Posts Tagged ‘Solar’

Apple Plans 20MW of Solar Power for iDataCenter in N.C.

Posted on: February 21st, 2012 by shannon No Comments

Apple has revealed new details about the operations of its huge data center in Maiden, North Carolina, including plans to build a 20-megawatt solar power facility to support its operations. Apple also plans to use a fuel cell powered by biogas that could generate up to 5 megawatts of power.

The Apple facility would be the largest solar array dedicated to data center operations, surpassing a 14 megawatt array being built to support the McGraw-Hill data center in East Windsor, New Jersey. Apple disclosed its renewable energy ambitions in Maiden in the company’s latest environmental report.

Although Apple’s solar plans are making headlines, the report also sheds light on many aspects of Apple’s data center operations. Until now, the company has made general statements about the efficiency of its data center, without discussing specific techniques used within the facility. Apple’s approach includes:

  • Apple uses a “free cooling” system that employs water-side economization, in which cool outside air is incorporated into a heat exchanger to supply cold water for the data center cooling systems. The company estimates that it will be apple to use the economizer system for about 75 percent of the year.
  • When it is too warm to use the economizer, Apple will use a chiller, a large system that refrigerates water for use in cooling servers. Apple will use a chilled water storage tank to reduce its power bill by running the chillers at off-peak hours, when electricity rates are cheaper. Chilled water from the storage tank can then be used during peak hours, reducing the overall energy cost.
  • Apple says it is using a high-voltage power distribution system, which increases efficiency by reducing power losses due to conversions to step the power down within the data center. Similar designs have been used by Google and Facebook in their data centers.
  • Apple is using containment “pods” in which airflow is regulated using variable speed fans, allowing the company to closely match the fan speed to the temperature and pressure inside the containment area.

None of these technologies are new, but they represent important best practices in the operation of large-scale facilities like Apple’s 500,000 square foot first phase in North Carolina. “Our new data center in Maiden, North Carolina, demonstrates our commitment to reducing the environmental impact of our facilities through energy-efficient, green building design,” the company said in its environmental statement (PDF).

Apple disclosed that the facility has earned Platinum, the highest level attainable under the LEED ( Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating system for energy efficient buildings. The company used 14 percent of recycled materials in its construction process, and diverted 93 percent of construction waste from landfills. Apple also sourced 41 percent of purchased materials within 500 miles of the Maiden site, which reduces the environmental impact from trucking materials over long distances.

“We know of no other data center of comparable size that has achieved this level of LEED certification,” the company said. “Our goal is to run the Maiden facility with high percentage renewable energy mix, and we have major projects under way to achieve this — including building the nation’s largest end user-owned solar array and building the largest nonutility fuel cell installation in the United States.”

Apple said the 5 megawatt fuel cell facility, located adjacent to the data center, will be powered by 100 percent biogas, and provide more than 40 million kWh of baseload renewable energy annually. The facility will be among the largest data center initiatives using fuel cells, Last year AT&T said it would install Bloom Energy fuel cells at 11 sites in California to generate 7.5 megawatts of power. A T-Systems data center in Germany has been using biogas in a fuel cell in its data center since 2009, and a similar system is being used by Infinity in the UK. The primary barrier to use of fuel cells in data centers has been the economics and the up-front cost of the units.

 

Author: Rich Miller, Feb 20th, 2012

Nonprofit to host solar panel system

Posted on: February 16th, 2012 by shannon No Comments
Investor to rent roof space at Dorcas Ministries.

BY ANDREW KENNEY, akenney@newsobserver.com

CARY – Dorcas Ministries’ new home came with a valuable asset: roof space. The west Cary shopping center owned by the nonprofit will be topped soon by one of the county’s largest solar panel systems.

The thrift store and charity is using an increasingly popular model to power the installation. An unnamed outside investor will pay for installation of the project, then profit from sales of the solar energy. Dorcas, meanwhile, will get increasing rent revenue, starting at $2,000 a year, and an eventual option to buy the 236-kilowatt, 845-panel system.

