The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 Solar Satellite

The Planetary Society have launched a solar satellite which has been named the Lightsail 2. The solar sailing Cubesat device will be in orbit for the rest of August. Let’s learn more about the solar sailing technology and what the Planetary Society hope to achieve with the launch of this fascinating new piece of technology! 

The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 Solar Satellite

The Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 Solar Satellite (source: planetary.org)

The concept of ‘solar sailing’ means that an object will be moved by photons escaping the sun’s gravitational pull. According to Popular Mechanics, It’s the second ever solar sailing object to fly – with the solar satellite following IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun) from Japan, which launched in 2010. IKAROS certainly has the cooler name, but the LightSail 2 has some superior technology – an aluminzed (a coating of aluminum alloy) Mylar sail and far better uptime.

“For The Planetary Society, this moment has been decades in the making,” said Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye. “Carl Sagan talked about solar sailing when I was in his class in 1977. But the idea goes back at least to 1607, when Johannes Kepler noticed that comet tails must be created by energy from the sun. The LightSail 2 mission is a game-changer for spaceflight and advancing space exploration.”

“We’re thrilled to announce mission success for LightSail 2,” LightSail program manager and Planetary Society chief scientist Bruce Betts said. “Our criteria was to demonstrate controlled solar sailing in a CubeSat by changing the spacecraft’s orbit using only the light pressure of the sun, something that’s never been done before. I’m enormously proud of this team. It’s been a long road and we did it.”

If you’re interest in reading more, the Planetary Society have created a site named Mission Control where you’re able to track the LightSail 2 in space. To visit Mission Control please click here

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Solar Waste – What’s the state of solar panel recycling?

Solar waste is a currently unavoidable byproduct of Australia’s obsession with solar power. But what do we do with these panels when they reach end of life? Let’s take a look at solar panel recycling and what the current climate is, helped by a recent ABC Radio show about the topic.

Solar Waste and solar panel recycling – a primer.

We wrote about recycling solar panels back in January, but a new interview with Reclaim PV (who we talk about in the other article too) has some more information about this critical issue. 

A radio program by the ABC had some very interesting thoughts on the topic – you can listen to it here

The panel included:

  • Jeremy Hunt, solar panel installer
  • Professor Rodney Stewart, Griffith University
  • Clive Fleming, solar panel recycler, Reclaim PV
  • Andrew Gilhooly, Sunpower

With two million houses in Australia now enjoying the fruits of renewable energy and installing solar on their rooftop, their lifespan of 10-15-20 years is now starting to slowly fizzle out, especially for the early adopters. However there’s a huge issue to do with disposing of the solar PV waste in an environmentally friendly fashion.

Professor Rodney Stewart from Griffith University estimates that by 2050, we’ll have 1,500 kilotons of solar waste which will be sent to landfill unless we can figure out a more intelligent way to dispose of something supposed to help the environment. 

Solar Waste - Reclaim PV
Solar Waste – Reclaim PV (source: reclaimpv.com)

The only company in Australia to recycle panels is Reclaim PV in Adelaide, who take in 50,000 per year, but only panels manufactured without toxic chemicals. They then, according to owner Clive Fleming,

“…get the cells, completely separate that as well for the silver contacts, the aluminium and then the silicone to provide those back out to industry.”

According to the ABC program host Emilia Terzon, the Federal Government says it’s committed $167 million to an Australian recycling investment plan and state and federal environment ministers are expected to discuss how to tackle solar waste when they meet later this year. The Government is looking to set rules around how the industry deals with dead solar panels – adding them to the Product Stewardship Act, which mandates how electronic waste is dealt with.

Australian Council of Recycling chief executive Peter Schmigel also had a quote in the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this year about how a proper plan for recycling PV cells could have a positive effect on the economy:

“Recovery rates have been out of sight since the beginning of the scheme, nobody has said anything at all about there being an inbuilt recycling cost. It generates jobs, it generates environmental outcomes and yet for some reason we have policymakers who are hesitant about [establishing similar schemes] for solar PVs and batteries,” he said.

Watch this space. There will be plenty more on this topic as panels continue to reach EOL (end of life) and the policymakers are forced into action. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Redeployable solar trial at shopping centres

Redeployable solar is a very interesting topic as the issue of solar panel recycling comes to the fore. This week ARENA have announced funding for redeployable commercial solar via Australian startup Solpod. 

Redeployable solar

Redeployable solar – on Friday the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) announced funding for an Australian start up (Solpod Pty Ltd (Solpod)) to trial the installation of movable solar panels on commercial and government building rooftops. 

According to a post on the ARENA website, the startup has undertaken trials with ARENA, ERM Power, GPT and Property NSW.

