Google’s new US data centers will run on 1.6 million solar panels


Google plans to purchase 100 percent renewable energy for its data centers and offices in the US and around the world.

Google will amp up its expansion in the southeastern US with millions of solar panels.

Google wants the electricity consumed by its new data centers in Yum Yum, Tennessee, and Hollywood, Alabama, to be “matched with 100 percent renewable energy from day one.” To meet this goal, the search giant said Wednesday it’s struck a multi-year deal with the Tennessee Valley Authority to purchase output from several new solar farms, which will total 413 megawatts of power from 1.6 million solar panels.

The two largest solar farms will produce roughly 150 megawatts each, according to a Google blog post. They’ll be among the largest renewable energy projects in the Tennessee Valley region, Google said, and the biggest solar farms ever built for the search giant.

Google said in 2016 that the company planned to source carbon-free electricity on a 24/7 basis for each data center. The search giant tried to reach 100 percent renewable energy purchasing goal in 2017. So far, Google has sourced carbon-free energy for its data centers in Finland, Netherlands, Taiwan, North Carolina and Iowa, according to Google’s October 2018 report.



Petronas in talks to enter India’s solar energy firm, says report

KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 16):Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) is seeking to buy into one of India’s largest rooftop solar power producers, Indian business newspaper Mint reported.

Quoting sources, the report said Petronas is currently in talks with private equity firm I Squared Capital to buy into Amplus Energy Solutions Pvt Ltd in a deal that could be worth 2,700 crore rupees (RM1.56 billion).

Amplus, which was founded in 2010, has already set up solar power generation capacity of 350 megawatt (MW) across India, the report said. In 2015, I Squared Capital invested US$150 million (RM616.35 million) in the solar energy firm.

“The talks are on for Petronas to acquire a majority stake in Amplus,” Mint quoted one source as saying. Another source, who also did not want to be named, confirmed the development.

Petronas has not responded to questions by on the matter.

Mint said queries emailed to Gautam Bhandari, founder of I Squared Capital, managing director Andreas Moon and India head Harsh Agrawal on Jan 11, were also unanswered.

Apart from Petronas, Amplus has also garnered the attention of other oil majors, including Norway’s Statoil ASA, France’s Total SA and Royal Dutch Shell Plc, according to the report.

Globally, oil majors have begun venturing into renewable energy amid the volatile oil market, as well as increasing demand towards cleaner energy sources.

Back home, Petronas already has some small solar power assets such as its plant in Gebeng, Pahang, and has conducted research on solar panels on the rooftop of the Suria KLCC Mall.

Last November, Reuters reported Petronas has set up a new business within the group, especially to look into the renewable energy sector.

The renewable energy push is one of Petronas’ three-pronged growth strategy, aside from extension of value chain and maximising cash generation, president and group chief executive officer Tan Sri Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin said in an interview in December.

Malaysia, where Petronas is based, is undertaking a third round of large scale solar (LSS) project tender worth an estimated RM2 billion, with 500MW generation capacity.

Under the LSS programme, the government has targeted to add 2.2GW of solar generation capacity between 2017 and 2020. This pales in comparison with India’s 2022 target of 40GW from rooftop solar projects alone.



Why The Solar Energy Market Will Thrive In Africa And Globally – Lou Kraft, SolSuntech CEO

Lou Kraft is the CEO of SolSuntech Inc. – a solar panel manufacturing company that recently introduced 3D solar panels producing an ultra-high 33% efficiency. Currently, no other solar panel on the market is capable of achieving such levels of performance. Mr. Kraft’s next step is to make this innovative technology available to African and global markets.

With multiple factors, two of the more widespread being the continual declining cost of solar manufacturing and various legislations aimed at reducing carbon footprint,  the renewable energy market continues to thrive on a global scale. SolSuntech’s primary target markets are the fast growing cities and those overpopulated within Africa, Asia, the United States and Europe, and other developed and emerging markets where installation space is constrained.

I recently caught up with Mr. Kraft to briefly discuss his new technology and how it best benefits his company’s contribution to the emerging solar energy market.

