Solar Power Is Burning Bright

UNITED NATIONS — Solar panels are everywhere: perched on thatched roofs in rural Kenya, helping Indian farmers pump groundwater for their fields, and powering United States military bases.

Solar power accounted for more than a third of all electricity generated from energy sources that came online in 2017, a larger share than any other new source, the United Nations Environment Program said in a report issued Thursday.And solar power is becoming much more affordable. The cost of electricity from large-scale solar projects has dropped by 72 percent since 2009, according to the study.

But even as solar, along with its renewable energy cousins — like wind, biomass and geothermal power — expands, it still accounts for barely 12 percent of all the electricity that the world consumes. The greatest share still comes from fossil fuels like coal, and more coal-fired power plants continue to be built, contributing to the greenhouse gas emissions that have warmed the planet to dangerous levels.

“This shows where we are heading,” said Nils Stieglitz, a professor at the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, which produced the report along with Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“The fact that renewables altogether are still far from providing the majority of electricity means that we still have a long way to go.”

The world leader in investing in renewables, by far, is China. The country accounted for nearly half of all renewable energy investments worldwide, pumping $86.5 billion into solar energy alone in 2017 in what the report described as “an extraordinary solar boom.”

China has cut back significantly on coal at home, though it has continued to fund and build coal-fired power plants abroad. One of the most closely watched is a proposed plant on the coast of Kenya, near the ancient island town of Lamu, a Unesco world heritage site.

The United States also plays a leading role in developing solar power. It is historically the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, though, and its investments in renewables went down slightly in 2017, according to the report, to $40.5 billion.

That decline coincides with President Trump’s first year in office, a steady rollback in environmental protections and the announced pullout of the United States from the Paris climate agreement. Few countries are even close to meeting the targets they set under the Paris agreement, according to independent analyses.

European investment in renewables fell in 2017, according to the report, in large part, its authors said, because of Britain, which has moved to end subsidies for wind and solar projects. 

That pointed to a looming challenge for the renewables industry: whether it can grow without government subsidies.

“Many projects will have to sink or swim without any government-backed price support,” the report said.

Renewables grew most significantly in 2017 where the demand for electricity also grew. The report found that developing economies accounted for 63 percent of global investment in renewable energy in 2017, up from 54 percent the year before. All told, 157 gigawatts of renewable power came online in 2017, more than double the 70 gigawatts generated from new fossil fuel sources.

The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, has called climate change the biggest threat to humanity.

philippines top in asia solar power

The Philippines ranked No. 1 among developing countries in Asia in terms of the use of solar photovoltaic systems for electricity generation, according to a Dutch consultancy firm.

Rotterdam-based Solarplaza also ranked the Philippines fifth worldwide, following Chile, South Africa, Brazil and Thailand.

“The country (Philippines) is still relatively young when it comes to solar development, but was able to get seven active projects ranked in the top 50 list,” Solarplaza research analyst Marco Dorothal said in a report.

Dorothal was referring to Solarplaza’s top 50 solar PV projects in emerging markets.

He noted that the biggest operational project in the Philippines was currently the 132.5-megawatt Cadiz solar power plant developed by Helios Solar Energy Corp., a joint venture between Thailand-based Soleq Solar Co. and Gregorio Araneta Inc.

“The commissioning of this plant solidifies the solar market in the Philippines as being capable of handling such large-scale utility projects,” Dorothal said.

Solarplaza also noted that homegrown firm Solar Philippines last March started building a 150-MW solar plant in Tarlac, making it the largest solar power project so far for the country.

Solar Philippines has also opened the country’s first PV module factory in Batangas.

As of June 2017, Solarplaza pegs the Philippines’ solar power installed capacity at 900 MW.

“The developments in the market are promising, but it still needs to be seen how much this will benefit the country as Solar Philippines aims to produce PV modules for the US and European markets,” Dorothal said.

Further, Solarplaza said that while the Philippines was going through some policy changes, the solar market had been getting much support from the government.

“Two new operating projects [that made it to Solarplaza’s Top 50 list] have led the Philippines to increase its capacity with 110 MW compared to what was previously reported,” Dorothal said.

“The country also has a major project still in the pipeline that could once again increase the [installed] MW capacity of the Philippines in the Top 50 list,” he added.

