China’s Panda Solar Station, which calls for teenagers to join in the fight against climate change, has gained recognition from various walks of life in the country.
The solar station project was initiated by China Merchants New Energy (CMNE) and has now gathered 10 leading solar companies and established a dream team.
The first Panda Solar Station laid its foundation in Datong, Shanxi Province, in north China, on Nov. 22, 2016.
It is estimated that the Datong Panda Solar Station will be completed and connected to the grid at the end of June 2017.
The idea of the Panda Solar Station was first raised by Chinese teenager Li Yan Tung Ada. The station adopts both black monocrystalline silicon module and offwhite thin film PV module, making it look like a panda from above, hence the name. The “panda” will be able to smile following the sun’s movement.
The Datong Panda Power Station’s install capacity will reach 100MW. It can save 1.06 million tons of coal, reduce 2.74 million tons of CO2 emission, 27,400 tons of SO2 emission, 24,000 tons of NOX emission, 1,600 tons of dust emission during its 25 years of power generation.
In the next 5 years, CMNE plans to build 100 panda power stations around the world, according to the company’s CEO Li Yuan. In each country, the panda pattern will be combined with local animals, such as koala and rhinoceros.
Kenya prepares to expand solar mini-grids into poorest rural areas
Kenya plans to launch a $150 million project this year to bring solar electricity to markets, schools, shops and homes in poor, off-grid areas without existing power access, officials say.
The effort, expected to receive World Bank funding in March, would bring mini-grid solar plants to areas of 14 counties categorised by Kenya’s government as marginalised, according to World Bank documents.
Such off-grid systems are the cleanest and most cost effective way to bring electrical power to poor areas, particularly those sparsely populated, Kenyan officials said.
“Solar photovoltaics and mini-grids are the most effective way of supplying power to settlements with 300-400 inhabitants, and Kenya is one of the best prepared countries in Africa in providing such solutions,” said Pavel Oimeke, the director of renewable energy at Kenya’s Energy Regulatory Commission.
The country has more than 400 registered companies that can fulfil solar energy contracts, and more than 300 technicians trained and approved by the government to support the systems, Oimeke said.
Under the new project, solar mini-grids would be used to supply market centres, community facilities, and some households, according to planning documents. In more isolated areas, households would be equipped with home solar systems. New solar power capacity also would be used to pump water to supply homes and fields.
“Evidence suggests that PV (photovoltaic) powered water pumping significantly reduces the cost of water extraction through lower operational and maintenance costs,” a World Bank project document noted.
As part of the planned project, schools would get new solar-powered borehole wells while some communities would be equipped with water systems powered by solar pumps. Existing diesel-powered pumping systems would be retrofitted with hybrid solar systems, according to planning documents.
The plan also provides for technical assistance and training to help make the scheme more sustainable.
Rabia Ferroukhi, head of policy at the International Renewable Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organisation based in Abu Dhabi, said in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation that she believes the time has come for a paradigm shift in how off-grid systems are deployed, focusing less on power generation and more on using them to support jobs and incomes.
That would help them make a greater contribution to achieving the Sustainable Development goals, she said.
Using solar electricity to power irrigation pumps, process harvests and create cold storage could transform rural lives by providing better crop yields, higher incomes and a reduction in drudge work, she said.
“By linking mini-grid supply with productive uses such as agriculture, rural industries, market centres (and) schools, the socio-economic impacts can be maximised which in turn improves the ability of consumers to afford energy supply,” Ferroukhi said.
World first solar panel roadway opens in French town
It may be situated in a small French village that doesn't see that much sun, but the Normandy town of Tourouvre has opened the world's first solar roadway, bringing the hugely popular idea into reality.
The notion of paving roadways with solar panels to meet our energy needs is very appealing, but for the longest time it has remained largely a theoretical one.
The newly launched French roadway is just one kilometre long but that works out to be 2800 square metres of photovoltaic cells - enough, theoretically, to power the village's street lights.
The resin-coated solar panels were hooked up to the local power grid just in time for Christmas as France's Environment Minister Segolene Royal looked on last week.
"This new use of solar energy takes advantage of large swathes of road infrastructure already in use ... to produce electricity without taking up new real estate," she said in a statement.
The one kilometre road is set to pave the way for to construction of much bigger solar highways in the future.
The minister announced a four-year "plan for the national deployment of solar highways" with initial projects in western Brittany and southern Marseille.
The idea, which is also under exploration in Germany, the Netherlands and the United States, is that roadways are occupied by cars only around 20 per cent of the time, providing vast expanses of surface to soak up the sun's rays.
The simple idea bestowes and secondary - and equally important - purpose for roads by allowing them to double as an energy source.
But critics are still waiting to see how practical and cost-effective solar roads can be.
Andrew Thomson, a solar researcher at the Australian National University, admits the idea is attractive but has some serious reservations about the practicality of the idea at this stage.
"It's a really attractive looking idea," Dr Thomson told news.com.au in July.
"[While] it's technically feasible, it's very expensive. I don't really think there's a market for it, the opportunity cost is very much against it," he said.
One day such technology could revolutionise roadways, energy infrastructure and even how cars work and interact with the road. However there are plenty of kinks to be worked out before solar roadways will be genuinely embraced around the world.
Such roadblocks include the high cost of building and maintaining sturdy solar roadways able to be driven on by heavy trucks, safety concerns with the surface of the solar panels potentially becoming slippery as they wear down, and the poorer performance of placing solar panels flat as opposed to tilting them towards the sun.
A similar project in the Netherlands which saw a 70-metre stretch of solar panels installed on a cycling lane north of Amsterdam in 2014 experienced some damage in the city's recent Winter but the problem has since been resolved, according to the company carrying out the project.
But the smart tech used in solar roads holds a number of potential benefits. The panels contain LED lights to create lines and signage without paint, allowing for more flexibility with road signs and can warn drivers when animals are crossing the road ahead.
They contain heating elements to prevent snow and ice accumulation, making roads safer in freezing conditions. And the panels have microprocessors, which allows them to communicate with each other, a central control station, and vehicles.
One person who is an optimistic proponent of the idea for solar roads is Australia's favourite scientist, Dr Karl.
"It's an interesting concept. I like the idea," he told news.com.au.
He has been ruminating on the notion of solar roads for the past 25 years and believes it could be used to make up a "small portion" of Australia's renewable energy.
"The advantage of using roads as solar cells is that it's not a part of the world that people are in love with, so they're happy for you to put stuff there, like solar cells," he said.
Dr Karl believes projects like the one in France could help pave the way for solar roads to be built in Australia.
"I see solar roads as a small part of the overall package of renewable beautifulness. I don't see it as the only solution," he said.