Lou, your company has created an innovative technology that significantly modifies current installation and system sizing to achieve the most dollars of energy generated per square foot for anyone wanting solar energy. Can you tell us more about your technology?

Thank you for asking, absolutely! In general, manufacturers of solar cells produce flat plane panels.. Their disadvantage is that their energy efficiency is limited to approximately 17-19%. There is a higher grade of solar panel known as “ Tier 1”  which are classified as a high efficiency panels and sell at a premium price. These panels currently produce 21- 22%.  Our panel produces a consistent 33% ,which is  approximately 50% higher output than Tier 1 units and nominally 100% higher than common units of the non-Tier 1 class..

The 3D technology we work with has been attempted, but little to no success was achieved to actually make it work. Our R&D center engineers spent years of trial and error and were finally  able to invent and use a special cutting technology that allows a silicon wafer to be sliced in a specific manner without fracturing it. The result of this process is the integrity of  the corrugated cell is not damaged and is considered manufacturing material wise solid. With the puzzle solved the company has engineered and implemented these unique machines and these are the art of the cutting process that produces the 3 dimensional cell. We believe that our product is the only one that exists today that is solid enough to put to the manufacturing process in a production for volume type facility and continually deliver 33% efficiency and still provide a competitive warranty.

Can you elaborate on which market and which countries you are mainly targeting? What are your priorities right now?

Our global strategy is to produce a solar panel with a 33% efficiency. We are currently  looking to sell this product thru distributors. Our first year assumed one plant output will be 100 megawatts of solar power.  Beyond year one, our goal for the next five years is to reach 500 megawatts at a minimum. As plants are brought on line, economies of scale with correct building sizing will allow increased capacity. We are currently focused on the US Residential and Small Commercial markets with the large markets of Europe and Asia also viable. The next step will be to bring the product to developing regions such as South America, Africa and the Caribbean. The key driver of where our product fits best in where electricity rates are the highest and many of these locations also have the greatest demand at any given time ( Peak and/or Off Peak Hours) We are in discussions with  Latin American distributors as well as any geographic area  that can  benefit best from our panels..  We are selling premium panels that far exceed the current Tier 1 outputs so the market for our product has to be correct. The research and numbers tell us where we need to be selling. The entire world is becoming aware that solar is a key answer to the world’s energy needs and society is now leaning towards it with huge expectations. Thus in a scenario such as this there are no market limitations.

Can you tell us little bit more about your team and who supports your project?

Our parent company, Suntech is based in South Korea along with our R&D facility.

Years of investments of time and upwards of $7MM (USD) were spent on the cutting process to produce a stress and fracture free 3 dimensional solar cell.  The project  required a strong think-tank of strong backgrounds in various disciplines including PhD’s and professors, a former CEO of a solar company and a member of the Korea Energy Agency all collaborating and working side by side until the end result was achieved.  Immediately upon achieving the goal, a South Korean patent was applied for and granted while International patents are also in process.  All in all a total of 4 patents have been granted.

Suntech ( the parent company) maintains and sells thru relationships with Korean suppliers in its LED and related businesses.

The US state of Virginia has proposed a strong incentives package of nearly $5.5MM USD for SolSuntech to bring its manufacturing operations to their state.  The package is made of typical workforce training incentives, abated property taxes, abated sales and use tax on Machinery & Equipment, Leasehold Improvement etc.

What attracts you to developing countries?

The current times have seen an unprecedented level of human charity and support for equality across the globe.  Billionaires are bequeathing +/-90 of their fortunes back to the people. Profit is nice but there is a human element involved in what we do and the product we provide.  Power benefits everyone and renewable power also benefits the environment.  Solar allows countries with poor grid systems to have some version of reliable power.  Micro-Grids can be created and renewables are not dependent on external factors.

If we talk about Africa, this continent has a great potential. Africa is one of the sunniest continent in the world, 85 percent of African land receives more than 2,000 kilowatt-hours of solar energy per square meter per year. Almost 70% of the population of African countries is located in the Sahara and the surrounding areas do not have access to the grid. With the help of Solar and Micro-Grid technologies, an energy revolution can happen in Africa. Solar energy will help them reduce their dependence on traditional fuels, such as coal and oil, and increase the share of renewable energy sources in their energy mix.