“We bought the shopping center in 2008, and we’ve actually been thinking about it ever since then,” said Howard Manning, the nonprofit’s director. “We consider ourselves a green business.”

The 21,000-square-foot installation would be the largest hosted by a nonprofit in Wake County, and possibly in the state, according to its planners. It also would be among the largest solar plants in Cary, only significantly trailing the 2.2 megawatt solar farm at SAS Institute, which produces about ten times as much energy.

A 3-year-old Cary company, Yes! Solar Solutions, will install the panels. Kathy Miller, vice president, said the construction of the Dorcas project this month will be one of the company’s largest efforts.

This is Dorcas’ third attempt to bring in solar panels, following two failed negotiations with other companies. This time, N.C.-based Argand Energy Solutions brokered the deal with a third-party investor, helping Dorcas overcome the prohibitive up-front cost of the plan.

The investor will pay about $900,000 for the installation, but state and federal tax credits will return about 65 percent of that money over the years, according to Rob Lease, director of sales for Argand. He estimates the panels will generate about 30 homes worth of electricity, which the investor will sell to Progress Energy at an above-market rate for income of about $55,000 a year.

After about seven years, Dorcas will be able to buy the panels, which are under a 25-year warranty, for about $300,000. Eventually, the installation could feed power straight to the nonprofit instead of to the Progress grid.

“It’s kind of a win-win-win to the fourth level,” Miller said.

Betsy McCorkle, economic development coordinator for the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center, said the investor model is particularly attractive for nonprofits because they can’t redeem the tax credits themselves. And in general, she said, “it’s gaining traction because people are figuring out how to do it.”

Argand retooled its business about 18 months ago to focus heavily on commercial-scale installations, and almost half of that business is now driven by third-party investors. For those who can afford it, a venture like the Dorcas panels offers about 12 percent return on investment and breaks even in about five years.

The town of Cary also has brought in an outside company to build and operate a large solar installation on town land. The investor model is practically the only way, McCorkle said, for nonprofits and governments to install large systems.

Chapel Hill solar farm proposed

Posted on: February 9th, 2012 by shannon No Comments

A Chapel Hill green energy developer has chosen its home base to build one of the state’s largest solar energy plants.

If approved by the N.C. Utilities Commission, Strata Solar’s proposed 40-acre solar farm in Chapel Hill would be the biggest solar farm in the Triangle.

It’s one of two 5-megawatt projects the company proposed this week and among more than a dozen Strata Solar has developed or planned to date.

Strata Solar also proposed a similarly sized solar project in Howard’s Creek, about 200 miles west of Raleigh. The company was founded in 2009 and has about 30 employees.

The 5-megawatt size has become a standard in this state for a large solar farm. Several years ago the barrier to break was 1 megawatt, which is now considered a medium-sized, industrial-scale solar farm.

The state’s largest solar farm, in Davidson County, is 15.5 megawatts, three times bigger than the Strata Solar proposals.

[Reposted from Raleigh News & Observer, Feb 9th, 2012]

SunEnergy1 dedicates solar project in Plymouth, N.C.

Posted on: February 2nd, 2012 by shannon No Comments

SunEnergy1’s Kenny Habul dedicated the first phase of his company’s 20-megawatt solar farm in Plymouth this week, saying he will be doing additional projects in northeastern North Carolina.

Habul spoke to a crowd of about 50 at the site Monday.

He said building in the region allows his company to have a significant local impact — making a more important contribution to the tax base than would be possible in more developed communities.

“We also filled the hotels here, we bought a lot of diesel here, we hired local businesses,” he said.

And there are advantages for SunEnergy1 as well. Building the project in the northeast part of the state, which is served by Virginia-based Dominion Power, allows his company to take advantage of selling power to the PJM Interconnect system. PJM serves the mid-Atlantic states and as far west as Ohio, and it allows SunEnergy1 to sell electricity directly to users. North Carolina requires small power producers such as Habul’s company to sell power to utilities for resale, which Habul says severely restricts solar development.

