Category Archives: Renewable Energy

Will list various renewable energy news and technology.

Where is Energy Going?

Lately I have been quite interested in the energy issue that the world is facing at the moment. From recent International-level response toward the nuclear disaster that hit Japan, to the excessive burning of fossil fuels, I am completely dumbfounded at the immensity of this topic. Policy makers and energy consumers alike are debating over what forms of energy are more efficient and reliable. Movements toward renewable energy has increased as we are seeing implementations of wind and solar farms, solar arrays on rooftops, and solar water heaters. Both old and new buildings have been gearing up for energy efficiency as sustainablility becomes more frequent in many organization’s vocabulary when dealing with business. It seems that the issue of energy, and where it comes from, is becoming a more popular topic in the public discourse as population increases, limited natural resources diminish, and as technology becomes cheaper and more accessible. Let us start by aggregating the important bits and pieces that I have collected in the past couple weeks in regards to the energy issue.

Countries around the world are halting plans for nuclear energy generation. Italy had announced that they will be stopping their nuclear program for one year, China also made a similar move, and Germany, with a large population against atomic energy, has prompted the European Union to conduct a comprehensive examination on all nuclear sites for inconsistencies and potential hazards. Recently, some 200,000 protestors emerged in Berlin rallying against the production of atomic energy in their country. Some weeks ago, another protest rallied by train tracks leading toward the final resting place in Northern Germany of nuclear waste coming from France. Europeans cannot seem to forget the disaster that occurred in Chernobyl and the environmental health effects that are still noticable today such as, high cancer rate, birth defects, and the high level of physical abnormalities among those who have had prolonged exposure to nuclear radiation after the accident. Political tensions run high as governments are scurridly working toward appeasing the masses and determining a solution that results in reasonable energy generation and acknowledging the climate change issue.

Weeks ago I attended a rally in Annapolis supporting the creation of “Green Collar” jobs, offshore windfarms in the Mid-Atlantic, and Union Labor Rights. Environmentalists, union laborers, and concerned citizens gathered to express their concern, anger, and even at times, tears, in hopes to communicate to our representatives what we wish to see changed. Personally, I have never rallied for a cause, but being there allowed me to see reform as it happened—a humbling expereince. In a way, these three categories of people are looking to achieve the same goal—sustainability. Environmentalists wish to reduce the amount of carbon emissions and invest in new technologies that are clean and kind to our atmosphere. Union laborers want to keep their jobs and continue to have opportunities to contribute their skills, while maintaining the mission of goods to be manufactured in America. And citizens, households, and professionals wish to see our state, our country, to be a leader in innovation and standards of living. All of these goals intersect, but there needs to be a driving force that unites in order to fulfill our desires of a better working society.

Another aspect of sustainability I have discovered is in building design and construction. According to an article found in GOOD Magazine, some percentage of energy is generated and used in buildings and some lower percentage is wasted. The interesting part is that there is an organization that is determined to increase the level of sustainability in new buildings, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). They offer an accredited certification program enabling individuals to choose a focus on a number of building and construction fields of study. It is called a Leadership in Energy Efficiency and Design Certification (LEED). When becoming LEED Certified, you come to understand the current building standards of USGBC, as well as the credit score a building can achieve after inspecting EMEWS. In addition to the actual sustainability of a building, there is also the inspection of a homes’ ability to retain energy done by a Building Analyst. I am on the track of becoming BPI Certified, which certifies me to conduct Blower Door tests, evaluate an existing structure’s efficiency to retain energy from the inside out, and perform energy audits. I like this type of work because it’s hands on, mentally stimulating, and it benefits the whole by focusing and remediating individual problem areas. There are other certifications and rating systems that are accepted like the HERS Rating System, but that will be for another time.

In a world of professionalism, I would say that there is a lot on people’s plates when it comes to getting things done—the right way. Which is way is that? How do we solve the world’s energy problems for generations to come? What are steps that we should take in order for us to secure a reliable source of energy for a population? Who should be at the forefront of making these changes happen and who is going to pay them? These are questions that run in my mind when I think of the future of energy and where it comes from. I’d like to keep this dialogue open to you, the reader, in hopes to spread and inspire conversation and to find a common ground.  What do you think?

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How I Got BPI Building Analyst Training and Testing for Free

BPI, Building Performance Institute, is an professional credentialing organization that set standards for residential building energy efficiency and retrofit work.  Learn more about BPI here.  I don’t want to get into what BPI is and explain all that they do, but I do want to let you know how I was able to receive free training and possibly guide you to do the same.