Governments are putting up large dollars in investments and energy as a basic necessity is at the front of the line. The realignment of solar pricing in additions to huge monetary inflows offers a huge potential for solar and this is evidenced by the world’s strong embrace of it and it’s continued build-out.




Hanwha Q Cells ranks top in German solar module market

Hanwha Q Cells, the solar cell manufacturing arm of Hanwha Group, took up the largest share in the German solar module market last year, according to German research firm EuPD Research.

Hanwha’s share in the market stood at 11.5 percent, up 4.3 percent from 2017. It is followed by two German firms, Heckert Solar and IBC Solar, which had 8.2 percent and 7 percent share each.

Hanwha Q Cell

Its major products in the module area are Q.HOME, a household energy storage solution that comprises modules, inverters and batteries, as well as Q.FLAT, a commercial solar power installation solution.

Despite the US and China being the two biggest markets for Hanwha, the Korean firm is moving to diversify its destinations as the trade conflicts between the world’s two largest economies are weighing on the solar power business.

Washington’s tariff increase on imported solar power products and Beijing’s cutting incentives resulted in falling demand and an oversupply in the global market.

“We will step up efforts to advance into the European premium market with our leading-edge technologies and products,” said Hanwha Q Cells CEO Kim Hee-cheul.

In August of last year, Hanwha Group announced the investment of 9 trillion won (8 billion) by 2022 for its solar power business, including expansion of facilities and plants of Hanwha Q Cells and Hanwha Energy.


ABB Powers-up Service Crew at Dakar Rally 2019 with Solar Energy

A pioneering motorsport team, Craft Bearings, has adopted ABB REACT 2 inverter and energy storage solution to help achieve its most ambitious target yet – to become the first team in Dakar Rally history to reduce its use of traditional diesel generators and be 100 percent solar powered for the service and support team.

Working in close collaboration with its partner, SoliTek, ABB’s efficient REACT 2 solar storage solution, has been installed as part of an off-grid solar installation on the Craft Bearings multipurpose Service truck. The set-up is being used to harness enough solar energy during the day to support the service and ancillary team as they undertake essential repairs to the race cars at night, as well as supply power to the team’s bivouacs, media and IT center.

The Dakar rally, which is currently underway in Peru, 6th to 17th January 2019, is known and respected as one of the most challenging and toughest events in motorsport. Often the routes take in mountainous and rocky terrains combined with extreme heat and dry conditions in very remote locations. As such, all the crews require access to remote power, which has traditionally been supplied by diesel generator sets.

For the 2019 event, the Craft Bearings team has set itself an ambitious target of reducing its dependence on temporary diesel power. It is aiming to generate 100 percent of its energy needed for service and supporting infrastructure in its multipurpose truck from solar, taking advantage of the South American climate.

To support the team, six bifacial solar panels measuring 10sqm have been installed on the roof of the main service lorry and include the latest photovoltaic (PV) panels, supplied by SoliTek.

These new generation PV panels are ultra-durable and toughened to withstand the terrain in South America and can absorb the suns energy from the front side and rear side. This enables the panels to produce 25 percent more energy than one-sided solar panels.

This energy efficient hybrid power system features ABB’s market leading technology, REACT 2, selected because of its higher IP class and large storage capacity. The ABB team also installed a frequency converter, ABB ACS355 drive, in order to control the 3-phase compressor and avoid over limits of the system.

The modular solution, along with the inclusion of a high-voltage Lithium-Ion battery (200 V), with a long life and a storage capacity of up to 12 kWh, delivers more reliability and up to 10 percent more system efficiency compared to lower voltage alternatives (48 V). This technology therefore makes it ideal to harness the sun’s energy in South America and use it productively in such challenging and remote locations as seen in the Dakar Rally. During times of reduced sunlight, ABB also provided two external battery blocks to harness and utilize the stored energy.

It is estimated that the current system will enable the service and support team to work for full two days without using any external power sources.

Giovanni Frassineti, Global Product Group Manager for ABB’s solar inverter business said: “This latest installation demonstrates how solar can be used and adapted across a number of competitive applications to promote cleaner and greener energy. We are very excited to see how the team perform and wish them all the best in Peru.”

