Posts tagged with "Solar Energy":

Mexico is building Latin America’s largest solar installation

While the current American government squanders time and opportunity in the pursuit of short-term profit by imposing disruptive tariffs and curtailing sustainability-focused goals, Mexico is powering ahead with a broad effort to generate up to 35 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2024.

As a part of that transformative effort—until recent years, Mexico’s energy industry operated as an oil-forward, state-run monopoly that was one of the world’s largest crude oil producers—Italian energy giant Enel is working on a 2,900-acre solar panel installation in the state of Coahuila that will generate enough electricity to power 1.3 million homes by year’s end.

The gigantic installation covers more area than 2,200 football fields and will yield the largest solar installation within Latin America and the largest outside of China and India, QCR reports. The installation will be made up of 2.3 million solar panels that are designed to move with the sun in order to generate the largest possible amount of renewable energy and will be joined in coming years by a slew of new solar installations. And while the American solar business has been booming in recent years, efforts by the Trump administration to knee-cap the country’s sustainable energy revolution with new tariffs have helped to ensure that the positive economic benefits of this energy transformation will be enjoyed by foreign firms. In Mexico’s case, it is European companies that will see the greatest reward: According to QCR, Spanish energy firm Iberdrola is building two solar parks in Mexico, with Holland’s Alten, Britain’s Atlas Renewable Energy, and Enel each working on additional installations of their own. Enel is working on a pair of wind farms in Mexico, as well. Despite Trump’s fossil fuel–oriented approach to energy policy, the American green energy movement continues to grow at a healthy clip. A recent report indicates that roughly 18% of America’s energy comes from renewable sources, a figure that is greatly surpassed in states like California, where officials recently moved to require solar panels on all new homes starting in 2020. The state recently hit its 2020 30 percent renewable energy goal two years early, and last year, the state’s California Independent System Operator, an outfit that tracks energy production, briefly reported that a whopping 67 percent of California’s energy came from renewable sources. To boot, a 2017 report from the United States Department of Energy found that the solar industry alone employed more American workers than all of the fossil fuel industries combined. For now, government-led energy reforms in Mexico are due to move ahead amid their own presidential transition while America continues to rely on the private sector for its energy transformation.

The future of smart power could lie in a single solar, storage and communications platform

In a 2016 broadcast of NPR’s Fresh Air, author and cultural anthropologist Gretchen Bakke characterized America’s energy grid as “increasingly unstable, underfunded, and incapable of taking us to a new energy future.” Nevertheless, the steady march toward progress continues, and the threat of obsolescence is driving many cities, urban planners, developers, and businesses to invest in the future. “We happen to be at a moment in time where people are starting to fear that technological obsolescence in the workplace and in cities is a pretty tough place to be and has some real consequences economically for the buildings and the cities that don’t have high-speed networking or don’t have modern energy,” observed Brian Lakamp, founder and CEO of Totem Power. “That’s why you’re seeing city planners, mayors, and businesses get more aggressive about deploying built environment technology than they ever have been, as far as I can tell.” (Note: Some states, such as California, have already passed legislation requiring new buildings to be outfitted with electric vehicle charging ports.) Identifying significant shifts in transportation, communication, and energy, Lakamp saw an opportunity to solve a problem that innovation imposes on our aging buildings. For example, as millions of electric vehicles begin to flood the market in the years ahead, a major investment in infrastructure will be required to support them. Similarly, as buildings are rewired with higher-gauge electrical cabling to accommodate new energy and communications networks, it’s clear that smarter, more flexible solutions are required to meet these ever-increasing demands. “With the coming of 5G and some of the IoT technologies, electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles, there’s a lot that is emerging that needs to change in terms of the way communications networks work and new technology is presented that gets really exciting,” Lakamp said. “We’re here as a way to deploy that infrastructure in the built environment in a way that can be made beautiful and impactful.” To that end, Lakamp launched Totem, a groundbreaking energy solution that reimagines and redesigns smart utility. The Totem platform combines solar energy and energy storage, WiFi and 4G communications, electric vehicle charging, and smart lighting into a single, powerful product that weaves these capabilities directly into the built environment.