I’m not sure about what similar programs are offered in your state, but in the state of Maryland there is the Maryland Energy Sector Partnership (MESP) which is led by the Governor’s Workforce Investment Board.  The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) received a $5.8 million Green Job Training grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to train workers in the skills required in emerging industries including energy efficiency and renewable energy.

I was unaware of this program until I was handed a brochure that read “Green Job Training at NO COST.”  So I went to the website on the pamphlet, found the closest OneStop Career Center, researched Maryland’s Workforce Exchange web site, sent email’s to the appropriate contact, and submitted the necessary paperwork.  The requirements were that I had to be unemployed, have received at least a high school diploma or an equivalent, and live in the state of Maryland to be eligible.  Within 10 days of submitting all necessary forms, I landed a Career Counselor, and she worked with me to acquire a voucher for training courses with EverBlue Training Institute.  Before I was assigned a counselor, though, I was required to attend seminars about developing, recognizing, and implementing transferrable skills and about resume building and writing.  It was a relatively quick and painless process and I hardly had to do a thing.

It’s amazing what your government can do for you, if you just take a look.

US-European vs. Chinese PV Module Manufacturing Market

Low manufacturing costs of PV components and modules in China leads to a higher competition for the European and American solar panel markets.  We’re looking at these three regions in particular because they currently rank highest in production and consumption of PV modules and the electricity they produce.  Germany ranks highest in their use of solar power due to high quality panels and good governmental policies such as Feed-in tariffs (FiT).  Modules using silicon crystalline cells, which are the most efficient, above thin film and wafers, are typically the most costly.  However, Chinese-based companies are now producing the high efficiency crystalline solar panels creating market influence and competition for more expensive European manufacturers.

Who are the leading American Manufacturers?

SunPower (http://us.sunpowercorp.com/), a California based company, produces the highest efficiency crystalline solar panels in the world.   They also provide intermediary services that acquire modules from manufactures to installation on the ground, or roofs.  GreenBrilliance (http://www.greenbrilliance.com/) is another one of these companies that is based in Herndon, VA and operates its manufacturing subsidiary in India and provides long-term service and maintenance to the installed modules. These companies are just two of the several end-to-end alternative energy service providers in the US. A company without downstream services and mainly solar cell and module production includes Suniva (http://www.suniva.com/).  Based in Atlanta, GA, they manufacture high-efficiency monocrystalline silicon solar cells (the ARTisun® series) and high powered solar modules, which consist of Suniva’s core cell technology.  Suniva is producing the world’s lowest cost, highest cell conversion efficiency commercially available. Suniva is the only high-efficiency, low-cost silicon cell manufacturer in America, with exports of more than 80% of its production to Europe and Asia.

Who are the leading European Manufacturers?

Solarworld (http://www.solarworld.de/) is the Biggest German producer of solar panels, the company is one of the few to still have operations in Europe and USA. The company has been battered by low cost competition.  However, Solarworld is strongly expanding in USA as growth slows down in Germany.  They are also the only Western company not to have a major factory in Asia.

German company Schott Solar (http://www.schottsolar.com/) develops, manufactures, and markets highly efficient receivers, a key component for Concentrated Solar Power plants with parabolic trough technology, as well as innovative, high-quality photovoltaic products. With crystalline solar wafers, solar cells, solar power modules, and a-Si thin film modules, SCHOTT Solar provides core components in every step of the value chain for the photovoltaic generation of energy.

Who are the leading Chinese Manufacturers?

China has become a global manufacturing hub for PV components. The country is the largest silicon producer and accounted for around 31% of the global production capacity of silicon in 2009 and 2010. LDK Solar and GCL Poly are the major polysilicon producers in China with a production capacity of 11,000 MT and 21,000 MT respectively. (RenewableEnergy:http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/print/article/2011/02/solar-photovoltaic-pv-supply-chain-global-market-size-and-company-analysis-of-polysilicon-wafers-pv-cells-and-solar-pv-modules-to-20151).

Abhishek Shah from GreenWorldInvestor.com gives a good idea of how solar companies are competing against one another in the market.  Here are a few of his suggestions of the biggest and the best Chines-based companies:

Suntech – Suntech (http://www.suntech-power.com/) was the world’s biggest producer of solar panels in 2010 and was one the first companies to set up operations in China. Its example was followed by a host of other Chinese companies.  Suntech has been slow to expand compared to the fast growing small companies in China and has lost market share to them. It has started to vertically integrate in order to meet the low cost challenge from Trina and Yingli. Suntech makes one of the best quality Solar Panels in China.

