solar energy

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The solar eclipse has long been a research opportunity for astronomers and physicists. Now, energy researchers are taking part, too.

That's because the eclipse will disrupt U.S. solar energy production. It won't be a big disruption because solar still takes up a relatively small amount of the energy grid, but it'll happen when energy use is at its peak, and it’ll do so in a very predictable way across a huge area.

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In Wyoming’s coal-rich Powder River Basin, the city of Sheridan is exploring how renewable sources of energy might fit into its future. The local government applied for a $44,000 research grant that the Wyoming Business Council approved earlier this month.

Now their proposal will go before the governor’s State Land and Investment Board for final approval. The town’s leaders have been looking into wind, solar, and hydropower development since the 1990s, and a recent economic study found that a lack of renewable development in Sheridan could be a deal-breaker for tech companies.

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The Obama Administration announced the approval of two major transmission lines, one that will travel 728 miles across southern Wyoming to Nevada, delivering 3,000 megawatts of energy, enough to power 1.8 million homes. A second 400-mile transmission line called Energy Gateway South has also been approved for Utah.

Some 60 new wind, solar and geothermal projects are slated for development around the West. Bureau of Land Management spokesman Brad Purdy said, the energy grid is in need of such modernization. 

Dan Boyce / Inside Energy

  

For the poorest amongst us, paying every bill can be a struggle, including the power bill. Solar power hasn’t really been a go-to option for those at the bottom, but that’s starting to change. Colorado’s largest utility – Xcel energy –  recently announced an expansion of a program to provide solar energy to low income residents. Its part of a proposed settlement agreement with the state’s public utility commission.

KQED

 

Solar energy records are falling left and right in California these days, as the state steams ahead toward its ambitious renewable energy goals.

But the success of solar has brought about a hidden downside: on some perfectly sunny days, solar farms are being told to turn off.

That’s because in the spring and fall, when Californians aren’t using much air conditioning and demand for electricity is low, the surge of midday solar power is more than the state can use.

philipwarburg.com

  

In recent years, solar energy has gone from the fringe to mainstream. Solar costs have dropped dramatically while solar installations have similarly increased. Solar still provides less than 1 percent of the nation’s power, and in states like Wyoming, it’s virtually nonexistent. But many predict solar power will play a much larger role in the future.

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U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack toured Snake River Brewing in Jackson yesterday. His department's Rural Energy for America Program - called REAP for short - gave the brewery a $13,000 grant to put solar panels on its roof.

Vilsack says that REAP shows how government can give small businesses a hand.

"Here's a place where the government is making a difference. You might have done this at some point in time, but you would not have done it now but for the REAP grant."

The Brewery's Chris Erickson agrees.

Creative Energies

    

With its big blue skies and high altitude, Wyoming's solar potential is among the best in the nation, but even as residential rooftop solar has boomed recently in places like California, Colorado and New Jersey, it's barely made any inroads in the state. Economics and politics both play a role, but with the price of photovoltaics continuing to drop, some people are starting to ask whether momentum is building for solar in nation's largest coal-producing state. 

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The number of jobs in Wyoming related to solar energy has increased by almost 600 percent in just over a year. That's according to a report from the Solar Foundation. The report shows that out of 340 solar-related jobs in the state, 290 of them were added since 2012.

Ten solar energy companies are operating in the state. But Bruce Parkinson with UW's School of Energy Resources says many of the installed systems are privately owned and off the grid.

Researchers seek to perfect cheaper solar panels

Oct 14, 2013

Scientists at the University of Wyoming are trying to improve solar energy by using nanotechnology.

Researcher Wenyong Wang says nanotechnology involves using very small particles to create solar panels. He says that’s different than how most solar panels are made.

“Commercialized panels are based on silicon,” Wang said. “And right now I think the efficiency is very good – it’s close to 30 percent. … But the disadvantage is that the cost is very high.”

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced the approval of three major renewable energy projects on public lands. Jewell emphasized her commitment to President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy and said one of her top priorities was to continue the work started by her predecessor, Ken Salazar, to expand the nation’s renewable energy portfolio.