How It Works

Totem is, at its core, a vertical server rack that’s designed to support evolution in technology over time. Its base product deploys over 40 kWh of energy storage that serves as a grid asset and dynamic energy foundation that ensures energy quality and provides critical resilience in the event of broader grid issues. Integrated solar generation, electric vehicle charging, and LED lighting add further capability to each Totem and sophistication to each property’s energy assets. Totem also provides a reliable hub for Wi-Fi, 4G, and 5G cellular services to bring high-speed connectivity to properties and communities. Through its modern connectivity platform, it also presents a key communications gateway for IoT devices on and around properties. According to a statement from Jeffrey Kenoff, director at architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox, “Totem is one of the first to unite design, infrastructure, and community in a single as well as exquisite platform. It’s hard to imagine a major project or public space that it would not transform.”

Archtober Building of the Day #21: Bronx River House

This story is part of a monthlong series of guests posts by AIA New York that feature Archtober Building of the Day tours. See the full 2017 schedule here. Today, Archtober went on a hard hat tour of Bronx River House designed by Kiss + Cathcart with landscape design by Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners. Situated on the Bronx River, access to the site is currently from a service road; when the project is completed, it will open into Starlight Park on the Bronx River Greenway. Though the project has been in the works for over ten years, it is expected to officially open in January 2018, with a full program activating the site sometime after that. The Bronx River House is the result of a public-private partnership between the Bronx River Alliance and numerous government agencies, primarily the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation. Since 2001, the Bronx River Alliance has been bringing attention to the recreational possibilities of the Bronx River and working to make the Bronx River Greenway a reality through educational and recreational programs. When Bronx River House opens, it will serve as the headquarters for the offices of the Bronx River Alliance, as well as a community space for locals and park visitors. The Bronx River House is a single-story structure, approximately 7,000 square feet in area, that will contain multiple programs. Surrounding the main structure, a metal mesh screen wall will serve as a security measure and support greenery. Within the building, the Alliance will have space for around 25 desks in addition to a boathouse, which has room for 20 or more canoes. These are used for river restoration, clean-up, and recreational tours. Public spaces will include a multipurpose room and a classroom that will face onto a public plaza that directly connects to Starlight Park. Our tour was led by Gregory Kiss of Kiss + Cathcart, who highlighted the design decisions they made to integrate the building into its setting. Less visible decisions include rainwater collection through the structure’s roof and plazas, geothermal heating and cooling systems, and solar energy panels that will allow the building to run on nearly 100% solar energy on a net basis. Perhaps most exciting are the plans to integrate plants and other greenery into the design of the building. The metal screen surrounding the building will be planted with an array of vines that will provide shade in the summer and allow light through in the winter. Kiss explained that the hope is that the main building will eventually be covered in moss. Because the cultivation of moss on vertical surfaces is still experimental, they will start with a 300-square-foot area. A drip irrigation system using collected rainwater will be added to the shingles on the façade to support the moss. Kiss stated that his intention with the vines and moss is to create a forest-like micro-climate that further integrates the building into the surrounding park. We definitely look forward to visiting again when the building opens to the public. Claudia Ibaven of the Bronx River Alliance, who joined us on our tour, reminded us to keep an eye on the Alliance’s website for announcements on when that will be. Join us tomorrow at ISSUE Project Room. By Berit Hoff

Can Elon Musk’s solar roof tiles replace fossil fuels in housing?

At the National Governors Association Summer Meeting in July, Elon Musk claimed that the U.S. can run solely on solar energy. “If you wanted to power the entire U.S. with solar panels,” he said, “it would take a fairly small corner of Nevada or Texas or Utah; you only need about 100 miles by 100 miles of solar panels to power the entire United States.” In October 2016, Musk unveiled Tesla’s latest products: a solar roof and an updated Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2. Tesla, Musk’s electric car company, acquired photovoltaics company SolarCity in 2016 for $2.6 billion. The deal merged the two companies, allowing the tech millionaire to sell and advertise Tesla products and solar roofs for a fully integrated solar home. Energy gathered from the solar roof will be stored into a Tesla Powerwall, a 14 kWh battery for residential homes (it is scalable up to nine Powerwalls in one unit). During the day, the solar shingles will generate electricity and recharge the batteries, which will then provide power at night in place of a traditional utility grid. Each unit has enough capacity for a day’s worth of power. The Powerpack 2 is meant for commercial use and is limitlessly scalable. The solar roof system integrates the photovoltaic (PV) cells, which are covered with color louver film and glass tiles, inside the structure of the roof. There are four tile options hydrographically printed to resemble classic roofing materials. Tesla also offers a solar panel designed to be aesthetically innocuous to attract those who would otherwise be put off by typical solar shingles. In July, Tesla began accepting orders and released price points for a roof with a mix of active solar tiles and inactive glass tiles. As the ratio of active to inactive tiles varies, so does the cost. A 34 percent mix is only $21.85 per square foot, well under the $24.50 threshold that Consumer Reports sets in order for the roof to be price competitive with standard residential roofs. Tesla’s Solar Roofs were rolled out this August and the company claims that each roof will pay for itself in electricity savings over the course of the 30-year warranty. If the solar roof is truly this affordable, then it could become very attractive to the mass consumer. The acquisition of SolarCity is Musk’s answer to the fossil fuel industry, which he has said needs to be replaced by solar energy. In 15 years, Musk proclaimed at a TED 2017 conference in April, it will be unusual for a house to not have solar roofs. His visionary zeal—he also claims that it’s possible to colonize Mars in the next decade—is spreading. YarraBend, an upcoming mini-suburb in Australia, will have Tesla Powerwalls and solar panels in all of its houses. Nicknamed “Tesla Town,” it could be a model for planning around the combination of solar energy, home battery packs, and electric vehicles.

