Thin Film Solar sets new Record

One of the really cool things about solar energy is that the efficiency of generating electricity keeps increasing at a rapid rate and the price keeps going down.

Over time I will track some of these improvements.

The most recent record come from First Solar and is a record for production modules – not just a “lab record”.

Here are excerpts from the First Solar  press release:

First Solar, Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR) today announced it set a new world record for cadmium-telluride (CdTe) photovoltaic (PV) module conversion efficiency, achieving a record 16.1 percent total area module efficiency in tests confirmed by the U.S. Departmentof Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The new record is a substantial increase over the prior record of 14.4 percent efficiency, which the Company set in January 2012.

Based on the Company’s record-setting technology and robust Series 3 Black platform, the Company also has accelerated its module conversion efficiency roadmap, raising its lead production line module efficiency target for 2015 to 15-16.2 percent. First Solar also extended its module conversion efficiency roadmap to 2017, with targets for lead production line module efficiency of 16.2-16.9 percent in 2016 and 16.4-17.1 percent in 2017.

Africa – Things are looking up


Map of AfricaAfrica is a a continent that seemed to be stuck in perpetual misery. While most of Asia rose out of poverty over the last few decades it appeared that Africa was being left behind. But over the last few years, there are signs that Africa is ready to break out of these doldrums and join the rest of the world.

To see more check out this Economist article – Aspiring Africa.

  • CELEBRATIONS are in order on the poorest continent. Never in the half-century since it won independence from the colonial powers has Africa been in such good shape. Its economy is flourishing. Most countries are at peace. Ever fewer children bear arms and record numbers go to school. Mobile phones are as ubiquitous as they are in India and, in the worst-affected countries, HIV infections have fallen by up to three-quarters. Life expectancy rose by a tenth in the past decade and foreign direct investment has tripled. Consumer spending will almost double in the next ten years; the number of countries with average incomes above $1,000 per person a year will grow from less than half of Africa’s 55 states to three-quarters.

If most of Africa can get it’s act together and if India continues to grow then over the next few years almost all of world’sextreme poor will have been lifted out of poverty. The next goals should be to raise the bar so that today’s poor become tomorrow’s middle class. There is no reason why we can’t have the “poorest” in 2030 living at close to today’s middle class standards.

Coal Plants Closing

In order for the United State to cut back total CO2 emissions we are going to have to decrease the amount of electricity produced by coal. Coal is the worst culprit in the amount of CO2 released per electrical unit of energy created.

Recently due to the cheaper price of natural gas and the cost of upgrading old coal plant to comply with new regulations there have ben a number of coal plant closures.

Here is a recent article talking about the closure of three coal plants belonging to American Electric Power (AEP).

Some excerpts:

  • AEP will stop burning coal at the Tanners Creek Generating Station Unit 4 in Indiana, the Muskingum River Power Plant Unit 5 in Ohio and the Big Sandy Power Plant Unit 2 in Kentucky. Collectively, a total of 2,011 megawatts (MW) of coal-fired power will retire as part of the settlement, removing almost 12 million tons of climate-disrupting carbon pollution and nearly 84,000 tons of sulfur dioxide pollution that the three coal-fired power plants spew into the air each year.
  • Additionally, the agreement commits AEP to developing 50 megawatts of wind or solar power this year and an additional 150 megawatts of wind or solar power in Indiana or Michigan by 2015.

Wind Sets new Record in Texas



The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) reported a new record for peak wind generation on Feb. 9th.  The total energy generated hit 9,481 MW.

  • The generation provided nearly 28 percent of the system load in ERCOT at the time and surpassed the previous record of 8,667 MW set on Jan. 29 by 814 MW

In what may be a surprise to many around the country – Texas is the state with the highest amount of electricity generated via wind. Last year it represented about 20% of the national total for wind-based electricity.

California has a much more fickle wind environment and generated less than 1/3 of Texas’s total.

The US Energy Information Administration office (EIA)  provides a great monthly report of Energy usage by state.


Los Angeles Street Lighting – 63% savings with switch to LED lighting

The easiest way to cut back on energy usage and thereby reduce carbon emissions is to improve the efficiency of current processes. Los Angeles has shown the way for municipalities across the country with its’ new LED streetlight project.

  • On January 23, the Los Angeles Bureau of Street Lighting published an update [PDF] on the status of the LED conversion project. The results: 114,067 units replaced, $5,325,793 in annual electricity savings, and 63.3% electricity savings over the incumbent high-pressure sodium (HPS) street lights.
  • The scope of the Los Angeles undertaking, combined with results recorded from the tens of thousands of LED units already deployed, should hasten other cities move to LEDs. Street lighting can account for up to 40% of a city’s electricity bill,according to Pike Research.

Some Technology Trends

World LTE usage to double this year (2013)

  • “In a world where seemingly everyone is using a smartphone, 4G LTE usage is expected to double this year. This prediction comes from a study published by IHS iSuppli this week, which indicates that LTE subscribers worldwide will reach almost 200 million.”
  • “To be exact, the number of LTE users around the globe could hit 198.1 million in 2013, which is a significant increase from the 92.3 million users recorded last year. This wireless technology is only about three years old and had 612,000 users when it began in 2010, according to IHS.”
  • “LTE usage worldwide surged the following year after its launch, jumping by 22 percent to 13.2 million users in 2011. It saw an unprecedented growth from 13.2 million to nearly 100 million users in 2012, marking an increase of 599 percent. In just another four years, the technology is expecting to surpass one billion subscribers.
  • Chairman Julius Genachoski just issued the “Gigabit City Challenge” — he wants to see all 50 states have at least one community with gigabit internet by 2015. “American economic history teaches a clear lesson about infrastructure. If we build it, innovation will come,” Genachowski said in a statement. “The U.S. needs a critical mass of gigabit communities nationwide so that innovators can develop next-generation applications and services that will drive economic growth and global competitiveness.”