"I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that." We have come a long way since these words of wisdom from Thomas Edison way back in 1931! Solar energy or photovoltaic (PV), a key component in the renewable energy mix, continues to grow, with a record 57 GWp installed in 2015. The compound annual growth rate of PV installations was 41 % in the 2000 to 2015 period (Fraunhofer ISE). Wafer-based crystalline silicon is still the dominant technology, accounting for more than 90% of global PV production. Still playing catch up are the many thin film technologies led by cadmium telluride (CdTe). The early predictions of thin film technologies surge did not materialize, resulting in the failure of many startups. But the technologies are alive and well, amidst continuing efforts to lower cost and improve conversion efficiency. Advanced materials still hold the keys to success in the race to boost PV efficiency levels.

The Future in Storage is Long (Part 2)

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Lithium Ion technology has a huge head start in the energy storage market. While many of the cost reductions are behind us, costs over time will continue to drop. (Part 1) Nevertheless, our entrepreneurial world is full of companies who have looked at that chemistry and said, “There has got to be a better way!”

The Future in Storage is Long

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Can you imagine producing a product of value and being forced to pay someone to take it off your hands? Well, that is the situation that some renewable energy producers have faced over the last year. Now, this typically occurs during lower demand periods, perhaps when a particularly gusty weather front rolls through. But as renewable penetration increases, the phenomenon will proliferate unless an adequate storage buffer is put in place. Fortunately this is starting to occur. According to GTM and the Energy Storage Association, US energy storage installations increased in 2015 by 243% over the previous year with the installation of 221 MW of capacity, over half of that occurring in the last quarter.

Thermoelectrics Deserve Some Heat

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Would you be surprised to learn that the most advanced economy in the world is only forty percent efficient at utilizing its key input?   Shockingly, of the 100 Quads of energy consumed in the United States in 2014, only 40 quads performed useful services such as cooling a building or transporting the kids to soccer practice.  The remaining was lost as heat.  A shameful waste or a tremendous opportunity?   

Oil: The Biggest Economic News of 2014

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The precipitous drop in the price of oil and an almost equal sell off in oil stocks has been the most significant financial and perhaps industrial event of 2014. Even bigger than Alibaba’s IPO in September.