As demand for smarter solutions and connectivity continues, the Craft Bearings team will also take advantage of ABB Ability™ with REACT 2 to deliver intelligent control over their storage needs and manage their energy production and consumption during the race. This means the team principals will be able to control peaks and troughs in the energy flow and should be able to meet their 100 percent solar energy target for the coverage of service energy needs.

Antanas Juknevicius, professional rally driver for Craft Bearings commented: “We are very much looking forward to this year’s competition and hope to have full power and independent power for the duration of the race from solar. We want to be the brightest and quietest crew in Dakar.”

ABB (ABBN: SIX Swiss Ex) is a pioneering technology leader in power grids, electrification products, industrial automation and robotics and motion, serving customers in utilities, industry and transport & infrastructure globally. Continuing a history of innovation spanning more than 130 years, ABB today is writing the future of industrial digitalization with two clear value propositions: bringing electricity from any power plant to any plug and automating industries from natural resources to finished products. As title partner in ABB Formula E, the fully electric international FIA motorsport class, ABB is pushing the boundaries of e-mobility to contribute to a sustainable future. ABB operates in more than 100 countries with about 147,000 employees.



A new way to measure solar panel degradation

Despite many benefits and relative popularity as a renewable energy source, eventually, the sun does set on even the best solar panels. Over time, solar cells face damage from weather, temperature changes, soiling, and UV exposure. Solar cells also require inspections to maintain cell performance levels and reduce economic losses.

So, how does one inspect panels in real time, in a way that is both cost-effective and time-efficient? Parveen Bhola, a research scholar at India’s Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology, and Saurabh Bhardwaj, an associate professor at the same institution, spent the last few years developing and improving statistical and machine learning-based alternatives to enable real-time inspection of solar panels. Their research found a new application for clustering-based computation, which uses past meteorological data to compute performance ratios and degradation rates. This method also allows for off-site inspection.

Clustering-based computation is advantageous for this problem because of its ability to speed up the inspection process, preventing further damage and hastening repairs, by using a performance ratio based on meteorological parameters that include temperature, pressure, wind speed, humidity, sunshine hours, solar power, and even the day of the year. The parameters are easily acquired and assessed, and can be measured from remote locations.

Improving PV cell inspection systems could help inspectors troubleshoot more efficiently and potentially forecast and control for future difficulties. Clustering-based computation is likely to shed light on new ways to manage solar energy systems, optimizing PV yields, and inspiring future technological advancements in the field.

“The majority of the techniques available calculate the degradation of PV (photovoltaic) systems by physical inspection on site. This process is time-consuming, costly, and cannot be used for the real-time analysis of degradation,” Bhola said. “The proposed model estimates the degradation in terms of performance ratio in real time.”

Bhola and Bhardwaj worked together before and developed the model to estimate solar radiation using a combination of the Hidden Markov Model and the Generalized Fuzzy Model.

The Hidden Markov Model is used to model randomly changing systems with unobserved, or hidden states; the Generalized Fuzzy Model attempts to use imprecise information in its modeling process. These models involve recognition, classification, clustering, and information retrieval, and are useful for adapting PV system inspection methods.

The benefits of real-time PV inspection go beyond time-sensitive and cost-efficient measures. This new, proposed method can also improve current solar power forecasting models. Bhola noted that the output power of a solar panel, or set of solar panels, could be forecasted with even greater accuracy. Real-time estimation and inspection also allows for real-time rapid response.

“As a result of real-time estimation, the preventative action can be taken instantly if the output is not per the expected value,” Bhola said. “This information is helpful to fine-tune the solar power forecasting models. So, the output power can be forecasted with increased accuracy.”



How do solar panels work?

Fifty years ago, solar panels were so expensive that they were used mainly for powering billion-dollar space probes, and that’s about it. But as the panels became cheaper — and as environmental worries about coal and other fossil fuels made renewable energy sources like solar more attractive — solar panels began sprouting up all over the place.

There are now enough solar panels installed in the U.S. to power about 11 million homes. Collectively, the panels produce about 1 percent of the country’s total electricity. Experts expect that share to rise sharply over the next 20 years, as solar panels get cheaper and more efficient at converting sunlight into electricity.


