Energy Roundup: Solar Gets Bigger, Oil Gets Hit, and Ice Will Cool Your Home

Hello SECers!

Welcome to the first of many energy roundups – energy news from around the web, specially curated just for you!

In this first edition, we’re looking at major developments in the solar industry, novel proofs-of-concept for both photovoltaics and wind, an intelligent ice-based cooling system goes commercial, and a report from the folks at MIT saying that China can keep growing while lowering carbon emissions. Meanwhile, oil companies across the globe continue to have financial problems, as Italy’s Eni becomes the latest to lose a cool eight billion dollars. On the bright side for Big Oil, and the not-so-bright-side for everyone else, U.S. oil demand went up last quarter, as cheap gas made consumers forget about Teslas for the time being.

What We’re Reading

The Light Stuff: Solar

  1. SunEdison and a subsidiary of the state-owned Chinese company Jinneng Group, Jinergy Clean Energy Technology Company, are partnering for the creation of a 1.5 gigawatt integrated N-type mono-crystalline hetero-junction solar cell production facility in Shanxi Jinzhong Industrial Park, Shanxi, China, according to recent reports.
  2. A $750 million solar manufacturing facility in Buffalo, owned and operated by the solar giant SolarCity, will produce a gigawatt of high-efficiency solar panels per year and make the technology far more attractive to homeowners. The facility will make SolarCity a vertically integrated manufacturer and provider—doing everything from making the solar cells to putting them on rooftops. The new factory could transform both SolarCity’s business, which has consistently lost money, and the economics of residential solar power.
  3. Swiss developer HopSol has selected First Solar modules for a 5MW project in Namibia in southern Africa. The Otjozondjupa Solar Park is set to be Namibia’s largest grid-connected PV project when completed later this year, accounting for around 1% of the country’s total generation capacity.

The Crude Stuff: Oil & the Carbon Economy

  1. U.S. oil demand rose modestly in December from a year earlier, the first rise since August, as warm weather and low prices at the pump boosted driving rates, offsetting lackluster demand for heating oil, government data showed on Monday.
  2. The dismal state of oil and gas pricing across the globe continued to weigh heavily on European energy firms, most recently Italy’s Eni. According to press reports, the company reported an a loss of about 8.5 billion in the final quarter of 2015, adding Eni to the growing number of firms struggling as global prices remain low.
  3. Wall Street analysts have slashed expectations for US earnings in the first quarter as companies grapple with plummeting oil prices and slow economic growth. The growing pessimism comes amid a brutal start to the year for the stock market during which the S&P 500 has been marked by volatility as the outlook for global economic growth darkens, led by uncertainty over the slowdown in China.
  4. A new study co-authored by an MIT professor shows that China’s new efforts to price carbon could lower the country’s carbon dioxide emissions significantly without impeding economic development over the next three decades.

The Good Stuff: Cleantech, Disruption, and the Future

  1. The Cleantech Forum took place last month in San Francisco, with Energy Storage, China, and the Internet of Things the key topics discussed. Optimism was high on all fronts, with developments in energy storage in particular being likened to developments in solar 10 years ago.
  2. Ice Energy has introduced the Ice Bear 20, a thermal residential energy storage solution which will be used by utilities, with a consumer product slated to come out in 2017 as well. The device enables homeowners to use solar over-generation to make ice, and then use this stored ice to cool their home when later in the day.
  3. Researches at MIT have developed the thinnest, lightest solar cells ever produced. The lightweight cells could be placed on almost any material or surface, including your hat, shirt, or smartphone. The laboratory proof-of-concept shows a new approach to making solar cells that could help power the next generation of portable electronic devices.
  4. Inspired by the way palm trees move in high winds, a group of researchers at the University of Virginia and Sandia National Laboratory are developing an extremely long wind turbine blade that could make it possible to construct 50-megawatt turbines—far beyond the power of today’s, which tend to produce just two megawatts. The blades would be 200 meters long, 2.5 times the length of the longest blades commercially available today.

If you have any more cool news, comments, or feedback, email us and let us know! And if you’re anywhere near the Farm next week, remember to roll out to Energy 360 at the GSB (details here)!