Saturday, July 03, 2010


Hawaii Solar Conference

By Henry Curtis

The IEEE held a week-long solar energy conference at the Hawaii Convention Center and 1300 people showed up. Not too many from Hawaii though. Except for Tuesday, when there was a presentation about Hawaii given by Hawaii residents and where residents could attend for free, there were few people I recognized. I recognized no one from the utilities and no regulators.

Dynamic Overview

Retired Midwest utility executive and current Maui renewable energy consultant Mike Champley showed up on Tuesday and was roped into being the facilitator for the most exciting panel of the conference featuring three dynamic speakers. He did a fantastic job.

Rhone Resch is President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the national trade organization for the solar industry. He discussed the coming solar revolution. “Even during the recession, the solar industry grew by 37 percent in 2009 and created 17,000 new American jobs.”

Chris Cook is a member of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) Board of Directors. IREC has intervened recently before the Hawaii PUC seeking to open up interconnection requirements so that more renewable energy projects can be connected to the local grids.

Kristin K. Mayes is Chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission (equivalent to our Public Utilities Commission). Kris stated that any commissioner who does not advocate for a sharp rise in the use of renewables should be fired. She is an elected member of the Arizona Commission. Her message: the utilities need to wake up and accept the new paradigm where they will become energy service providers instead of rigid advocates of the status quo. If they don’t change they will be bypassed.

These presentations are well worth watching. I present them in two formats, one which any computer can easily handle (lower resolution) and three separate higher resolution presentations for computers with high speed interconnections.

Three presentations
(57 minutes)

High Resolution:
Rhone Resch (24 minutes)

Chris Cook (18 minutes)

Kristin K. Mayes (21 minutes)

During the question & answer phase, a question was asked about “interstate Renewable Electrons”. The response is well worth watching. (nine minutes)

High School Competition

The annual High School Solar Science Fair demonstration and competition featured students from three high schools: Farrington, McKinley, and Honoka'a. Four projects were submitted from three schools.

First Place: Solar Powered Cart (Farrington High School)
Second Place: PV powered robot (Farrington High School)
Third Place: Solar Powered Car (McKinley High School)

Hawaii Panel

The Hawaii Panel was facilitated by Ted Peck

Representative Mina Morita, Chair of the House Committee on Energy & Environmental Protection, led off: “We have some pretty sound energy policies. For over 30 years Hawaii’s energy policy has been a careful balance of the use of indigenous and clean resources, energy security, system reliability and cost issues.”

Hawaii Public Utilities Chairman Carl Caliboso opened with a disclaimer. He was speaking for himself and not for the Commission. “In 2009 energy efficiency programs or demand side management are no longer administered by the ratepayer [financed] utility but by an independent third party administer which should be able to more aggressively implement energy efficiency measures.”

Chair Caliboso added: “There are other regulatory policies and initiatives to increase renewable energy generation but RPS [Renewable Portfolio Standards] is probably the biggest bluntest tool that we have right now.”

Mark Duda, speaking on behalf of the Hawaii Solar Energy Association, noted that the Energy Agreement offered “little role for PV” and an “especially limited role for DG [Distributed Generation].” He asserted that the effect of the Energy Agreement to the PV community was: “well here is the 20-year plan and you’re not doing much,” adding “this thing really still puts us in an oppositional role with the utility.”

Mark Duda noted that when the Energy Agreement was signed in early 2008 the Hawaii Solar Energy Industry was very small. The industry then surged, setting records in 2008 and again in 2009.

HECO’s Scott Seu rounded out the panel: “So when you see the word moratorium or when you see the word that we are proposing a somewhat more conservative rollout of some of our programs, it is not because we are not racing renewables, it’s because we are as much as possible trying to make sure that as we go forward we have to make sure that we are able to run our grid reliable and safely.”

Scott Seu not that the 70% clean energy by 2030 meant that “in the year 2030 we will have to be at 40% renewable generation level,” and that for now “our need is heavily on the R&D side.”

I have produced a low resolution 95 minute film on the panel. I could have spent hours fixing up the first two minutes of the video, but didn’t.

Ted Peck Intro (3 minutes)

Panel (84 minutes)

Trace Minerals

One panel focused on the supply and demand for trace elements that are used in the manufacturing of high technology products. Indium is used in making efficient semiconductors in solar cells. Cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar panels have achieved some of the highest efficiencies for solar cell electric power generation. Indium ranks #61 and tellerium #75 of the elements found in the earth’s crust. The Earth’s crust contains 25 parts per billion of Indium and 1 part per billion of Tellurium. That makes tellerium rarer than gold, silver, and platinum.

Solar Cells are of two major types: crystalline silicon (85% market share) and thin film (15% market share). Crystalline silicon can be either Single Crystal Silicon or Polysilicon (Polycrystalline Silicon, p-si). Thin film can be based on a silicon technology: Amorphous Silicon (a-si) or two non-silicon technologies: Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) and Copper Indium Gallium diSelenide (CIGS). According to GBI Research (July 2010), the relative worldwide production of these three thin film technologies are CdTe (43%), a-Si (32%), and CIGS (25%). Many trace elements are used in various phases of solar cell production.

The acquisition of trace element resources used in high technology has led to war and genocide. One term used to describe this is “Conflict Minerals.” Some of the compounds used in solar cells come from the Congo, the deadliest war since World War II, where warlords make $180M/year from mining tantalum (which stores electricity in cell phones), tungsten (creates vibrations in cell phones), tin (for circuit boards) and gold, which is used to coat wiring. Sustainability requires that the raw materials be plentiful or acquired through methods that promote sustainability in the native communities.

