Archives for the month of: June, 2012

It is bizarre. Germany has an enormous capacity of 27 GW photovoltaic power installed right now. On May 25th, a record of 22 GW peak output was achieved which equals the production of about 20 nuclear power plants around noon time. 189.24 GWh were produced by PV during the day (which would correspond to the energy produced by seven nuclear power plants (each 1.1 GW) in 24 hours). This is the amount of electrical energy generated from more than a million PV solar systems spread all over the country on that record day. That was almost 14% of Friday’s total electricity consumption in Germany1.

Fig.1 Solar energy production during the “record day” (Source: Green Technica)

Good news, it seems. High PV production at peak times (noon) leads to a drop of electricity prices at the stock exchange (European Energy Exchange EEX) for traders. However, a lot of fed-in solar energy results in an electricity price increase due to the high Feed-in Tariff (FIT). The difference between the FIT and the low electricity prices (as shown in Fig. 2 for that very day) will be allocated mainly among the private consumers.

Fig. 2 Price development for electricity in relation to the solar production during the “record day” (Source: EPEXSPOT, 25th May, 2012)


With a drastic decrease in FIT the German government wants to regulate the development of renewable energy on an economically and ecologically balanced basis. That includes, e.g., a decrease of FIT from 24.43 to 19.50 ct/kWh for PV-plants producing up to 10 kW. Also, only 80% of the produced energy can be sold for this price to enforce self-comsumption2. Since the FIT will be decreased even more, or might be abolished altogether, self-consumption becomes more and more cost-efficient. Therefore, photovoltaics need adequate electricity storage solutions and intelligent energy management to be an attractive investment option for house owners. Among the 1909 exhibitors at the Intersolar Munich (www.intersolar.de), held from 11-15th June 2012, more than 140 international exhibitors presented the latest products and solutions for energy management and storage3. E.g., Solarwatt presented a system where the production of the solar module and the household consumption is recorded by a monitoring device. The system then activates and deactivates household appliances via a wireless interface according to the production of the power plant4. But smart energy managers require also smart batteries. Saft and Schüco presented a combined system: The Schüco Energy Manager determines if energy should be stored, used or sold back to the grid. The newly developed, extremely efficient Li-ion batteries from Saft support the highly dynamic charging and discharging characteristic for PV applications5.

Hopefully, we will see more development in this field to achieve a convenient, flexible and affordable supply by renewable energy.

Dr. Sandra Schicho, Post-Doc, 2nd year at Université de Sherbrooke

1Source: Clean Technica

2Bundesamt fuer Umwelt, Naturschutz und Reaktorsicherheit www.bmu.de

3http://www.intersolar.de

4http://www.solarwatt.de

5press release Saft

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Recently, Solar World and several U.S. companies filed a trade complaint against the Chinese solar cell manufacturers. They felt that the Chinese companies benefited from unfair subsidies and that they were ”dumping” their products on the U.S. market at an artificially low cost. This resulted in job loss and even bankruptcy for many U.S. manufacturers.

In response to these complaints, the U.S. department of commerce issued anti-dumping duties of 31 % to a specific group of Chinese companies (such as Suntech and Trina Solar) and a tariff as high as 250 % to all others, including some controlled by the Chinese government. Because of the surge of solar cell imports triggered by anticipation of the new tariffs, the department of commerce also announced that the duties would apply retroactively 90 days.

The Chinese are contesting the punitive tariffs and say that the competition was never unfair. Four major Chinese solar companies have recently formed the SEPA (Solar Energy Promotion Alliance) to combat the U.S. ruling. These measures are also meeting with opposition elsewhere. Some U.S. companies which depended on Chinese solar cell imports will be harmed by the ruling, and are claiming that the anti-dumping tariffs may actually harm the U.S. solar industry in the long run.

Some companies in the European Union, such as Wacker Chemie in Germany, are also firmly opposed to taking similar initiatives in the European Union. They say that historically, punitive tariffs only serve to strangle the industry as a whole and to encourage trade wars. According to them, a balanced competitive market can only be achieved through political negotiations. The EU has not yet taken steps to impose punitive tariffs on Chinese solar cells, however there is talk that several countries in the European Union, such as Germany, may do so soon.

-Hélène Antaya

(Chemistry, PhD, Year 2 at The University of Montreal)

References

1- http://www.pv-tech.org/news/anti_dumping_case_heading_to_the_eu

2- http://www.pv-tech.org/guest_blog/usa_anti_dumping_tariffs_what_will_change


Many PV researchers are attempting to fabricate optimal structures for light capture. Researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) are using a structure that has been in development for hundreds of millions of years, diatoms.

Diatoms are a class of phytoplankton that have a unique cell wall made of silica. The distinctive idea that researchers at OSU had was to incorporate TiO2 (titanium dioxide) into the intricate cell walls of these organisms and utilize the structures in dye sensitized solar cells for enhanced light capture. It is claimed that there are some promising results.

I found this idea interesting because it incorporates an existing, complex structure that nature has already created. It may be worth looking at what is already “out there” instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.

Pinnularia, a species of diatom

All the best,

Yousef Alattar

(Electrical Engineering, MASc, Year 2 at Dalhousie University)

References

1) Jeffryes, Clayton, Timothy Gutu, Jun Jiao, and Gregory L. Rorrer. “Metabolic Insertion of Nanostructured TiOinto the Patterned Biosilica of the Diatom Pinnularia Sp. by a Two-Stage Bioreactor Cultivation Process.” ACS Nano 2.10 (2008): 2103-112. Print.

2) http://www.eetimes.com/electronics-news/4082686/Diatoms-could-triple-solar-cell-efficiency

3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pinnularia_Teilung.jpg