Here’s how architects are supplying Puerto Rico with solar energy

In the wake of the profound damage wrought by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, New York-based architects Jonathan Marvel and Walter Meyer are coordinating relief efforts through a Brooklyn nonprofit, the Coastal Marine Resource Center (CMRC), which has initiated a project called Resilient Puerto Rico to supply solar microgrids to municipalities across the island. Walter Meyer, principal at Brooklyn-based Local Office Landscape Architecture, is organizing a large shipment of solar panels, generators, and power inverters to the storm-ravaged island. Meyer himself has family in Puerto Rico, and is looking for longer-term solutions to replace the island's historically faulty energy grid. Immediate recovery efforts, however, are focused on those in particularly dire straits, like seniors and those in need of medical attention, many of whom lack the proper care or medication due to the near-total outage. Supplies are being held at informal community centers in public spaces all over the island. Some of these improvised centers will receive funding from Jonathan Marvel, founding principal of New York firm Marvel Architects. Marvel, who is in San Juan to coordinate recovery efforts, donated $50,000 towards relief centers that provide cell phone chargers, food, and water. When The Architect's Newspaper (AN) spoke with Marvel over the phone, he was in middle of wiring these funds to a Florida-based supplier of solar panels and generators called Sun Electronics. These solar supplies will be sent to 16 community centers across Puerto Rico with existing leadership structures, each serving tens of thousands of nearby residents. Marvel got information about these centers from his mother, Lucilla Fuller Marvel, a career AICP urban planner in San Juan who has worked on resilience planning her entire life. The panels and generators supplied by Sun Electronics will be then shipped down to San Juan, where Marvel and a team of architects from the firms's Puerto Rico office will put together assembly kits before sending them out to the 16 community centers. The island has 78 municipalities in total, and CMRC's eventual goal is to provide every one of them with a solar microgrid. "We're in many ways a perfect candidate for having a grassroots-based, municipality-scale, solar-powered energy grid," Marvel said. His team's longer term goal is to focus on scaling these renewable energy sources to provide more permanent sources of electricity to communities that aren't generated by petroleum plants hundreds of miles away. Marvel and Meyer are also working with Cristina Roig Morris, assistant vice president and senior legal council at AT&T, to fundraise for the project's larger mission, which may receive help from the Rockefeller Foundation. While the coordinated relief effort is ambitious, Marvel has another idea for architecture students currently on the island. Modeled after post-Katrina efforts to relocate students from the Tulane School of Architecture to other design schools where they could continue studies while their school was closed, Marvel would like to create opportunities for architecture students in Puerto Rico to do the same. The idea is in an early stage, and he is brainstorming ways for the three architecture schools in San Juan (serving about 75 to 125 students total) to partner with host schools in the mainland United States to continue their education. Never one to be excluded, Elon Musk has also extended an offer to aid in the propagation of solar energy solutions to the island, tweeting his interest at Puerto Rico's governor Ricardo Rossello this week.