State and local politicians, community leaders and business people from the Charlotte region involved in the project, as well as potential solar investors, were among the attendees at the dedication Monday morning and were part of a larger crowd at the Vernon G. James Research and Extension Center in Plymouth that afternoon. A slideshow of the day’s events can be viewed at right.

 

Charlotte Business Journal by John Downey, Senior Staff Writer

Date: Wednesday, February 1, 2012, 11:39am EST

Cleveland County solar farm opens

Posted on: January 13th, 2012 by shannon No Comments
Duke will buy electricity from Strata Solar, which hopes to add 150-200 jobs.

By Bruce Henderson
bhenderson@charlotteobserver.com

Posted: Friday, Jan. 13, 2012

Chapel Hill-based Strata Solar and Duke Energy opened a 22,000-panel solar farm in Cleveland County Thursday, joining a growing list of commercial-scale solar projects across the state.

The installation, called Kings Mountain Solar, is capable of generating 5 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 616 homes. Duke will buy the electricity and the renewable energy credits the site generates under a 20-year contract.

Strata formed nearly three years ago and has operations in Ontario, Canada and San Francisco.

Chief executive Markus Wilhelm attributes the expansion of utility-scale N.C. solar farms to the state’s renewable-energy standard, which requires utilities to generate or buy green power, and to a dramatic drop in solar prices.

Wilhelm estimated that the Kings Mountain solar farm cost 30 percent to 40 percent less to build than it would have a year ago. The price of solar panels alone, he said, has plummeted 40 percent to 50 percent.

He expects prices to continue to drop. Strata hopes to add 150 to 200 workers in the next year, he said.

Most of the company’s recent hires, he said, have come from the ranks of jobless young people and professionals. Strata works with the Urban League and the Raleigh Business & Technology Center, a small-business incubator, in hiring young people it can train in the field.

Federal investment tax credits and state renewable-energy tax credits help make such projects viable, Wilhelm said, but the maturing solar industry is rapidly gaining traction on its own.

“For each Solyndra, you have hundreds of companies like ours,” he said. Solyndra Corp. is the California solar-panel maker that famously went bankrupt last September after receiving a $535 million federal loan guarantee.

North Carolina had 228 solar firms in 2011 employing an estimated 1,868 people, the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association reported in its annual industries census.

Charlotte-based Duke runs a program to place 10 megawatts of solar power on N.C. rooftops and buys the power from a 17-megawatt solar farm in Davidson County. It also operates 17 megawatts of commercial solar power, including farms in Shelby and Taylorsville.
Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/01/13/2922521/cleveland-county-solar-farm-opens.html#storylink=cpy

 

New NCSU Solar House hours of operation

Posted on: October 28th, 2011 by shannon

After briefly being closed due to state budget cuts, the NCSU Solar House is now back open on a limited schedule. The house is open to the public and for scheduled group tours.  To schedule a group tour, please call 919-515-7085.

Hours of operation are:

Monday – Friday: 10:00am – 2:30pm

 

Come and pay us a visit and learn more about renewable energy technologies!

N.C. Solar Center and N.C. Dept. of Commerce exhibiting at Solar Power International 2011

Posted on: October 28th, 2011 by shannon No Comments

The N.C. Solar Center and the N.C. Dept. of Commerce are exhibiting together as the State of North Carolina at this year’s Solar Power International tradeshow and conference held in Dallas, Texas from October 17th-20th. There are many exciting new developments in the solar industry particularly in North Carolina.   To highlight these developments, daily in-booth presentations are planned from 11am and 1pm Tuesday – Thursday:

Be sure to come by to visit and learn more: Booth #2937

 

Tuesday, October 18th

11:00am

Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster

Smart grid, advanced transportation, renewable energy, energy efficiency. North Carolina’s Research Triangle region is a leading center of today’s cleantech revolution. Learn how your company can tap into a cutting-edge initiative that’s bringing together businesses, universities and government to advance the industry in N.C.

