, Veolia   dismantles the solar sandwiches layer by layer and  recovers silicon, silver, and other components.

It’s a completely different story here in the  U.S. We’re light years behind. In America,   the only law holding producers accountable for solar panel recycling won’t go live until 2025,   which means consumers are still paying the price  for it.

Although they aren’t shifting recycling   costs and responsibilities from user to producer,  California has switched their solar panel waste label from hazardous to universal hazardous in  2021.

Falling in this new category, PV modules collection, transport, and storage are subject  to less stringent requirements. For instance, recyclers won’t have to perform any leaching  tests, which is costly and time-consuming.

According to the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), their regulation will trigger   the recycling of at least 15% of the PV modules  currently in use. However, some of the policy’s   critics highlighted a couple of drawbacks.

First, the requirements for recycling PV modules are essentially the same as those for their  disposal in a landfill. And that’s a big problem since the landfill is currently much cheaper.

In  addition, California’s regulation doesn’t allow recyclers to apply the thermal and chemical  methods commonly used today. While binding rules are lacking, in 2016 the SEIA introduced  a voluntary recycling program similar to that run by PC Cycle in Europe.

As of 2020, a few  manufacturers, including First Solar, had joined their initiative and helped them recycle over 4M  pounds worth of PV modules and related equipment. Although recycling solar panels is currently an  expensive process, it could pay off in the long run.

In a recent report, Rystad Energy estimated  that the value of recycling solar panels materials   could reach $2.7 billion in 2030. Multiply that  30x to get their 2050 overall market potential.   The main drivers of this crazy  growth would be rising energy costs,   technological advancements, and  regulatory push.

Speaking of rules,   researchers from the National Renewable Laboratory  (NREL) published a paper last year advising   policymakers on how to create a financially viable solar panel industry. Their main suggestion was to subsidize the cost of recycling.

To  be more specific, with a $18 incentive, we could profitably recycle 20% of our PV  modules by 2032. And this could get even better as recycling technology becomes more efficient.  In particular, recovering 94% of the silver and 97% of the silicon contained in the PV modules  would be a significant profitability booster.

Giving a second life to all solar panel components would not only reduce the amount of waste ending up in landfills but also shrink  the demand for new materials. Besides boosting   recycling profitability, regulations should  make landfilling less convenient.

While being   in its early days, new recycling technology  could improve the recovery of PV modules’ precious materials such as silicon and silver.  Although optimizing solar panels recycling may   take us longer compared to LABs, it’s just a  matter of time.

We’re actually seeing this type   of recycling improvement happen in the lithium ion  battery market right now … but that’s a different   video. What’s exciting is that, once the kinks  are worked out, this could lead to huge market   opportunities.

It could be a win for the economy  and the environment if we play our cards right. If you’d like to learn more about the  science behind solar panel recycling,   I’d strongly recommend checking out  either the “Scientific Thinking”   or “The Chemical Reaction” course at Brilliant.

They have fantastic interactive courses that can   help you wrap your head around some of  what we talked about with solar panels.   The chemical reaction course walks you through  how matter transforms from starting materials   into other substances.

You’ll work through puzzles  and patterns to determine the basic behavior of   molecules undergoing chemical reactions. All of  this plays a role in how we can install solar panels in Maine. I’ve been working my way through that one  and am really enjoying learning at my own pace.

If you get stuck, Brilliant will give you in-depth  explanations, which helps you understand the “why”   and “how” of something. And you’re learning the  concepts by doing it yourself and applying them   through fun and interactive problems.

Thanks to Brilliant and  to all of you for supporting the channel. So are you still undecided? Do you think  solar panel recycling will catch up to the   coming wave of solar panel waste? Jump into the  comments and let me know and be sure to check   out my follow up podcast Still TBD where  we’ll be discussing some of your feedback.

If you liked this video, be sure to check out  one of these videos over here. And thanks to   all of my patrons for your continued support and  welcome to new supporter + members Thomas Merritt and David R T Richardson, and producers  Sergio Martinez and Andrew Peabody.

And thanks to all of you for watching.  I’ll see you in the next one.

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