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For those who'd like to pitch in for Puerto Rico's recovery, below are some recommendations of groups, both in Puerto Rico and on the mainland, to check out. This list is based on recommendations from Ruth Santiago and Luis G. Martinez in our original article on the post-Maria energy crisis. On the island, there are a number of groups doing on-the-ground recovery work, including: Unidos por Puerto Rico (United for Puerto Rico), led by the First Lady of Puerto Rico, one of the largest initiatives garnering funds for recovery. ConPRmetidos (Committed), a nonprofit completing impact and needs assessments and seeking to provide power and structural repairs to the communities most in need. Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico (Community Foundation of Puerto Rico), based in San Juan, a philanthropic foundation awarding grants for, among other things, housing and economic development in local communities. Comité Diálogo Ambiental (Environmental Dialogue Committee), the Salinas-based group that Santiago works for, housed under an umbrella organization bringing together community groups, fishers associations, and others, called IDEBAJO–Iniciativa de Ecodesarrollo de Bahia de Jobos (Jobos Bay Ecodevelopment Initiative). Stateside, here are a few diaspora groups participating in recovery work: El Puente | Enlace Latino de Acción Climática (Latino Climate Action Network), based out of Brooklyn, has been holding fundraisers to raise awareness and support for Maria recovery efforts. Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños (Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College, CUNY) have been pooling community voices, news, and fundraising opportunities since the storm. AN knows this list is not comprehensive, and we encourage readers to leave additional resources in the comments section.

Puerto Rico’s energy crisis calls for sustainable solutions, not more of the same

On September 20th, Hurricane Maria pummeled into the Puerto Rican coast with wind speeds of up to 150 miles per hour, deluging the entire island with rain and quickly pulverizing its energy grid. The entire island was left without power. Puerto Rico's energy infrastructure is notoriously fragile. As Ruth Santiago, a climate advocate and attorney with Comité Diálogo Ambiental, Inc., a Puerto Rican environmental law group, told AN, three fallen trees in 2004 once took out energy for the entire eastern seaboard. Santiago explained that this was largely a geographic problem. Energy is by and large produced by two power plants – the Aguirre Power Complex in Salinas and the Costa Sur plant in Guayanilla. An additional coal-burning plant owned by US-owned AES Corporation is another player. Yet these sites are huge distances from some of the most populated cities. Nearly 230,000 kilowatts of energy are produced by the Aguirre plant, extending through power lines over the central mountain range of the island to the metropolitan area of San Juan, which along with its neighboring cities has a population of about 2 million people – over half of the island's total population of nearly 3.5 million. Transmitting energy at that distance makes the whole grid extremely prone to collapse. In September 2016, a similarly massive outage occurred, but this time due to faulty maintenance, Santiago explained. A general lack of resources and oversight means it is difficult to maintain the grid in the long term, especially as it faces the duress of hurricane-power winds and as these storms become more intense with climate change. Luis G. Martinez, Senior Attorney and Director of Southeast Energy at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), told AN that Puerto Rico's energy problem has been caught in a vicious cycle for quite some time. Earlier this summer, the Puerto Rican power utility PREPA filed for bankruptcy with a $9 million debt. Petroleum isn't cheap, and Puerto Rico is one of the only islands in the Atlantic to operate off of a petroleum-based energy grid (it is the source of about half of the island's electricity). When prices spike, utilities spend all their funds securing fuel, sinking further into debt and unable to break the cycle until they are no longer able to borrow money. Until about two years ago, Martinez said, the Puerto Rico Energy Power Authority (PREPA) was operated with very little oversight. In 2014, the Puerto Rico Energy Commission (PREC) was created to regulate PREPA. Two days after the storm hit, another infrastructural system showed signs of imminent collapse: the Guajataca Dam located on the northwestern end of the island, a 90-year-old, 120-foot-tall structure holding back about 11 billion gallons of water. Three nearby towns, Isabela, San Sebastián and Quebradillas, were immediately evacuated, displacing thousands. Supplying relief from the mainland United States faces its own challenges. Yesterday, President Trump waived the Jones Act for a period of ten days. The Jones Act is a century-old law requiring goods delivered to Puerto Rico to be carried there exclusively on American-owned vessels. This Act has been hindering the delivery of relief supplies to people in need. Representative Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) was responded: "For an entire week, the President was touting his concern for the shipping industry, while refusing to suspend the Jones Act. A ten-day waiver, as the Administration has announced, is far from sufficient given the scope of this tragedy ... To that end, I repeat my call for a one-year waiver of the Jones Act." The President shows no signs of budging. On the ground, recovery efforts are unfolding in myriad ways. Santiago has been working with local advocates on a short-term response to the island's energy crisis, noting that long-term solutions like sustainable energy sources – localized, solar micro-grids being the ideal – are important, but should be implemented carefully in the months to come. For now, she said, municipalities need smaller-scale solutions: cell phone chargers and generators chief among them. She described recently visiting a facility where individuals with diabetes, heart conditions, and cancer were going without their medications because they could no longer be refrigerated. Fortunately, some groups have arisen to work on long-term solutions to the frail energy grid, alongside the efforts of Puerto Rico-based organizations. A Brooklyn-based initiative called Resilient Power Puerto Rico, a project of the Coastal Marine Resource Center (CMRC), is focused on solar energy solutions. In their first phase, they are seeking to provide mobile solar-energy hubs, which are being prototyped in Santurce (a district of San Juan), which will be scaled up to be based in Caguas, a city in the central mountain range of the island when they have more resources. These hubs, if effective, will be able to provide limited power to the residents of small towns around the island. CMRC's mission is quite extensive both in time and scale: by the end of 2017, they hope to deliver more than 100 mobile solar kits to be assembled in public spaces in municipalities, training communities to install the projects along the way. The timeline for the initiative extends through 2021, when they hope to advocate for solar energy for the entire island as a permanent replacement to today's over-stretched grid. The organization has experience implementing these kinds of projects, including in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, when CMRC produced scalable solar panels and generators for the hard-hit Rockaway peninsula in New York City. As Santiago explained, with the economic and fiscal crisis the island was already undergoing when Maria hit, any investments should be made in renewable energy and micro-grids, and set the stage for future investments in the same field. As the Hurricane Sandy anniversary approaches on October 29, let us not forget that the same effects in Puerto Rico are currently being suffered tenfold, while receiving much less coverage in the news. When asked what he thought was missing from coverage, Martinez had an immediate response: "The degree of desperation is not being expressed properly. People don't know when food, medical care, or power will come back. People need aid immediately." In Puerto Rico, there are a number of groups doing on-the-ground recovery work, including:

Unidos por Puerto Rico (United for Puerto Rico), led by the First Lady of Puerto Rico, is one of the largest initiatives garnering funds for recovery.

ConPRmetidos (Committed) is a non-profit completing impact and needs assessments and seeking to provide power and structural repairs to the communities most in need.

Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico (Community Foundation of Puerto Rico), based in San Juan, is a philanthropic foundation awarding grants for, among other things, housing and economic development in local communities.

Comité Diálogo Ambiental, Inc. (Environmental Dialogue Committee, Inc.) is the Salinas-based group that Santiago works for, housed under an umbrella organization bringing together community groups, fishers associations, and others, called IDEBAJO–Iniciativa de Ecodesarrollo de Bahia de Jobos, Inc. (Jobos Bay Ecodevelopment Initiative).

In the stateside diaspora, here are a few groups participating in recovery work:

El Puente | Enlace Latino de Acción Climática (Latino Climate Action Network), based out of Brooklyn, has been holding fundraisers to raise awareness and support for Maria recovery efforts.

Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños (Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College, CUNY) have been pooling community voices, news, and fundraising opportunities since the storm.

Note: We know this list is not comprehensive, and encourage you to leave additional resources in the comments section.

Indiana moves to revoke consumer solar energy incentives

Ironically coinciding with an announcement that Chicago plans to utilize more renewable energy, a bill has passed the Indiana legislature eliminating much of the financial incentive for individuals to install solar panels. The bill was pushed by Indiana’s investor-owned utility companies, who fear the growing popularity of the solar industry. Solar energy only accounts for less than 1% of the state’s power, but quickly falling solar panel prices—paired with their increased efficiency—is leading to their growing popularity. The bill is now in the hands of Governor Eric Holcomb. Currently, the state has four main solar energy incentives: a net metering program, the Renewable Energy Property Tax Exemption, the Indiana Sales Tax Incentive for Electrical Generating Equipment, and the Indiana Income Tax Deduction for Solar-Powered Roof Vents or Fans. The bill is specifically targeted at the net metering program. Energy customers that participate in net metering receive credit on their energy bills for the solar energy that they produce but do not consume. The bill would limit the rate at which credits are issued for net metering. Everyone who installed solar panels before 2018 would continue to receive credits at the current rate for the next 30 years. Those who install panels before 2018 and 2022 would only be able to collect until 2032. The 11 cents per kilowatt/hour credit would also be reduced to 3 cents per kilowatt/hour. Some are saying that the bill is unnecessary tough because the net metering program will only be in effect until over 1% of the state's energy comes from alternative energy sources, such as wind or solar. Others believe that the bill is directly aimed at encouraging consumers to buy into community solar programs, which the utility companies own. Community solar programs work by leasing solar panels, which are part of larger solar arrays, to consumers. This allows customers to use solar energy without having panels on their own roof, but it also keeps the utility companies in control of energy production. The bill was introduced by State Senator Brandt Hershman. The Senate voted 37-11 to pass the bill with changes made by the House.

