Solar to Eclipse the Renewable Energy Market?
The high costs of solar energy have for years made it an impractical source of energy, but that's starting to change as the price of solar cells plummet. Major utilities, real estate companies and homeowners are racing to install solar panels as costs allow solar to finally go mainstream. It's a turning point in the renewable energy market with more projects planned for solar than any other source of power.
In the last year alone, solar power installations doubled in the US and are expected to double again. In September, Exelon and NextEra Energy, two of the US's biggest utility companies, acquired a solar power farm in California. NRG Energy has also confirmed it will spend $1.4 billion to install solar panels on 750 commercial rooftops. Across the country, solar installations have grown by 102 percent from 2009 to 2010.
Due to the lower costs of polycrystaline silicone, the main material that makes up most solar panels, and large scale manufacturing, there has been a surplus of solar panels on the market. These trends have made it difficult on the companies that make the panels, including Solyndra, a solar panel maker that received a controversial half million dollar loan only to go bankrupt. The bigger companies getting involved make it even more difficult for smaller companies to compete. General Electric, for one, just announced it would build the largest panel factory in the U.S. The good news is, an increase in supply will bring costs down even further. The bad news is that could mean more Solyndras to come.
SEE OTHER TOP STORIES IN THE ENERGY DIGITAL CONTENT NETWORK
“Solar is still a very young industry, it’s in enormous turmoil,” said Frank van Mierlo to Bloomberg, chief executive officer of 1366 Technologies, a manufacturer of silicon photovoltaics. “The largest solar company has been different every year for the last six years. This is a young market where things are getting flushed out. Fundamentally—for us as a country—this is really good news. You want solar to be cheap.”
Solar's share of the energy market, though small now, holds greater potential than any other form of energy. The power of the sun is about ten thousand times the average power consumption of all of mankind, beaming more energy onto the planet in one hour than the amount used in a year. With built-in smart grid capability, solar panels can be installed where they're used, reducing the costs of moving the power through a grid whereas wind turbines, for instance, require expensive power line infrastructure.
Subsidies and tax breaks are still an important component of keeping solar power competitive until it's cheap enough to compete with fossil fuels. Luckily the prices of solar panels are falling so quickly that many believe solar will become compatible by the time the federal subsidy shrinks by two thirds in 2016. As of now, the government covers 30 percent of the cost of a residential system, but with state and other subsidies, up to as much as 75 percent can be covered. The falling prices make solar systems appealing to homeowners for economic benefits rather than just their environmental impact.
Although many solar start ups are expected to get left behind, the industry is moving in the right direction for consumers. There are 30,000 megawatts worth of projects waiting approval in the US (ten times what is already installed), according to the American Public Power Association. If just a fraction are approved, the country will start to see solar dominate in renewable energy. For society, the falling price of solar is a good thing. It means the industry is consolidating, demand is growing, technology is rapidly improving and solar power is only a few years away from being truly competitive with coal or gas.
Awesense launches digital clean energy marketplace
Awesense has launched what it claims is the only energy-focused repository of solutions built to drive the industry's decarbonization agenda.
The Awesense Marketplace aims to provide a common framework for companies to collaborate towards the future of clean energy and digital transformation, uniting applications, solutions and algorithms to solve energy and grid challenges.
Solutions listed on the marketplace cover a range of cases, and launch companies include Doosan GridTech, Kitu Systems, vadiMAP, LO3 Energy, ENGIN, Utilidata, Clir Renewables, ChargeLab, SensorLink, Exeri, Easy SmartGrid, and Athena Power.
“We are welcoming a new era in the decarbonization of energy systems,” said Mischa Steiner, CEO of Awesense. “The goal of achieving a clean energy future requires collaboration amongst key industry players in the utilities and energy sectors. Sharing resources through the Marketplace means that our customers and partners have a truly seamless approach as we work towards our common goal - ultimately, decarbonizing the world’s energy system.”
Utilities, consulting companies, and other organizations struggle to develop solutions that can be scaled across many jurisdictions due to complex data integration and the lack of a standard, open data model. Using the solutions offered throughout the Marketplace, organizations can rapidly accelerate their transition to a decentralized, decarbonized future and develop solutions that are scalable across industry. The platform will open up new revenue streams in areas such as:
Distributed energy resource integration and control
Electric vehicle charging
Demand response and smart-home management
Intelligent asset management
Advanced distribution system management
The new marketplace builds on Awesense's Digital Energy Platform, a digital twin based energy analytics platform that allows utilities to scale at the same pace as the rapidly changing technology landscape of the energy grid.
Together, the Open Energy Data Model and the Awesense Marketplace removes hurdles around data mapping and transformation, expedites data preparation and refining, and provides a common framework for companies to collaborate.
“The energy-specific data model allows utilities, technology companies, consulting firms, and other vendors to build solutions that can be easily integrated by other energy companies, to make a real impact on the industry as a whole, and develop new revenue streams for their organizations” said Steiner. “We’re looking forward to seeing the Awesense Marketplace grow as more partners committed to energy decarbonization join us.”
There are no simple solutions to putting the world on a sustainable path to net-zero emissions, according to the IEA. Reducing global CO2 emissions will require "a broad range of different technologies working across all sectors of the economy in various combinations and applications." it notes.
Renewable Energy Hub of South Australia formed
Amp Power Australia has established the Renewable Energy Hub of South Australia, a strategic portfolio of large scale integrated Solar PV, Wind and Battery Energy Storage assets located in South Australia. The hub also includes the siting of the Spencer Gulf Hydrogen Energy Ecoplex, forming part of the South Australian Government's Hydrogen Action Plan.
The portfolio, acquired from EPS, includes three large Solar PV projects totalling over 1.3 GW of generation, located at Robertstown (636 MW), Bungama (336MW) and Yoorndoo Ilga (388MW) with a total BESS capacity of up to 540MW across the portfolio.
Amp's expansion in Australia will include the implementation of Amp X, a proprietary digital energy platform 100% owned by Amp, which provides a diverse portfolio of disruptive and interoperable grid edge solutions, and includes a smart transformer, which enables real-time autonomous management and optimised dispatch of all forms of distributed generation and loads across the grid.
Palmetto recently opened its marketplace in Arizona, and is now serving 20 states across the country, claiming its proprietary technology, marketplace business model, and consumer mobile application "are all designed to democratize access to clean energy".