According to the International Energy Agency, solar power is turning into the cheapest source of new electricity generation capacity in many countries, especially in Asia.

“Solar is forging ahead in global power markets as it becomes the cheapest source of electricity generation in many places, including China and India,” IEA executive director Fatih Birol said in a statement.

The IEA expects that, over the next 25 years, the world’s growing energy needs are met first by renewables and natural gas as fast-declining costs turn solar power into the cheapest source of new electricity generation.

Solar PV systems are set to lead new generating capacity, mainly driven by the technology’s adoption in China and India.

5 ways to engage employees in energy savings

Here’s a low-cost way businesses can lower their energy bills: Get employees to chip in.

Simple steps such as turning off lights when rooms are unoccupied, or turning off and unplugging office equipment such as computers, printers and copiers at night can help a business save hundreds of dollars annually on their energy bills. Yet, many employees don’t do it.

The reasons vary. Some people simply aren’t programmed to think about energy conservation and thus forget to, say, turn off lights when they leave rooms. Others don’t see personal value in taking time to unplug equipment. It only takes a couple minutes to turn off and unplug a computer, yet that’s a minute or two they figure can be better spent doing something else (and besides, they’re not paying the energy bills). Some might even believe their employer wants them to leave the lights and equipment on.

So, then, how do you motivate them to make energy conservation part of their workday? Here are five strategies for getting employees engaged in energy savings:

1. Educate employees.

A big reason many people don’t take conscious effort to save energy is they don’t realize the full financial and environmental benefits. Employers can change this by providing employees with information. Managers might send emails with factoids on energy savings (such as, turning off a printer at night saves the equivalent of 1,500 photocopies.) Some businesses even host lunch seminars to help employees. (You can find some information on the cost of running office equipment here.)

2. Form a team.

Some of the most effective workplace campaigns come not from managers, but other employees. Some companies start “green teams” made up of employees who encourage their colleagues to be more environmentally conscious. Such team could also tackle energy conservation and find ways to educate and motivate their colleagues to save energy.

3. Constant reminders.

For many people, not turning things off is habit, and habits are hard to change. Putting signs in key places around the office, such as by the printer or by the doors, reminding people to turn off lights or turn off their computers can make a big difference. And of course, managers should be energy-saving role models: employees will only pitch in if the boss walks the walk.

4. Rewards.

Businesses have shown that offering employees some financial incentive for eco-conscious moves, such as buying a hybrid vehicle or taking public transportation to work, can pay off. Companies could motivate employees to save energy by, say, giving gift cards to employees who do the most to save energy or come up with a workplace strategy for doing so.

5. Make it fun.

There’s growing recognition that the most successful approaches to make people voluntarily participate in environmentally conscious activities is to make them fun, positive and interesting. At a workplace, this might mean hosting an employee competition or producing a funny video about ways employees can save energy.

A short movie about the installation of Victron Energy equipment in a Tiny House.

Dutch company Victron’s world-class Solar Energy products include sinewave inverters, sinewave inverters/chargers, battery chargers, DC/DC converters, transfer switches, battery monitors and more. Victron Energy has a strong, unrivalled reputation for technical innovation, reliability, and build quality. Victron Energy products are widely considered to be the professional choice for independent electric power.

See our Victron Energy Off-Grid Solar Products

Solar Power for Disaster Response and Recovery

Two seemingly separate trends are currently colliding. One is the more severe and widespread damage being inflicted on electric grids during natural disasters, especially from the increasingly stronger storms like hurricane Maria that devastated Puerto Rico. The second is the many technological advances in solar power generation and energy storage, which also lead to ongoing cost reductions across the solar value chain.

The prospect of using solar power on a temporary basis, including for disaster response and recovery, is not new, of course. Indeed, Hurricane Hugo in 1988 is believed to be the first time that solar power was used for relief in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Despite the fact that solar PV and related technologies have advanced considerably during the nearly three decades since then, diesel gensets continue to dominate disaster relief efforts. So is it finally time for the solar energy industry to get serious about this growing need?

