Solar@Work Newsletter January 2016

Issue       No.

Harnessing Solar Energy From Discarded Car Batteries

MIT researchers have developed a simple procedure for making a promising type of solar cell using lead recovered from discarded lead-acid car batteries – a practice that could benefit both environment and human health. As new lead-free car batteries come into use, old batteries would be sent to the solar industry rather than to landfills. And if production of this new, high-efficiency, low-cost solar cell takes off – as many experts think it will – manufacturers’ increased demand for lead could be met without additional lead mining and smelting. Laboratory experiments confirm that solar cells made with recycled lead work just as well as those made with high-purity, commercially available starting materials. Battery recycling could thus support production of these novel solar cells while researchers work to replace the lead with a more benign but equally effective material. Much attention in the solar community is now focused on an emerging class of crystalline photovoltaic materials called perovskites. The reasons are clear: The starting ingredients are abundant and easily processed at low temperatures, and the fabricated solar cells can be thin, lightweight, and flexible – ideal for applying to windows, building facades, and more. And they promise to be highly efficient. More

Solar Energy to Bring Jobs and Prosperity Back to Parched Villages
Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Bala who was born in a small village in Pavagada Taluk, Karnataka, where, agriculture was the main source of income-much like in many other villages in India. But as he grew up, he saw most of his friends choosing to move to cities, because scant rainfall had made it impossible to pursue agriculture and make enough money to make ends meet at home. Village elders turned to superstition to explain the phenomenon, while others blamed climate change for the drop in rainfall. Eventually, Bala also moved to the city of Bangalore, but always dreamed of bringing prosperity back to his village. Looks like Bala’s dream will come true in 2016. Early next year, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will break ground for one of the largest solar parks (2 GW) in the world-in Pavagada Taluk. That’s a true story. The little boy in it is GV Balram, Managing director of Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Limited (KREDL), the man behind the Pavagada solar park. Villagers in Pavagada Taluk are proud of him and share this story with everybody involved in the solar park project. More

Tax Credits For Low-Carbon Individuals & Businesses
Some of the questions posed for this year’s Masdar blogging contest are about a mutually beneficial relationship between government entities and citizens: How can they partner to electrify transport? How can they partner to switch to clean electricity sources? How can they partner to get more people in transit and on bikes? How can they partner to cut energy use? How can they partner to reduce emissions from livestock? There’s a simple answer to some of these questions: have governments create policies that reward individuals and businesses with tax credits when they consume and act in ways that produce less carbon. For example, you don’t have to reduce emissions from livestock only, because you can reduce meat and animal products consumption by giving tax credits to consumers who eat more plants and less meat. The consumers would need to document their food purchases, and that might be inconvenient and even annoying initially, but eventually some people would change their behavior because they would want to save money on their taxes. Imagine if you could save $150 a year by having a mostly vegetarian or vegan diet. (There could obviously be some health benefits at the individual and societal levels). More

Governor of New York: 50% Renewable Electricity By 2030
The governor of New York State, Andrew Cuomo, recently directed the state’s Public Service Commission to draft a new Clean Energy Standard, one that will see the state receive at least 50% of is electricity in 2030 from renewable energy sources. The Public Service Commission (PSC) was directed via letter by Cuomo to immediately begin drawing up the new standard – one which is expected to be cost effective and “efficient.” The decision should come as no real surprise to anyone, as a similar plan (in the State Energy Plan) was implied by the state’s “50 by 30 goal” – which also calls for a 40% reduction in emissions by 2030. That said, Governor Cuomo was pretty stark in his accompanying comments: “This plan is both rational and among the most aggressive in the nation.” The public presentation of the new standard is currently expected to take place sometime in June 2016, reportedly. Beyond the generalized comments made above, though, it’s not clear what exactly will be presented – no real specifics have been revealed. More

From Bacteria to Wind Power: NTU Leads Charge in Developing Renewable Energy Sources
Nanyang Technological University researchers use bacteria that causes food poisoning to generate electricity and have come up with different designs for wind and tidal turbines to suit Singapore’s climate. Wind farms seen in countries such as the United States are not feasible in Singapore due to space constraints and low wind speeds. That is why Nanyang Technological University (NTU) researchers have come up with designs for wind turbines specially adapted to Singapore’s climate. The blades of their turbines are made of a lighter material and are angled in such a way that they spin fast even at low wind speeds. The capacity of each turbine is 50 kilowatts of electricity – enough for the daily power consumption of 70 households. Researchers are also working to improve the designs of tidal turbines to address challenges in deployment. Waters around Singapore are warmer, which means more marine organisms will grow on the turbines and slow them down.


What Just Happened in Solar Is a Bigger Deal Than Oil Exports 

The clean-energy boom is about to be transformed. In a surprise move, U.S. lawmakers agreed to extend tax credits for solar and wind for another five years. This will give an unprecedented boost to the industry and change the course of deployment in the U.S. The extension will add an extra 20 gigawatts of solar power-more than every panel ever installed in the U.S. prior to 2015, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). The U.S. was already one of the world’s biggest clean-energy investors. This deal is like adding another America of solar power into the mix. The wind credit will contribute another 19 gigawatts over five years. More 

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