Speaker: Wade Fulghum, Assistant Director, Economic Development Partnership, Office of Research, Innovation, and Economic Development, N.C. State University

 

1:00pm

Growth of Solar in North Carolina

Hear updates on solar policy, industry dynamics and future

Speaker: Ivan Urlaub, Executive Director, NCSEA outlook

 

Wednesday, October 19th

 

11:00am

myDSIRE and Other Customized Services

Learn more about myDSIRE, solar thermal testing, financial modeling and other services offered by the N.C. Solar Center

Speakers: Steve Kalland, Executive Director, N.C. Solar Center; Amanda Vanega, Energy Policy Program Manager, N.C. Solar Center; Betsy McCorkle, Economic Development Coordinator, N.C. Solar Center

 

1:00pm

Solar Policy Trivia – presented by DSIRE

Attention all policy nerds! Take a break for some fun and networking as we test your knowledge of solar policy!

Speakers: Amanda Vanega and Amy Heinemann, Policy Analyst, N.C. Solar Center

 

Thursday, October 20th

 

11:00am

Solar Energy Workforce Development

Learn about the DOE Solar Instructor Training Network’s “Train the Trainer” Program and the Renewable Energy Diploma Series offered by the N.C. Solar Center.

Speakers: Wade Fulghum, Office of Research, Innovation, and Economic Development, N.C. State University  and Betsy McCorkle, N.C. Solar Center

 

1:00pm

Annual Updates & Trends in Solar Policy – presented by DSIRE

Missed the Interstate Renewable Energy Council’s annual meeting? Come hear the DSIRE team review the year’s solar policy news.

Speaker: Amanda Vanega, N.C. Solar Center

 

About Solar Power International

Solar Power International (SPI) is North America’s largest, most comprehensive solar power trade show and conference. This annual, business-to-business event was the first of its kind in North America and grows bigger and better every year.

Nearly 24,000 professionals from 125+ countries attend. With one out of five attendees coming from outside the United States, SPI is truly a global event.

In 2011, over 1,200 companies from all vertical markets in the solar power spectrum will exhibit in a space of more than 1 million gross square feet.

New updates for DSIRE

Posted on: August 30th, 2011 by shannon No Comments

The new, redesigned DSIRE Solar Policy Guide was just launched this week. The DSIRE Solar Policy Guide describes policy options adopted by state and local governments to encourage solar deployment, discusses status and trends of individual policies, provides examples of specific programs, and links to additional sources of information. This guide is meant to serve as a living document and will be updated quarterly to reflect new solar policy initiatives, trends, and resources.

This guide was developed in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) “Solar Powering Your Community: A Guide for Local Governments“. The DOE guide focuses on policies and program options that are important to the development of a local market for solar. These two guides were designed to be complementary and address policy options relevant to both local and state governments.

In addition, the energy policy program at the N.C. Solar Center in collaboration with NREL and the DOE, created and launched the new DSIRE search widget. The DSIRE search widget can easily be incorporated into web sites and blogs. It allows your site’s users or your blog’s audience to search the DSIRE database for incentives in any U.S. state or territory.

Proposal would double state’s solar energy output

Posted on: March 25th, 2011 by admin No Comments

Story by: John Murawski, Raleigh N&O (reposted)

 

Solar energy has been far and away the most successful of the renewable resources power companies have developed in North Carolina since the state’s 2007 energy law required an increase in renewables and conservation.

Now advocates are pushing to double the state’s mandated solar output by electric utilities, saying promoting solar power also promotes jobs needed to install and maintain solar facilities.

A bill introduced Monday in the General Assembly raises the solar requirement from 0.2 percent to 0.4 percent of all retail electricity sold by 2018. If the mandate is not lifted, utility companies are likely to stop at 0.2 percent for solar power, which is one of the most expensive forms of green energy.

