Monday, December 12, 2011

SCE Pioneering Rooftop Photovoltaic Power in Game-Changing Solar Energy Effort

The next time you feel the strong ray from the sun know that across the San Bernardino County solar panels on large industrial warehouses are delivering electricity - possibly to your home. Recently, some 26,880 solar panels have been installed at a 1.2 million square foot warehouse structure here owned by Prologis Inc. Southern California Edison officials say this is likely the largest roof-top installation of solar panels in the country. This power plant generates 6 megawatts of electricity, enough to provide the electrical needs of 3,900 homes. Currently SCE has a network of 18 neighborhood solar stations which generate 42.25 megawatts, enough to serve 27,500 homes. Other rooftop powerplants are in Fontana, Chino, Ontario and Redlands. There is one ground solar panel site in the San Joaquin Valley town of Porterville. By the end of 2016, SCE plans to create a network of neighborhood solar power plants like the one in Rialto capable of generating 500 MW of electricity, enough to power 325,000 average homes, said Gil Alexander, a company spokesman. Half of that capacity will come from firms which have developed their own rooftop solar plants, half from SCE-owned plants like those in operation.

"The sun is the ultimate source of energy," said Alfredo Martinez-Morales, managing director of the Southern California Research Initiative for Solar Energy at the University of California, Riverside. "Most of the energy we know as humans came from the sun. As far as we are concerned, the sun will always be there. It is not the perfect solution, but it makes sense for solar to be one of the future ways to power society," he said. SCE has favored San Bernardino County for its company owned installations because of its strong, generally fog-free sunlight and the availability of large warehouses, said Rudy Perez, manager of SCE's solar photovoltaic program. For its rooftop sites, SCE wants buildings 200,000 square feet and up that are less than five years old, so that structurally they can hold the weight of the solar panels, Perez said. The company pays building owners what averages to be $30,000 per megawatt per year, he said.

Major program goals are to drive down the cost of solar panels and engineer new technology so that electrical substations at the neighborhood level can accept power as well as deliver it. After SCE announced it's plan to generate 500 Megawatts with predominately rooftop solar projects, other large investor-owned utilities in the state followed up with similar endeavors. All were motivated by a mandate from the state of California requiring investor-owned utilities to develop one-third of their electrical output from renewable sources by 2020. Currently SCE gets about 19 percent of its electricity from renewable sources - the highest in the nation, Alexander said. Wind power and solar power share both have intermittent production characteristics which can potentially create havoc in the power grid, said Mike Montoya, director of grid advancements for SCE. Natural gas and nuclear powered plants generate steady streams of electricity. Solar and wind plants can rapidly reach strong production levels and just as rapidly drop to almost nothing. New equipment needs to be developed to manage those spikes, Montoya said. Power at the level of the Rialto Prologis rooftop plant are not a threat to the grid. But when SCE starts delivering one-third of its electricity from renewables, the electrical transmission system needs to be a lot different than it is now, Montoya said. At the power grid level that connects individual customers to substations, SCE is looking at three key research and development areas, Montoya said. Creating tools to analyze the impact of adding power to one section of the neighborhood grid. Developing advanced sensors that instantly detect voltage fluctuations and trigger corrective measures. Developing power inverters which won't magnify grid problems.

Solar panels generated direct current, which must be converted into alternating current so it can move in the power grid. The inverters now sold increase voltage when current flow from solar panels decrease, when, for example, a cloud passes overhead. Voltage spikes can damage customers' equipment. SCE is working with manufacturers to create inverters which won't boost voltage levels, Montoya said. SCE plans to open a demonstration center in Irvine in 2014 to showcase technological advancements leading to the two-way grid which can accept large loads of electricity as well as deliver them. Martinez-Morales said that for solar power to become a major power source, better energy storage systems, such as batteries, must be developed. Alexander said that its price also must decrease significantly. While the quest for more solar power and cheaper solar power is noble, not all think it's leading to a solution for the nation's energy challenges. "This is a nice step and it is good that they (SCE) are doing it," said Richard G. Little, director of the Keston Institute for Public Finance and Infrastructure Policy at the University of Southern California. "Is it an answer to our energy demand? Not really. The growth of the world's population will outstrip anything we can reasonably produce. At the end of the day, we have not hit on the real solution, if there is one," Little said.