There are advocates for abundance and for scarcity for both elements, and those who believe that alternatives will be found for each element. The session was chaired by Dr. Timothy Coutts, a Research Fellow in the National Center for Photovoltaics at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Martin Green (University of New South Wales) stated that the use of tellerium and indium will increase and that tellerium is used inefficiently in making solar cells – often only 10% of the product is in the cell and the other 90% is wasted. Brookhaven’s Vasilis Fthenakis argued that tellerium COULD be recycled resulting in far more efficient use of the existing supply. Brian O’Neil of AIM Specialty Materials suggested that both supply and demand will grow for indium. Geologist Lindsey Maness discussed the availability of both elements.

Resch noted that “polysilicon based photovoltaic are still well over 90% of the market worldwide and although we are moving towards thin film in many cases polysilicon will continue to be the major provider for the foreseeable future. Not that there isn’t shortage of raw material but the feedstock silicon that goes into polysilicon is not in short supply and it in mined fairly universally around the world. It’s not that your taking sand and turning it into polysilicon but certainly it’s a very abundant element.”

Women: The Untapped Resource

Another panel focused on women who have played important roles in the development of renewable energy, the low levels of women within high tech, and how that can be remedied. Unfortunately, that panel was the only panel where the majority of speakers and the majority of attendees were women. Overall, the vast majority of conference attendees were men.

Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative

Lt. Governor Aiona spoke: "Hawaii provides the ideal backdrop for a gathering of photovoltaics experts as our state pushes forward on our path to create 70 percent clean energy by 2030 through the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative...Hawaii welcomes PV's top minds to our state and is pleased to set the stage for breakthrough photovoltaic research discussions and presentations."

This myth continues. The Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative does not advocate 70% clean energy by 2030. It is a political spin document. It excludes the 30% of energy used in aviation. It advocates 70% of the remaining 70%, or 49% of all energy be “clean energy”. That percentage is further broken down to 28% renewable and 21% efficiencies.

The 28% renewable can include (Hawaii Revised Statutes) heat from coal and oil plants, fossil fuel based biofuels and burning fossil fuel products in garbage to energy facilities. Thus the State could use only fossil fuels in meeting the 70% clean energy guidelines.

There was a presentation by Hawaii energy insiders on the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI) and how to address the current barriers to high penetration of PV on the islands. Moderated by DBEDT’s Ted Peck, the panel included Mina Morita (Chair of the Hawaii House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee), Carl Caliboso (Chairman, Hawaii Public Utilities Commission), Scott Seu (Hawaiian Electric Company), and Mark Duda (Distributed Energy Partners).

World Perspective

Rhone Resch, President of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) noted that Germany, Italy and Japan led the world in PV installations last year. Japan was just ahead of fourth place United States. Germany had over half of the installations worldwide, twenty two times the installations as the United States. Resch predicted that the U.S. would take the lead in 2014.

China has surpassed Germany to become #1 in building solar cells. Shenghong Ma noted that China now produces 40% of all solar panels worldwide and that 95% of the solar cells produced are exported. While China has some fossil fuel resources, it has enormous amounts of potential solar energy, especially in deserts which cover a quarter of China. China is importing a small but growing share of its energy from abroad.

According to the China Solar PV Report (2007) "current technology, covering 3% of the desert could generate the current annual energy output in China. ... Most of the desert areas are located in the northwest part of China. The annual total radiation is 1,600-2,300 kWh/m2. The north-west deserts are considered to be the richest solar resource in the world. China has begun testing the use of Feed-In Tariffs in places such as Ningxia.

Izumi Kaizuki (RTS Corporation, Tokyo) noted that Japan has adopted net excess feed-in tariffs where customers with generators are paid for solar energy in excess of their electricity use.

Since solar is more expensive than grid electricity this method wouldn’t work, however it has been made effective since some installations are able to double dip or triple dip subsidies that are available. Japan is looking into the Feed-In Tariff used in Germany and Spain.

Japan is different that the United States in another way. In the United States PV is more attractive for businesses, while in Japan 90% of PV installations are on residential units. The Japanese government predicts that this will drop to 80% by 2020.

Kaizuki stated: “In November 2009 the government started a so-called Japanese Feed-in Tariff. I have to explain this. Some people say that this type of Feed-in Tariff as Net Export Feed-in Tariff ...because unlike Germany you can only sell the surplus energy from PV systems and before this Feed-in Tariff the utilities were wondering about purchase of surplus energy from PV at the same price as the utility charged [for electricity] 24 Japanese Yen [0.25 USD/kWh]. ...From November 2009 the government raises to the utilities to purchase surplus energy from PV and the purchase price will be almost double at 48 Yen [0.53 USD/kWh for residential PV]”.

Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) and Concentrator Photovoltaic (CPV)

Sopogy pioneered the Micro-Scaled Concentrating Solar Power (CSP), where sunlight is concentrated on a pipe containing mineral oil. The heated oil can be used for thermal applications, or stored evening electricity needs.

Nancy Hartsoch (CPV Consortium) talked about concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) where sunlight is concentrated for the purpose of generating electricity instead of heat. Recently several CPV systems have won competitively bid solar bids.

The Conference

Many of the panels were very technical but not all focused exclusively of complex engineering. There were panels that focused on quantum wells, nanostructures, climate change, nanophotonic light trapping, and uncoupled quantum dots.

The conference served as a way to network. Although 1300 people were registered, at any one time there appeared to be only 400-600 people at the Convention Center, and there were up to 10 panels occurring simultaneously.

A special Mahalo (thanks) go to the IEEE, and especially Christine Bennett of the Antenna Group, for supporting the diversified members of the press who attended the conference. There were a dozen print journalists and three videographers filming portions of the proceedings, one from the IEEE, and two using `Olelo Community Media equipment: Jeff Davis (Hawaii's Solar Guy) and myself. Our films will be aired on `Olelo.


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