State-wide Florida vote rejects anti-solar energy law

In Florida, solar power advocates defeated a major amendment cleverly crafted to thwart the expansion of solar energy within the Sunshine State. Amendment 1, known as Solar Energy Subsidies and Personal Solar Use, was rejected last week after it failed to accumulate the 60 percent of voter support required to pass. There was a particularly heated battle around this bill, given the use of rhetorical spin encouraged by Sal Nuzzo of the James Madison Institute—a think tank with close ties to Florida utilities and funding from Koch Industries, who also financed the amendment’s sponsor group, Consumers for Smart Solar. According to Christian Science Monitor, Nuzzo was caught on tape encouraging what he called “‘a little bit of political jiu-jistu’” that would “use the language of promoting solar” while building in “protections for consumers that choose not to install rooftop [panels].” With current net metering policies that exist in every state, including Florida, utilities companies are required to purchase excess energy from solar-powered homes, offsetting the cost of power taken from the grid at night. The amendment “establishes a right under Florida’s constitution for consumers to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property” a right Floridians already have, but only in order “to generate electricity for their own use.” If passed, residents would not be able to sell their cheaper, excess electricity back to the grid. Utilities companies argue solar homes—in selling their excess energy to the grid—make use of transmission lines and grid infrastructure without paying a fair share, according to Mother Jones. This amendment would've also ensured that the cost of maintaining the grid wouldn't be shifted onto non-solar users. The amendment also didn’t seek to legalize leasing solar panels through third party groups (such as SolarCity and Sunrun) which have installed approximately 72 percent of residential solar in the nation since 2014, according to Greentech Media. Florida residents must continue to go through one of the four existing utilities companies, which maintain exclusive rights to selling power in Florida, to arrange for solar power. When the Nuzzo recordings leaked toward the end of October, it gave the opposition the boost it needed to defeat the amendment. It became clear that the amendment was “an attempt to destroy all free market energy in the state along with solar energy in general,” Tory Perfetti, chairman of Floridians for Solar Choice told The Huffington Post. Moreover, according to the legal brief filed by Earthjustice, if passed, “solar users could end up paying twice as much as other customers pay to buy power from the utilities.”  Former Florida senator and governor Bob Graham blasted Amendment 1, Jimmy Buffett recorded a video about it, and Elon Musk tweeted about it, calling it a “calculated attempt to deceive Florida voters about solar.” While solar expansion in the Sunshine State still has a long way to go, the amendment’s rejection was a bullet dodged.

Elon Musk unveils new Solar Roof, Tesla Powerwall 2, and Powerpack 2

On October 28, surrounded by houses topped with solar roofs designed by SolarCity and Tesla, Elon Musk discussed Tesla’s latest products: a Solar Roof, the Powerwall 2, and Powerpack 2. “The goal is to have solar roofs that look better than normal roofs, last longer, provide better insulation, and actually have an installed cost that is less than a normal roof plus electricity. So why would you buy anything else?” he said at a press event. The solar roofs are comprised of glass tiles with photovoltaic cells underneath; the tiles are hydrographic printed to resemble four classic roofing materials: French slate, Tuscan, Smooth, and Textured. Each is printed differently so that each tile is a “special snowflake” Musk quipped. Musk also explained the improvements that the new Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2 have over their predecessors. The Powerwall 2, meant for single-family homes, has double the energy storage of the first home battery Tesla created, with a usable capacity of 13.5 kWh and 90 percent efficiency. It can also be scaled up to combine nine Powerwalls into one storage unit. The Powerpack 2, meant for commercial use, is limitlessly scalable, and Tesla is currently working to supply utility company Southern California Edison with 80 MWh of battery storage—the largest lithium-ion battery storage project in the world, according to Tesla. During the day, the photovoltaics charge up the batteries, which then dispense energy throughout the building until the next morning. Each Powerwall 2 can provide a two-bedroom home with one day of power, so service wouldn’t lapse even on a (hypothetically) pitch-black day. Musk discussed the world’s current dire 404 parts-per-million C02 levels in Earth's atmosphere as vertically climbing since the 1950s. Now that solar roofs are available at a competitive price point (the cost of Tesla’s solar roofs has not yet been disclosed, but Musk said that it would be less than the cost of a standard roof plus the money saved on energy) in a variety of styles, Musk hopes that the four to five million new roofs installed in the U.S. each year can be solar powered, effectively taking millions of people off of the grid. “The whole purpose of Tesla is to bring about sustainable energy,” Musk said. Combining the solar roof with the storage Powerwall or Powerpack and a solar car means a whole household can have an integrated, off-the-grid system. In short, Musk wants to do for solar roofs what Tesla did for electric cars and turn a niche product into an aspirational mass consumer item. And if these solar panel systems are as affordable, beautiful, and seamless as he says, then the future could be sunny indeed. Watch the full video below:

Elon Musk to unveil new solar roof product

UPDATE: See the unveiled solar roof, powerwall, and powerpack here. Tesla CEO and founder Elon Musk tweeted his plans to unveil a new solar roof product on October 28 in San Francisco. The design will reportedly feature photovoltaic units integrated into the roof itself. When Musk initially teased the solar roof concept back in August, according to Electrek, he stated that part of his product’s appeal is that customers are left with “a beautiful roof” of solar power cells. “It’s not a thing on the roof. It is the roof,” Musk said. The solar roof incorporates Tesla’s Powerwall, a rechargeable battery that stores a significant amount of power— 6.4 kWh, according to Tesla—and is marketed for residential use. The Powerwall can store energy generated by photovoltaics and act as a backup electrical system in the event of a power outage. The new Powerwall 2.0—also to be unveiled on the 28th—will simplify the process of installation and feature a charger for Tesla automobiles. SolarCity’s plans for the solar roof won’t compete with their existing products. Instead, the company hopes it will present an opportunity for innovation in the context of new construction as well as reroofing, which is generally required about every 20 years (depending on the roofing material). Although it’s possible that installing the solar roof could be significantly more expensive than a conventional roof-mounted panel, SolarCity could market its savings in power production alongside the endurance of the product, making it an appealing option for homeowners. The product would be the first to emerge from SolarCity, which accepted Tesla’s offer of acquisition at the start of August this year. The company specializes in the design, financing, and installation of solar power systems. While many companies have attempted to perfect the solar roof, they often fail to find enough customers and submit to acquisition or bankruptcy. Recently, Dow Chemical ceased production of its solar shingles, citing a lack of sales, according to Fortune. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Jesse Pichel of Roth Capital Partners said SolarCity struggled to raise money as well. “Tesla solves that problem,” he said.

SITU Studio designs a “Solar Canopy” to popularize rooftop solar systems in urban areas

A recently developed product, the Solar Canopy, may solve many of the problems related to having solar panels on residential urban rooftops, according to a recent press release. The Solar Canopy, a collaboration of Brooklyn-based architecture and design firm SITU Studio and Brooklyn SolarWorks, is a raised platform of solar panels. The project’s development also included Solar One, an advisor, and Laufs Engineering Design (LED), a structural engineering consultant. This approach to incorporating solar panels on rooftops in New York City attempts to resolve concerns such as fire code regulations, rooftop obstructions, and wind and snow loads. The Canopy has a minimum size requirement of 6’ wide x 9’ high, based on requirements set forth by the Department of Buildings (DOB). The product was initially designed for brownstones and row-houses in Brooklyn but can be produced in larger sizes. Aluminum, with its solid-but-lightweight properties, was chosen for the Canopy's frame. “The buildings might not [stand the test of time] but [the Canopy] is built to really last,” stated T.R. Ludwig of Brooklyn SolarWorks in an interview with AN. The Canopy consists of standard components—trusses, beams, and angled columns. A T-extrusion is used to attach the structure securely to the roof. Using a parametric formula, these components can be easily reproduced to yield a customized Canopy, potentially double the size of a rooftop solar system. A video included in a press release, seen below, shows the assembly of the Canopy. The Solar Canopy will hopefully allow homeowners to save considerably in energy costs. Tax credits from the Federal government, the State of New York, and the City of New York can be used to cover 60 to 90 percent of the cost of a rooftop solar system. Ludwig told AN that it is possible for homeowners to take out loans to have the product installed and that affordability is one of the project team’s priorities. Brooklyn SolarWorks has a background in solar finance. So far, ten Solar Canopies have been installed in Brooklyn with several others going through the permitting process. The product will likely be available for commercial use in the fall of 2016.

