Tag: SolarFeatured

Spain Approves ‘Sun Tax,’ Discriminates Against Solar PV

Until recently, Spain had a very general self-consumption policy framework that applied to both grid-connected and off-grid systems. This month though, Spain’s Council of Ministers approved a new self-consumption law that has set the country’s solar advocates up in arms with the government. 

The main problem with the new law, say solar advocates, is that it taxes self-consumption PV installations even for the electricity they produce for their own use and don’t feed into the grid. Spain’s PV sector calls the new law a ‘sun tax.’ 

According to Spain’s Photovoltaic Union (UNEF), the new law requires self-consumption PV system owners to pay the same grid fees that all electricity consumers in Spain pay, plus a so-called ‘sun tax’. Specifically, said UNEF, a self-consumption PV owner “will pay a ‘sun tax’ for the whole power [capacity] installed (the power that you contracted to your electricity company, plus the power from your PV installation) and also another [second] ‘sun tax’ for the electricity that you generate and self-consume from your own PV installation (this applies to installations larger than 10 kW).” 

The Solar Foundation to Re-Energize Solar America Cities

One key method of increasing solar adoption and deployment across the world is to focus on reducing the soft costs — those fees, red tape, and other bureaucratic inefficiencies that make it difficult for customers to actually get solar power installed. But a grant awarded this week at Solar Power International (SPI) seeks to start to chip away at those problems.

100 Percent Renewable Energy Charged EV Stations Allow Driving on Sunshine

Indian companies will be bidding on 750 megawatts of solar projects this week as part of a government- funded support program in the western states of Maharashtra and Gujarat.

“Tenders for setting up 500 megawatts of capacity in Maharashtra and 250 megawatts in Gujarat’s Charanka solar park will be out this week and awarded in three months,” Ashvini Kumar, managing director at Solar Energy Corp. of India, the implementing agency for central government’s grid-connected solar programs, said Tuesday in an interview.

The bids are part of the second phase of the National Solar Mission through which capacity of at least 2 gigawatts will be auctioned featuring 21 billion rupees ($322 million) of government-funded support.

Stolen Solar Panels and Sabotage A Challenge for Powering India With Renewable Energy

Disappointment spread across Tarun Singh’s face when he saw that parts of his solar power microgrid in eastern India’s Bihar state had been stolen.

Batteries meant to store energy stood disconnected from solar panels and drained of essential acid at the site in Kayam village. Singh, chief executive of Veddis Solars Pvt., said he hadn’t been paid the rent due on the small plant since February.

“I’m on the verge of saying goodbye to the state,” he said in an interview at Kayam, surrounded by cobwebs and grime in a control room that’s supposed to be kept clean. Singh, who’d flown from his southern Indian base in Hyderabad to inspect the grids, said he’d consider relocating the equipment.

The episode sheds light on some of the challenges facing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push for a $94 billion expansion of solar power. While Modi’s ambition has led billionaires such as Foxconn Technology Group’s Terry Gou to pledge investment, the question remains whether the 750 million Indians living on less than $2 per day can afford or will embrace green energy.

1 GW Solar Sunlight-to-Steam Breakthrough for CSP

In the South Oman oilfields, a glass-encased Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) project the size of an average nuclear plant has broken a new record for solar. After proving its technology in a 7 MW demo which beat its promised energy output every month for a couple of years; Glasspoint has landed a deal to build Miraah, a gigantic 1 GW solar Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) project for Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) at Amal West oil field.


At an astonishing 1,021 megawatts, Miraah is almost three times the capacity of Ivanpah, which at 377 MW is currently the world’s largest CSP project delivering electricity.


Yet not only will Miraar (mirror in Arabic) produce steam at gigantic scale, but it does so at much lower cost than CSP and about half the cost of gas. The 1 GW project will cost a mere $600 million.


Each 50,000 m² glasshouse is a standalone 25 MW solar steam generator, able to be deployed alone as a single “block” or in multiples. The Miraah project makes 36 copies of Glasspoint’s standard block in which sunlight reflected off trough mirrors on to pipes containing recirculated oilfield “produced water” makes steam.