The Case for Solar

Time, and not cost or capacity, is now the most critical factor for why solar power affords a viable, and often superior, alternative to gensets for disaster relief. When immediate failover from the electric grid is critical, as it is for hospitals, it is difficult to compete with standby generators powered by diesel fuel, liquid natural gas or propane. Even a hospital on a solar-powered microgrid would likely have a backup generator.

When response can occur on the order of hours or days, however, with systems being hauled or flown in, the playing field is now fairly level. For systems with a comparable size and weight (including battery storage for the solar system), the generator will likely have an advantage in terms of kilowatts produced. But generators need fuel, which must also be hauled or flown in, and not just once, but for as long as power is needed.

This need to continuously refuel generators is what gives solar its major advantage: The longer it might take to fully restore the electric grid, the better the case for solar. This is especially true for modular ground mount solar arrays, which scale more easily and cost-effectively than other configurations (covered next). And the longer the recovery period, the greater the advantage solar+storage solutions enjoy.

Scaling Solar Power

During periods of disaster response, localized needs for temporary power can range from 100 watts to 100 kW, and this can also be an advantage for solar. At the risk of over-simplification, portable solar systems are available in four configurations: suitcase, trailer, container and full array. Each has a role to play in different use cases in virtually every disaster response and recovery scenario.

The suitcase is ideal for restoring communications by providing power for both portable 3G/4G cells and user device charging stations. These systems, which can also be used to power some medical equipment, range in size from around 50 to 200 watts with between 10 and 100 amp-hours of battery storage.

The typical trailer might have a 5-kW solar array and 100-200 kWh of storage, and can be fully operational in less than 30 minutes. The higher capacities make these suitable for powering small medical clinics and shelters.

Shipping containers are commonly used to transport equipment and supplies during disaster relief efforts, and they are also ideal for packaging a complete solar+storage power station. A 20-foot container, for example, could support up to 50 kW of power and 500 KWh of storage to accommodate larger clinics, shelters and businesses, as well as small hotels, apartments, and water pumps or wells.

Those three systems are commercially available in different sizes to meet different needs, not only for disaster relief, but also for temporary/tactical deployments, such as those needed by the military. What has been lacking for solar power is a configuration that scales more cost-effectively, and the portable and modular ground mount solar array is now filling this need.

Making modular ground mount solar arrays portable and suitable for disaster response and recovery requires that the entire system—including its foundation—be installable quickly by small crews using only handheld tools. The earth anchor, which has long been used by electric utilities for guy-wiring powerline poles, provides the basic technology needed to make such simple installation possible.

For example, a complete, pre-assembled 5-kW system, which can be delivered folded on a trailer or truck, or in a shipping container, can be installed by a three-person crew in about an hour. The entire system is just as quickly and easily uninstalled (to be “lifted and shifted” to another site or stored in preparation for the next disaster), leaving behind only the relatively inexpensive earth anchors, and those can even be removed if required.

In addition to their virtually unlimited scalability, these “temporary” modular ground mount solar systems have one other advantage that also involves time: They can become permanent in distributed microgrids, even in hurricane-prone places like Puerto Rico. Rigorous testing in wind tunnels has certified a standard earth anchor as being able to secure uplift forces caused by 150 miles-per-hour winds—a category 4 hurricane. For greater protection, stronger and/or additional earth anchors can be used.

Puerto Rico Hospital With Solar Power Installation

After Tesla CEO Elon Musk promised earlier this month to help restore power in Puerto Rico, the company has brought electricity back to a hospital on the island, which was recently battered by Hurricane Maria. In a tweet Tuesday, Tesla posted photos of Hospital del Niño, where it just completed installation of solar panels and large battery packs to provide power even with the grid down. The batteries can store excess energy harvested by the solar panels, ensuring a steady flow of power even when sunlight isn’t available.

Tesla first discussed sending energy-storage battery packs to Puerto Rico as a source of emergency power in late September, and Musk pledged to go all-in October 5. Not surprisingly for the Twitter-loving CEO, the relief effort was shaped by a series of tweets.

When asked whether Tesla could help restore power to Puerto Rico, Musk replied in the affirmative, saying the company had already undertaken electricity projects on smaller islands and that the technology could be scaled up. The final decision would be up to the Puerto Rico government, Musk noted. Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló subsequently replied “Let’s talk.”