Redeployable Solar Solpod
Redeployable Solar Solpod (source: solpod.com

Arena CEO Darren Miller, who took over from previous head Ivor Frischknecht last year, was quoted discussing the redeployable solar and their partnership with Solpod:

“Solpod’s new way of installing solar will pave the way for businesses who were previously locked out of rooftop solar to take up renewable energy solutions and options under shorter term power purchase agreements.

“This Australian start up will help to accelerate solar PV innovation and allows for renewable energy alternatives in niche markets, providing a cost-competitive alternative to standard methods of fixed mounting for delivering rooftop grid connected solar PV,” Mr Miller said.

There were also some comments from founder and CEO of Solpod James Larratt, who discussed the new ‘game-changing’ tech:

“Despite rooftop solar being cheaper and more sustainable than the grid, many businesses have made the rational decision to not adopt solar because of other factors such as length of commitment, disruption on site and damage to buildings. Solpod is the game-changer that removes these barriers and enables businesses to capture the savings in energy costs.”

“Solpod’s solution can adapt to meet individual business needs. For businesses that rent their premises, Solpod can offer short-term contracts to match lease terms. For landlords, Solpod allows flexibility for changing site use and will not damage the roof,” he said.

You can learn more about Solpod’s relocatable commercial solar via their website.

 

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Floating Solar Power in Lithuania

Floating Solar Power in Lithuania is the next big thing as a grant has been given for a floating solar photovoltaic power plant to be built alongside the 900MW Kruonis hydroelectric plant. 

Floating Solar Power in Lithuania

Floating Solar Power in Lithuania – this will be the first floating solar power plant in the Baltics and is an exciting step in the right direction for the small country. The Lithuanian Business Support Agency (LSBA) granted €235,000 (~$370k AUD) for construction of an experimental floating solar photovoltaic power plant at the 900-megawatt (MW) Kruonis hydroelectric plant in Lithuania. 

“The floating solar power plant at Kruonis is one of the ideas that could help Lithuania to become an international leader in renewable energy solutions,” said Darius Maikstenas, chairman and CEO of LEG.

Floating Solar Power in Lithuania
Floating Solar Power in Lithuania (source: Worldbank.org)

Renewable Energy in Lithuania represented 27.9% of the country’s overall electricity in 2016. With wind capacity of 178 MW installed in 2016 and average power usage of 1.1 GW, Lithuania was the EU member state with the highest level of new wind capacity installed in 2016 (relative to its power consumption).

According to an article on DW.com, over 65% of the current existing floating solar in the EU is located within the UK, with the Netherlands in second place. 

A world bank report entitled “Where Sun Meets Water” from November last year shows that our current floating solar capacity is 1.1GW – which could grow to up to 400GW if things go in the right direction. 

“Floating solar technology has huge advantages for countries where land is at a premium or where electricity grids are weak,” said Riccardo Puliti, Senior Director for Energy and Extractives at the World Bank. “Governments and investors are waking up to these advantages, and we are starting to see interest from a wide range of countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.”

If you want to read the report please click here to download: Where Sun Meets Water: Floating Solar Market Report (PDF)

If you’re interested in the technology, we have written plenty more about floating solar power here! 

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Bifacial solar panels for commercial solar.

Vicinity Centres, who will provide 31MW of clean energy to 22 shopping centres and their retailers by the end of the year, is trialling bifacial solar panels to see how that will affect their choices for stage 3 of Vicinity’s solar program.

Bifacial solar panels for commercial solar.

According to an article in PV Magazine, the first bifacial panels were installed at Kurralta Central Shopping Centre to get a better yield from their available roof space. Initial tests showed 6-8% to 16-18% increased output (they tried a bunch of different locations and coatings on the roof to maximise output). 

 “It’s early days,” said Renae Sambrooks, General Manager of Energy and Commercial Management for Vicinity, “but results from Kurralta made us feel confident enough to install bifacials in three more centres.

“Over the next few months results of those trials will help us make decisions around our Stage 3 solar program,” she said in comments quoted in PV Magazine.

We’ve reported fairly comprehensively about Vicinity Centres and solar investment in the past – we’re also taken a look at the Stockland shopping centres and their commercial solar investment.

“As of today,” Sambrooks said, “we’ve produced 2.5MWh of clean energy from 13MW of installed capacity and we’re in the process of constructing the next 18 MW, which will be completed by the end of 2019.”

There are a few other bifacial solar panels available:

An article in Green Tech Media notes that the bifacial PERC modules can boost performance by a staggering 27%. 

The Bifacial Solar Panels at Kurralta are one of the first steps Vicinity Centres are making to end up with their 31MW of renewable energy output – Sambrooks discussed the long term goal:

“Our vision was to create intelligent energy destinations. We’re not just whacking solar panels on roofs. It’s a long-term investment and we’re always thinking how we can sweat the solar installations and all our other energy initiatives to make a return.”

Still very early days, so we’ll keep you updated how they go with the testing and what Vicinity decide to do with regards to commercial solar panels.

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