“I think this is going to revolutionize many aspects of the energy market,” said

Justin Dargin, MENA energy expert at the University of Oxford. “The Miraah project has shown the world that this technology is viable and it has economies of scale and it can be deployed at quite an economically competitive cost.”




Traditionally, gas made EOR steam.


According to John O’Donnell, Glasspoint’s VP of Business Development; PDO’s decision came not from concerns about carbon emissions, but from realizing that solar – rather than gas – is the most economical.


“Today with the price of oil way down, many, many oil companies have significantly cut the capital budget in their spending,” he said.  “The fact that Oman’s largest oil producer is making a major capital move into solar shows you that they realize that solar will maximise their remaining reserves because they can extract more oil, saving gas for other applications.”


Two thirds of all industrial energy used is thermal. The biggest thermal energy user in the world is the oil industry; 98% thermal energy, only 2% electricity. This is why Glasspoint has focused on EOR, by far the biggest industrial steam market.


“I’ve looked at giant power station projects that only needed 4 of our blocks and little oilfield projects that needed two hundred,” said O’Donnell.


By selling “a product – not a project” to a cash-paying customer – the oil industry, Glasspoint has been able to grow literally in leaps and bounds from their initial one third of a MW EOR project in California, to their 7 MW Oman pilot, to now, this groundbreaking 1,021 MW Miraah EOR project. No renewable startup selling power to utilities could fund such huge growth in just three steps.


Yet for all its size, this landmark project is relatively tiny relative to potential.


“You might look at this as a landmark CSP project, as it is the world’s biggest and yet it is just a small fraction of the steam at just one oilfield,” he said.


How it was done at such low cost


Glasspoint uses standardized oilfield components that integrate with existing operations; innovating only where they have to, in solar collection. But enclosing its CSP in standardized agricultural greenhouses was Glasspoint’s key frugal insight, because getting the solar collectors out of the wind meant they could be super lightweight and cut construction cost.




“This is the first trough in the world that lives in a zero wind indoor environment, so it weighs 10% as much as other troughs,” O’Donnell explained.


But as it turned out, protection from sand and dust turned out to be an even more significant advantage.


Commercial greenhouses have long been engineered to withstand conditions ranging from 150 mile-an-hour winds on Bermuda to 50 lbs/sq ft snow loads in Antarctica – and to be washed by standard robotic cleaners.


“Operating in Oman, we found output falls by 3% if we don’t wash overnight, and after dust storms; output could drop by 20 or 30%,” he said.


“We talk to people driving to that oil field every day who need to put a new windshield on four times a year because there is a six-foot-high zone of blowing sand near the oilfield.”


Even windows on buildings there turn a milky white in under a decade. But the roof of each twenty three foot glasshouse is above the abrasion zone.


Steam for electricity generation is more efficient at higher temperatures. But EOR requires a lower temperature: 350 F. Glasspoint CEO Rod MacGregor ultimately engineered the simplest, most fugal way to make an industrial-temperature steam at a huge scale.


No turbine or boiler


Glasspoint now uses only pipes and lightweight mirrors to create steam: each glasshouse is a steam generator – with no power block.


This simplicity evolved as a learning process. When I first spoke to MacGregor, he still planned to use oilfield machinery that could run on what he described as the “horrible” oilfield water used in gas EOR.


Unlike gas or coal which will always need a turbine and a boiler – and fuel – to make steam – of any temperature, this solar technology makes the exact temperature steam needed for EOR cheaper than gas partly because it can do that without the costly turbines and boilers of traditional steam generation.


“We are at a moment where the shape of the curve changes,” said O’Donnell. “People are going to naturally drive towards what is cheapest.”

How Solar Energy Zones and Easy Permitting Helped Create 3-cent Solar

Warren Buffet’s utility NV Energy has signed the lowest price contract for solar ever, at just US $0.0384 for First Solar’s 100-MW Playa Solar project, beating even its own record low price of $0.046 cents for SunPower’s 100-MW project in Boulder City, Nevada.

Both solar projects benefit from new streamlined permitting set up through the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Western Solar Plan, which designated 19 Solar Energy Zones (SEZ). This auction covered six parcels across 3,083 acres in Nevada. The previous case-by-case way to permit solar on BLM land was taking at least two years; and even longer if anything to tripped up the process.