Even without the added impetus of compensating for hurricane damage, islands are particularly well-suited to renewable energy and electrical storage. They’re not connected to the mainland grid, after all, and generating power locally can be difficult, as fuel must be shipped in. Prior to Hurricane Maria, most of Puerto Rico’s power was generated by burning oil, which had to be imported.

Tesla has said it will delay the unveiling of its much-discussed electric semi-truck in order to focus on the Puerto Rico effort. Musk previously said the truck would be unveiled in September, but that was pushed back one month before being delayed again due to the hurricane-relief effort. Tesla now says the semi truck will debut November 6.

Shell Foundation-Victron Energy Microgrid Philippines

In December last year we reported on the first ‘Access to Energy’  Shell Foundation – Victron Energy microgrid in Ligad, North of Palawan island in the Philippines. Thousands of people still live in such areas where there is no access to electricity and the likelihood of any utility grid connection is aeons away. The Shell Foundation however set about changing that with the advent of that initial Ligad microgrid using Victron components. Now there is a second – and as I write this blog a third is also on its way. Power for the powerless is certainly becoming a reality.

Palawan island

Let’s just remind ourselves of the area for these projects. Palwawan island has been chosen several times as the most beautiful island in the world. Not surprising really as the Province of Palawan is an archipelago in the Philippines which includes two UNESCO World Heritage Sites plus breathtaking endless white beaches, wild forests and rugged mountains – all of a pure and untouched nature. The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park for instance is classed as one of the New7Wonders of Nature.

Microgrid No 2

Like the first microgrid this second one is situated in the North of Palawan island, but this time it is the village of Sitio Binaluan, Barangay (meaning rural district) Liminangcong, in the municipality of Taytay. Victron Energy equipped once again, this microgrid is for 95 houses and has been up and running since February this year.

microgrid Up and running.

Up and running.

Challenging logistics

Once again it was Koos and Josie Mulder of JK Solar Power House and their team who did the impossible.

It might not be the correct photo size ‘exactly’ for this blog of the team – but as you’ll see there were far greater challenges than pressing a camera button and sending me large format photos – so it would be remiss of me not to include the photo of these stalwarts!

JK Solar Power House team pose with the Victron Energy system components.

JK Solar Power House team pose with the Victron Energy system components.

So, back to challenging logistics?

Besides the Victron kit above – how about a 1,200 kg generator, 3,750 kg of batteries, 1,200 kg of solar panels, a 200 kg wind turbine, plus all the electricity posts, wires and ancillaries to transport and install. I’ll let the photos explain…

A short boat hop

A short boat hop

The sea journey almost over

The sea journey almost over

The land journey begins – replete with Victron Energised hats!

The land journey begins – replete with Victron Energised hats!

In the absence of horsepower, cow power rules.

In the absence of horsepower, cow power rules.

A long way up

A long way up

Solar array coming together

Solar array coming together

Generator in place – not the easiest of items to get up the hill!

Generator in place – not the easiest of items to get up the hill!

System stats

The solar system can supply an average of 60kWh/day, in summertime even a little bit
more. In the rainy season or during a typhoon there is the genset as a backup, in case solar and
wind production should not be enough.

System Components:

  • 2 x Quattro 10kVa units in parallel
  • 4 x BlueSolar 150V/85A MPPTs in parallel
  • 1 x BMV-700 Series battery monitor
  • 1 x Color Control GX
  • 60 x 260W solar panels giving 15.6kWp
  • 1 x 5kW Wind Turbine
    OPZV 48V/2,000Ah battery bank
  • 33 kVa Diesel genset with automatic start/stop
  • The microgrid can be monitored via the Victron VRM website, but is unfortunately not always online. Whilst a good electricity supply has been achieved – it seems a solid internet connection is still on the wish list!

Check to see if online here:

Victron Remote Management (VRM): Binaluan Micro Grid (95 houses)

Conclusion

What a delight to see power being brought to yet another community and who better to sum up than Danny Maesen of PhilSolar, who said:

“Again, a whole community has access to basic electricity and they can only benefit from it, for education, computers or laptops, for comfort such as some fans or a few freezers for ice making, streetlights, TV – the simple things which will change their lives forever.