Yingli Green Energy – Yingli Green Energy (www.yinglisolar.com/) is one of the oldest Chinese companies and is completely integrated from polysilicon.  The company has been expanding rapidly and has one of the lowest cost structures in the industry.  Yingli Green Energy has been sponsoring Football in Europe and has started a new line of high efficiency “Panda” Solar Panels.  Yingli is the second biggest producer of Solar Panels in China.

Jinko Solar – Jinko Solar (http://www.jinkosolar.com/) has shown the fastest growth rates in the Chinese Solar Panel Industry. The company is expanding again to become one of the Top 5 Solar Panel Producers in China.  Jinko Solar like Trina and Yingli is vertically integrated and has one of the lowest cost solar panel production process.

Trina Solar – Trina Solar (http://www.trinasolar.com/)is one of the lowest cost manufacturers of Solar Panels in the World right now and also sells it at a very low price. This is the reason that the company in a span of few short years has managed to acquire a substantial global market share.  The prices the solar panels being sold are around $340 per 200 watt module.  Like Yingli and Suntech, Trina Solar Panels are one the best quality in China (GreenWorldInvestor: http://greenworldinvestor.com/2011/03/29/solar-panel-manufacturers-guide-to-the-biggest-and-best/)

These are a few of the key players in the PV Module production and manufacturing market.  Read here about how lower-cost solar panels from China are affecting European PV markets (http://www.solarindustrymag.com/e107_plugins/content/content.php?content.5632).

What’s New in Renewable Energy in the Mid-Atlantic Region

Last Wednesday, President Obama spoke about America’s Energy Security at Georgetown University.  He states that our nation must discover ways to increase energy efficiency by using less oil and by integrating “cleaner, renewable sources of energy that also produce less carbon pollution.”  (Source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/03/30/remarks-president-americas-energy-security)  The more our President uses vocabulary that includes words like: sustainable, renewable, clean, green, etc., the more we become aware of how people and jobs impact the environment and how we utilize our resources.

An example of the steps being taken toward renewable energy can be found at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. From April 3 – April 5, Solar Energy Industries Association and Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) presents PV (Photovoltaic) America 2011.  This event showcases the latest developments and emerging technologies in the photovoltaic industry.  Conference sessions are open to registrants who can learn more about State, Local, and Federal Policy; Social Compliance and Certification; Project, Marketing and Development, and Training; and Financing.  To learn more about PV America 2011, visit their website for a listing of companies from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions that are participating.

On another note, moves are being made by a Google-backed company, Atlantic Wind Connection, to build their energy transmission backbone along the east coast which would bring a capacity of up to 7,000 MW of wind generated electricity to shore.  The 300-mile, $5 billion underwater transmission line is proposed to connect offshore wind farms to coastal states’ electricity grids in densely populated cities from New York to Virginia.  However, in the first of five phases, applications must be reviewed by the US Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement.  This proposal is already raising the attention of utilities companies to negotiate incentives and programs with the federal government.

Visit these sites to learn more:

In response to AWC’s project, Delaware is determining the possibilities in integrating the proposed connection to its electricity grid.  Read more: (Source:http://www.delawareonline.com/article/20110331/NEWS02/103310360/Offshore-wind-line-link-Delaware-grid

In local news, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley released a statement March 31st, 2011 outlining his Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act, which is to “advance a safe, reliable, clean energy source that will help secure our energy future, create thousands of jobs and protect Maryland ratepayers over the long-term.” (Source: http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-03-31/news/bs-ed-omalley-hancock-letter-20110331_1_offshore-wind-wind-project-clean-energy.  Unfortunately, O’Malley fails to get vote on offshore wind proposal from both Democrats and Republicans largely due to the fact this initiative will “increase consumer energy costs.”

In addition, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell voices support of offshore wind in order to boost the economy and produce renewable energy. Therefore, the state approved wind turbine testing in the Chesapeake Bay. As of now, only one of the two turbines will be installed, each “will be capable of producing five megawatts of power — enough to power 1,250 households.” (Source:http://www.dailypress.com/news/newport-news/dp-nws-offshore-wind-20110331,0,19648.story

Suffice it to say, there is a lot happening now in terms of changes in the ways we harness and utilize energy resources.  The Mid-Atlantic region is steadily growing its number of clean and renewable energy initiatives and is on its way to becoming a leader in providing alternative energy resources.