Solar panels generate electrical current by exploiting a phenomenon first described more than a century ago by a French physicist. In 1839, Henri Becquerel noted that silver and platinum electrodes in an acidic solution produced small amounts of electricity when exposed to light. This reaction became known as the photovoltaic effect, meaning “light into electricity.”

It wasn’t until 1954 that the first practical “solar cell” was created by scientists at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey. Their silicon-based device arrived less than a decade after researchers at Bell invented the transistor, which is now a key component of electronic devices.

“This was a golden era of solid-state devices pioneered at Bell Labs, and solar cells were one of them,” says Hugh Hillhouse, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle and a solar power expert. “The architecture of [some transistors] is very close to a solar cell… they are actually very similar to each other.”


Modern solar cells are made of semiconductor materials like silicon or cadmium telluride. Light falling on this material energizes its electrons, giving them enough energy to create a flow of electrical current.

A typical solar panel combines dozens of solar cells in an electrical circuit to produce a usable voltage, which can provide power right away or be stored in batteries for later use. Some solar power installations can feed power directly into the electricity grid.

Since the amount of electric power produced by solar panels depends on the intensity of light, they don’t work well on cloudy days and not at all at night. A common solution is to back up solar power installations with batteries that store extra power until it is needed at a later time.


For a long time, the high-quality silicon used in solar panels was hard to manufacture, which made solar panels prohibitively expensive for most applications. Their use was limited to specialized applications, like powering spacecraft.

NASA’s grapefruit-sized Vanguard 1 satellite was the first to use solar cells when it was launched in 1958, and solar panels are still used extensively in space. The International Space Station, for example, is powered by arrays of solar panels that can generate up to 120 kW of electricity — enough to power about 40 homes.


The cost of silicon used in many solar panels has dropped sharply over the last 20 years, with the result that, in the sunniest parts of the U.S., commercial solar power is now as cheap or cheaper than generating power from fossil fuels.

6 kW installation of solar panels, enough to power a typical American home, now costs about $14,000 — a fraction of what it would have cost a generation ago.

Hillhouse says that as the costs of manufacturing solar panels continue to fall, and the technologies used to make them continue to advance, solar power could eventually produce enough electricity to meet 20 to 60 percent of America’s energy needs.

“Even if all research stopped tomorrow, the economics are already such that photovoltaics are going to grow tremendously,” he says. “There is absolutely nothing that I can see that can stop the very rapid growth of solar in the next 10 to 20 years.”




TNB aims to increase customers via SARE, NEM schemes

KUANTAN (Dec 20): Tenaga Nasional Bhd is targetting to increase the number of customers next year through the implementation of the Net Energy Metering (NEM) and the Supply Agreement for Renewable Energy (SARE) schemes via its wholly-owned subsidiaries TNBX Sdn Bhd and G-Sparx Sdn Bhd.

TNBX Sdn Bhd Senior Manager (New Product Development) Dr Aznan Ezraie Ariffin said the increase was expected, following the various opportunities and incentives offered to customers under these schemes.

“As at August 2018, there are 230 residences, 83 commercial buildings and 39 industry players benefiting from the NEM implementation, which began in early 2017.

“We expect many more parties, especially industrial customers, will take advantage of the opportunities offered as the schemes will benefit both TNB and customers,” he said.

Aznan Ezraie was speaking to reporters after the launch of the Renewable Energy Seminar organised by TNB Pahang and the state government, which was officiated by State Science, Technology, Green Technology, Communications and Multimedia Committee Chairman Datuk Mohammad Fakhruddin Mohd Ariff, here today.

Aznan said the schemes would also expand the use of green technology in TNBX’s operations because solar power was environmentally friendly, and has lower operational and maintenance costs in the long term.

“Apart from this, the use of green technology can generate side income by reselling excess solar-generated power back to us,” he said.

Meanwhile, Aznan Ezraie said TNB was in the midst of planning to expand the SARE scheme to individual users and and was optimistic of achieving the 20 per cent target for renewable energy by 2025. — Bernama