Many thanks to the Shell Foundation for choosing Victron Energy equipment supply and my personal thanks to Koos, Josie and the team, for their efforts, commitment and enthusiasm for Victron Energy products.”

My own thanks to all the parties mentioned above for the information and images used in this blog.

John Rushworth

For further information see:

Shell Foundation
http://www.shellfoundation.org/Our-Focus/Access-To-Energy

JK Solar Power House – System design and installation.

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/JKSolarPowerHouse

Contact Koos and Josie Mulder: koossolarpowerhouse@gmail.com or jksolarkoos@gmail.com

PhilSolar Equipment and Trading Corporation – Supply, import, logistics and Victron support.

 

Southern Negros geothermal plant, Negros Oriental, Philippines

The Philippines are working on Renewable Portfolio Standards that would require distribution utilities to source a portion of their power supply from eligible renewable-energy (RE) sources, such as geothermal.

As reported from Manila, the National Renewable Energy Board (NREB) of the Philippines has endorsed proposed rules on renewable portfolio standards (RPS) to the Department of Energy (DOE) of the country. The Portfolio Standards would require distribution utilities (DUs) to source a portion of their power supply from eligible renewable-energy (RE) sources, as reported by the Business Mirror.

“This week I will endorse it already to the secretary. Hopefully, it will be then be signed the following week to start the ball rolling,” NREB Chairman Jose M. Layug Jr. said in an interview during an RE forum organized by the Dutch Embassy last week.

RPS is intended to contribute to the growth of the RE industry. If implemented, this will help the agency attain its goal of maintaining the RE share in the national energy mix to at least 35 percent by 2030.

Barring unforeseen events, Layug expects the implementation of the RPS policy starting next year. “Hopefully, it will start to take effect by January 2018. RPS will definitely address issues on cost”.

The scope of proposed RPS rules include the following: types of RE sources; yearly minimum RPS requirement; annual minimum incremental percentage of electricity sold by each mandated participant, which is required to be sourced from eligible RE resources and which shall, in no case, be less than 1 percent of its annual energy demand over the next 10 years; and means of compliance by the mandated participant set by the government to meet the RPS requirements.

The following entities would be mandated to participate in the program:

DUs, licensed retail electricity supplier, directly connected customers (DCCs), supplier of last resort, entities authorized as distributors within the economic zones, and generating companies only to the extent of their actual supply to their DCCs.

The minimum annual RPS requirements will now be determined per mandated participants. A group with representatives from the NREB, Electric Power Industry Management Bureau, Renewable Energy Management Bureau, Legal Services and Energy Policy and Planning Bureau will determine details of the RPS requirements.

The minimum annual increment in the RPS level shall be initially set at 2.15 percent to be applied to the actual total supply portfolio of the mandated participant in each grid for the previous year, the draft circular stated.

RE sources include biomass, waste to energy technology, wind, solar, run-of-river, impounding hydropower sources that meet internationally accepted standards, ocean, hybrid systems, geothermal and other RE technologies that may be later identified by the DOE.

The NREB is the advisory body tasked with the effective implementation of RE projects in the Philippines.

Source: Business Mirror

renewable energy gaining momentum in thailand asia

DESPITE INVESTMENT IN COAL, CLEAN ENERGY IS GAINING MOMENTUM

Renewable energy is gradually growing in prominence and will be the main source of power in the future for Thailand and internationally, according to industry experts.

This is despite US President Donald Trump’s U-turn against the global trend towards clean renewable energy by supporting coal and other fossil fuels, and the Thai government’s plans to build more coal-fired power plants.

The leaders of renewable energy businesses in Thailand said renewable energy had a bright future in the country, as the costs were decreasing and availability was expanding.

BCPG Public Company Limited president Bundit Sapianchai said the cost of renewable energy was getting lower, and it was becoming more reliable and accessible. He said he was confident that “clean” energy would be the main source of power in the future.

“In the past few years, we have observed the rapid growth of renewable energy everywhere, including in Thailand, as investments in renewable power are two to three times higher than the new investment in fossil fuels and nuclear energy,” Bundit said.

“There is still plenty of room for renewable energy to grow, as the technology is progressing, making electricity generation from wind, solar and geothermal sources cheaper and more reliable.”