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Joe Joson

Friday, December 2, 2011

Powering The Globe: How Solar Power Fits Future Energy Needs

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Despite the solar sector's current worries - such as module oversupply, lack of long-term policy certainty and the ongoing trade conflict with China - the big picture is positive.

More and more nations around the world are jumping into project development, and many global trends over the next several years are expected to work in favor of solar energy. As a result, PV and concentrating solar power (CSP) may fulfill as much as 25% of the world's electricity needs by 2050, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The report explains that under energy-projection scenarios that would reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by half from 2005 levels, renewables - especially solar - would enjoy high levels of penetration. Under these conditions, economies of scale would also lead to the type of cost reduction that the solar sector has long sought.

"In such carbon-constrained scenarios, the levelized cost of solar electricity comes close to those of competitors, including fossil fuels, at about $100/MWh by 2030," the IEA writes in the executive summary of the publication, titled "Solar Energy Perspectives."

After this turning point in 2030, PV and CSP would no longer be significantly constrained by their direct generation costs. Instead, production variability, projects' footprints, and solar power's overall lower density and transportability (compared to that of fossil fuels) would be the main limiting factors for deployment, according to the IEA.

"Under all these strong assumptions, a long-term energy mix dominated by solar energy in various forms may or may not be the cheapest low-carbon energy mix, but it would be affordable," the agency says, adding that ultimately, solar energy could even provide a full third of the world's electricity needs after 2060.

How is this possible? In its report, the IEA points to several global energy-needs predictions that are well matched to the capabilities of solar.

Population growth over the next few decades is forecast to be concentrated in areas with high solar irradiance levels. Hot, sunny nations are expected to be home to approximately 7 billion people by 2050, in comparison to just 2 billion people in cold and temperate countries, the IEA says.

In developing nations, where 1.4 billion people currently do not have access to electricity, both PV and solar thermal electricity (which the IEA says are well suited to small-scale projects) can play a major role, without requiring expensive energy storage in many cases. "PV is extremely modular, easy and fast to install, and accessible to the general public," the report notes.

Moreover, installation cost reductions that the industry has already seen over the past several years are expected to continue. For PV in particular, recent market maturation thanks to feed-in-tariff policies has led to increased confidence in solar as an energy source. This trend can continue, provided that supportive policy remains in place.

The report outlines a number of specific policy mechanisms required for the promising deployment projections to transition from merely hypothetical to realistic.

Priorities include "establishing incentives for early deployment, removing non-economic barriers, developing public-private partnerships, subsidizing research and development, and developing effective encouragement and support for innovation," the IEA says. In addition, off-grid solar electricity and process heat applications will require new business models that allow for up-front financing.

Another key to fully utilizing solar energy's potential may be increased global participation. "Up to now, only a limited number of countries have been supporting most of the effort to drive solar energy technologies to competitiveness," the IEA notes.

As to which countries have been most heavily involved in the world's solar deployment activity so far, a separate report from Ernst & Young - also recently released - reveals some familiar names atop the list.

The company's Country Attractiveness Indices (CAI) place the U.S. in the No. 1 position, with a "solar index" of 72. Its score, however, dropped three points from last year due to three solar manufacturers' bankruptcies, Ernst & Young explains.

Germany, which remains the leader in solar installations, ranked No. 7 due to its climatalogical inability to host CSP. Spain, home to the second-highest total of installed solar capacity, ranked fourth on the CAI - behind the U.S., India and China. India's jump in the rankings was owed to its revisions to its solar auction rules, which are expected to boost solar project sizes and numbers.

Italy, Australia, Japan, Germany, Morocco and France round out the top 10, with Morocco jumping two places from its position last quarter.

Five new countries joined the CAI this quarter, Ernst & Young notes. One notable entrant - Tunisia - placed 12th, tying with Portugal and Israel.

"Tunisia boasts excellent resources for both solar PV and CSP, as well as good grant and soft loan availability (over $2 billion has been made available) and a favorable tax climate," the report explains. "That said, the solar industry in Tunisia has yet to capitalize on these conditions, and there is only 0.6 MW of installed capacity."

Thank you,

Winston L. Mendoza - CEO

Mendoza Solar LLC
Cell Phone 714.299.7204
714.741.3977 Toll Free: 888.821.5469
FAX 714.784.7617
License# 183326
Corporate address: 10956 Sidney Pl. Garden Grove, CA. 92840


Joe Joson
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