Tipping Points for Solar Energy

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Below is a recent article in Bloomberg that has a bunch of good facts about the state of solar energy. Among them:…..

-“The world …. is adding more capacity for clean energy [solar & wind] each year than for coal and natural gas combined”

-“it’s likely that the total amount of solar photovoltaics added globally [in 2016] will exceed that of wind for the first time”

-“Half the price of coal”- It is noted that a record deal on a PV plant in Chile signed in August of this year came in at $29 /MW-hr – “roughly half the price of competing coal power “.

Here’s the link to the full article: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-12-15/world-energy-hits-a-turning-point-solar-that-s-cheaper-than-wind

World Energy Hits a Turning Point: Solar That’s Cheaper Than Wind

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Cover story on Artificial Photosynthesis in c&en

The cover story for the most recent issue of Chemical and Engineering News (c&en) wason  solar fuels (aka artificial photosynthesis systems), and includes a nice overview of approaches that researchers are taking in this field: (the story starts on pg. 32):

http://cen.acs.org/articles/94/i46/artificial-leaf-sprout-combat-climate.html?type=paidArticleContent

Image result for "Will the artificial leaf sprout?"

 

Solar (and Coal) Power in India

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India has some very ambitious targets set for deployment of solar technology for 2022 and 2030.  At the same time, it is currently one of the biggest coal users in the world. Thus, India has huge potential to reduce its (projected) emissions, and it will be interesting to watch how these dynamics play out in the coming years.:

India wants to become a solar superpower, but its dependence on toxic coal says otherwise

H2 production vs. CO2 reduction

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Here is a recent viewpoint article published in ACS Energy Letters discussing the merits of using solar energy (or solar-derived electricity) to 1.) split water for H2 production, or 2.) reduce CO2 into liquid hydrocarbon fuels:

http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acsenergylett.6b00377

There is a lot of active research ongoing for both of these pathways, so this is an important discussion to be having.

The article nicely articulates the reasons for not performing CO2 reduction from CO2 captured from coal fired power plants.  However, there are other sources of CO2 as well, such as cement plants, or  capturing CO2 directly from air (so-called negative emissions) as discussed in this article:

http://www.pnas.org/content/109/33/13156

 

 

Recent EES article on 3D printing and Electrodeposition of Electrolyzer components

We commonly use 3D printing in our lab for making (photo)electrochemical cells and reactors, and electrodeposition for depositing electrocatalytic materials.

Bridging both of these areas is a a recent paper in Energy & Environmental Science (EES) where researchers electroplated Nickel onto 3D printed PLA flow field plates to be used in polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolyzers:

http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2016/ee/c6ee01997h#!divAbstract

Highlighting a commonly cited advantage of 3D printing, these researchers show the benefit of rapid prototyping that is made possible by 3D printing.

Mass balance on biofuels

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Here is a recent summary article on a recent life cycle analysis (LCA) study comparing CO2 emissions associated with biofuels (e.g. corn ethanol) to CO2 emissions from gasoline:

http://phys.org/news/2016-08-biofuels-decrease-heat-trapping-carbon-dioxide.html

The full study was just published in the journal Climatic Change and is titled “Carbon balance effects of U.S. biofuel production and use”:

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-016-1764-4

New record for Si photovoltaic module efficiency

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SunPower recently announced a 24.1% efficient Si PV module- a world record:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelkanellos/2016/06/27/sunpowers-24-1-efficiency-mark-are-we-near-the-ceiling/#1742e8eb2be1

As noted in the article, this is very impressive, especially considering that the theoretical maximum efficiency for a single junction Si solar cell under 1 sun illumination intensity is ~ 29%.

In situ Measurement of Sub-particle reaction rates of TiO2 nanorod photoanodes

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A nice study was recently published in Nature on the use of super-resolution fluorescence-based imaging and scanning photocurrent microscopy to study sub-particle reaction rates on TiO2 nanorods:

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v530/n7588/abs/nature16534.html

very neat measurements!

2016 Q1 Solar Installations in the US (and projections)

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“In the three months ending March 31, there were 1,665 megawatts (MW) of solar power plants[added to the US power grid] — accounting for 64% of total capacity additions — more than coal, natural gas and nuclear combined”

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/solar-installations-overtaking-all-other-conventional-energy-sources-in-the-us-2016-06-10

the article goes on to note that there are currently 26 GW of solar installed in the US. By the end of the year it is expected there will be 40.5 GW, over 3% of the net US generating capacity.