French proposal to pave roads with solar panels could provide power for 5 million people

French authorities have announced that it plans to lay over 600 miles of solar roads within five years. Research from a five year study in collaboration with highway company COLAS indicates that the roads could provide power to up to 5 million people, or 8 percent of France's population. However, some claim that the French government is merely subsidising French companies and not following the best road for alternative energy solutions. Project "Wattway," as it is being called, was launched last October with the French Agency of Environment and Energy Management stating that just over 13 feet (4m) of solar road (215 square feet to be precise) could meet the energy demands (except heating) of one home. On that basis, 5,000 residents could draw on their energy supplies from as little as 0.62 miles of solar road. https://twitter.com/RoyalSegolene/status/693861761179611136?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw Five years of research deduced that French roads are only occupied by vehicles "10 percent of the time" and that the solution could pave the way for solving future energy demands. Looking at the specs, the surface uses polycrystalline silicon cells, which are "encapsulated in a substrate," forming high yield solar panels. Only 0.28 inches (7mm) thin, the panels have an extremely high strength-to-weight ratio which allows them to deal with the weight of pretty much all motor-vehicles. For those thinking that driving on solar panels has the potential to be hazardous, fear not. Snowplow tests have been passed and the panels com equipped with all-weather skid-resistant coating. “These extremely fragile photovoltaic cells are coated in a multilayer substrate composed of resins and polymers, translucent enough to allow sunlight to pass through, and resistant enough to withstand truck traffic,” said COLAS. It's not just homes the roads could potentially power. Outlining the possibilities for "intelligent roads," COLAS said how they could be used for real time traffic management, self-driving cars, charging moving electric vehicles and eliminating black ice. What's more, COLAS said that the panels can be "directly applied to existing roads, highways, bike paths, parking areas, etc., without any civil engineering work." On top of that, the panels can last up to 20 years in areas that see infrequent traffic, meanwhile COLAS estimates the lifespan of the panels in regular traffic conditions to be 10 years. For example, if the quickest route from Caen in the North of France down to Marseille were to be covered, residents in both cities could be powered for 52 years if the panelled road lasted 10 years (and was removed afterwards). How Legitimate are COLAS's claims? France gets 1,600–2,000 sunlight hours per year. Taking the minimum of that, and subtracting 10 percent (road occupancy from vehicles) that leaves 1,440 sunlight hours per year. Interestingly, COLAS's claim of powering one home every 13 feet arose from the presumption of roads receiving only 1,000 sunlight hours per year, indicating that they are being extremely stringent with their study. Unsurprisingly, COLAS's panels have a lower percentage yield than current photovoltaic market solutions, offering 15 percent solar yields compared to 19 percent, but one can presume that this is a byproduct of making the panels roadworthy and their altered angle of incidence. This equates (by COLAS' calculations) to the panels costing $6.73 per Watt. However, according to Olivier Danielo of DDMagazine, this is "six times the cost "of large-scale photovoltaic cells." Danielo has reason to be skeptical. COLAS specialize in highway construction and by creating an "energy efficient" solution actually implement roads that have a shorter lifespan than regular roads, thereby giving themselves more work. Surely it would be far more efficient to equip houses who can utilize the optimum angle of incidence in conjunction with the most efficient photovoltaic (PV) technology? Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance ("Solar Insight Team") backs Danielo's claims up.  https://twitter.com/solar_chase/status/696658947252609024 Danielo and Chase aren't the only ones concerned, either. French engineer Nicolas Ott said that the energy payback from rooftop PV's is 7.5:1 compared to Wattway's 1.6:1. COLAS also claim to have "invented" the solar road when this is not the case. SolaRoad, a bike path in Krommanie in the Netherlands produced better than expected yields. However, when compared to three rooftop PV systems in the same area of the prototype road, data showed that rooftop PV's was double that of the SolaRoad per square meter over the same period. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-ZSXB3KDF0 Nonetheless, installation of the French solar road panels is set to start soon with funding coming from raising taxes on fossil fuels. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZNJhcNq9q4