The bill’s sponsors are all mostly Republicans in the state House of Representatives: Tom Murry of Wake County, Ruth Samuelson of Mecklenburg County, Chuck McGrady of Henderson County and Tim Moffitt of Buncombe County. The lone Democratic sponsor is James Crawford Jr. of Granville and Vance counties.

But the state’s two leading utility companies, Duke Energy and Progress Energy, don’t support making changes to the 2007 law so soon after its passage.

“The most efficient way to do this is to stick with the policy you’ve developed,” said Progress spokesman Mike Hughes. “We and others have made long-term investments based on the state’s policy.”

Duke Energy and Progress Energy are ahead of the current schedule on solar development. Not only have the two power companies passed their 2011 targets, as set in the 2007 energy law, but they are soon expected to pass their 2015 targets.

Raleigh-based Progress and Charlotte-based Duke have developed industrial-scale solar energy farms as well as household rooftop solar projects throughout the state.

According to the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association, a trade group for the renewable industry, the 2007 law had resulted in the development of nearly 60 megawatts of solar power in North Carolina. Three-fourths of the electricity comes from 20 projects that generate between 1 megawatt and 2 megawatts of electricity.

State energy policy allows the utilities to recover the cost of renewables and conservation projects through customers rates. Thus long-term contracts with solar farms, as well as incentives paid to customers to buy energy-efficient appliances, are covered by monthly bills all customers pay, just as costs for power plants, transmission lines, bucket trucks and other utility expenses.

Progress, for example, pays customers up to $10,000 for installing rooftop solar panels on their homes. The program was approved in November by the N.C. Utilities Commission.

The Progress SunSense program pays customers an upfront rebate of $1,000 per kilowatt capacity, depending on the size of the solar array, with the total rebate ranging between $2,000 and $10,000.

As part of the SunSense program, Progress is also offering a monthly bill credit ranging from $9 to $45, depending on the size of the solar array.

Duke Energy’s solar projects include a 8.5M megawatt household rooftop program that will install solar panels on customers’ homes, essentially creating mini power plants in neighborhoods throughout the company’s service area.

Duke is also buying electricity from SunEdison’s 15.5 megawatt solar farm in Davidson County

 

U.S. solar industry had a bright 2010

Posted on: March 25th, 2011 by admin No Comments

Story by: San Jose Mercury News

A recent report by the Solar Energy Industries Association found that 2010 was a banner year for solar in the United States. The total size of the U.S. solar market – which includes rooftop installations, hot water heating and utility scale projects – grew from $3.6 billion in 2009 to $6 billion, a 67 percent increase.

“Solar is growing quickly across the U.S. at the residential, commercial, and utility scale levels. It is powering and heating buildings in all 50 states, and using a variety of technologies to do so,” states the executive summary of the report, which is scheduled to be released Thursday. “The rapid growth and unique diversity has made the U.S. market a focus of global industry attention for the first time in many years.”

California, with its abundant sunshine and leadership on renewable energy policies, remains the nation’s leading solar state. But other states, including New Jersey, Nevada and Arizona, are quickly becoming key markets. California installed 259 megawatts of solar power in 2010, far more than any other state, while New Jersey installed 137 megawatts. One megawatt of solar energy is enough to power roughly 200 California homes.

Photovoltaic installations, which represent the vast majority of the solar market, grew 102 percent in 2010 to reach 878 MW, up from 435 MW in 2009.

The report is the work of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research and is based on surveys of installers, manufacturers, utilities and state agencies.

The solar panels seen on most homes and office buildings are photovoltaic panels that convert the sun’s rays directly into electricity. Concentrating solar power, known as solar thermal or CSP, uses different technology: It concentrates the sun’s rays with mirrors or lenses to boil water, and the steam from the boiling water turns turbines that generate electricity.