He added that this meant a bright future for his company, adding that BCPG would continue to invest more in renewable energy in Thailand and beyond. Currently, BCPG has invested in 11 solar power projects in Thailand, which have an overall capacity of 191 megawatts.

The company also operates renewable energy power plants in Japan and Indonesia, and has opened a wind farm in the Philippines this year. Bundit said recent governments had shown a supportive stance towards renewable energy in Thailand.

But he suggested that there should be improvements to regulations to enhance investment in the clean-energy sector and eliminate legal obstructions.

He praised recent changes had made it easier to install solar panels on roofs.

“The solar rooftop liberalisation policy is a very good start,” he said. “But there should be more supportive policies, such as power line privatisation, so we can push forward the new power generation trend – and we will have no need to build large, controversial fossil-fuel power plants.”

SPCG Public Company Limited chief executive Wandee Khunchornyakong Juljarern said that the market for small-scale solar power generation was very active, as many business operators had purchased solar rooftop systems from her company to reduce both their carbon footprint and their power bills.

“Many business operators are very keen to invest in small-scale renewable power generation to reduce their business costs and show the public that they are concerned about the environment,” Wandee said.

Her customers had reported that the use of solar rooftop panels had reduced their power bills by half, she said. Wandee added that the Thailand Greenhouse Gas Management Organisation supported the installation of solar rooftop panels to lower carbon emissions.

“The future of power generation is small-scale renewable energy like this, and I can confirm that the era of fossil fuel is ending,” she added.

Meanwhile, the head of the Climate Investment Fund Mafalda Duarte, who has observed the situation in Thailand since 2000, said the country had progressed very well in the development of renewable energy.

“We have found that at first the banks in Thailand were sceptical about this kind of investment, so we had to come in and give financial support to investors. However, we have seen that the banks have more confidence in renewable energy and everything is going well in Thailand,” Duarte said.

“Not only do I find that renewable energy is getting more popular in Thailand, but also that local people gain many benefits from renewable energy development, as their quality of life is improved and the clean environment is preserved.”

However, she suggested that the government should have a more firm policy towards renewable energy, noting that it still supported fossil fuels and was not very keen to push forward the transition to renewable clean energy.

According to Power Development Plan 2015, Thailand has pledged to increase the portion of renewable energy to 20 per cent in 2036 from the current 8 per cent. Nevertheless, the portion of energy generation from coal will still be 25 per cent in 2036.

solar power trees florida

Florida Power & Light is planting large devices across Florida that look like trees and harness the power of the sun to create electricity.

The utility has begun installing these 24-foot-tall, solar-powered “trees” to bring attention to the use of solar energy.

Boynton Beach in recent weeks installed two of them at Oceanfront Park, 6415 N. Ocean Blvd., becoming the first city in Palm Beach County to offer the solar installation as a public amenity.

In Davie, West Palm Beach and Miami, FPL also has installed solar “canopies,” larger devices that provide shade over cars in parking lots, in addition to generating electricity.

FPL’s pilot program, called SolarNow, kicked off two years ago, allowing customers across the state to opt into a $9 extra charge on their monthly bill to fund public solar-power generation.

More than 450 Boynton customers opted into the program.

Tall, bright blue and Y-shaped, Boynton’s solar trees have USB ports and outlets where parkgoers may plug in to charge their cellphones.

The presence of the solar trees gives the public a chance to learn more about the technology, said FPL spokeswoman Alys Daly. “The great thing about these solar trees is that we’re locating them in communities where people have an opportunity to see and learn about solar,” Daly said. “Many people haven’t experienced solar because it’s out of sight on a rooftop somewhere, but you can’t miss [the trees].”

In Boynton, FPL soon will put the finishing touch on the new trees in the park: educational boards that explain how light goes into the panel and is converted into energy, she said.

“They are a tremendous educational tool for folks to see what solar energy looks like and interact with in a way that they haven’t been able to before,” she said.

Boynton residents soon will start seeing more solar energy structures around the city.

Officials recently approved plans for solar canopies at Oceanfront Park, and Barrier Free Park, 3111 S. Congress Ave, Daly said. They’ll be added within the next four months.

FPL also will pay the city about $4,000 per year to lease the land used for the solar structures.