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EGEB: Solar cell breakthrough, Hawaiian solar projects, Chicago renewables, Amazon, and more

In today’s EGEB:

  • Researchers figure out a new way to pair perovskites with silicon for a solar boost.
  • Hawaiian Electric sets new goals for solar and storage.
  • Chicago officially commits to its 100% renewable energy goal for 2035.
  • Anaheim builds nine new solar projects at public schools.
  • Amazon employees want the company to take action on climate change, stop supporting fossil fuels.

Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

Researchers have come up with a new design coupling perovskites with silicon that could be a breakthrough for solar power, Science Magazine reports.

Attempts to pair perovskite solar cells with silicon — absorbing both high and low-energy light in the process — have presented a number of challenges, holding back the obvious potential of using the two materials together. But the new method involves using thin layers of perovskites on top of a silicon cell, converting light instead of generating current. The silicon cell then converts the light into electricity.

Chemist Daniel Gamelin and the team of researchers predict the tandem of “topping a high-end silicon cell with the ytterbium perovskite should enable it to convert 32.2% of the energy it absorbs as sunlight into electricity, up from 27% — a 19.2% boost.”

The solar potential of perovskites is well-noted and requires further research. But an efficiency boost of 20% in silicon solar cells is “one of the most exciting results I’ve seen in a long time,” Stanford perovskite expert Michael McGehee told Science.

Hawaiian Electric

Last we heard from Hawaiian Electric, the utility announced plans for 1 GWh of storage in solar + storage projects. Now the utility has announced new goals for 2022:

  • For Oahu, 160,000 megawatt hours (MWh) annually – equivalent to 73 megawatts (MW) of solar generation – and 1,200 MWh of storage daily
  • For Maui, 65,000 MWh annually – equivalent to 30 MW of solar generation – and 160 MWh of storage daily
  • For Hawaii Island, 70,000 MWh annually – equivalent to 32 MW of solar generation – and 18 MWh of storage daily

Under state law, Hawaii is aiming to adopt 100% renewable energy by 2045.

Chicago 100%

In February, Chicago set a public goal for 100% renewable energy by 2035, and the city council unanimously passed legislation on Wednesday to make it law, as per Sierra. It’s the largest city in the U.S. to make such a commitment.

Additionally, the Chicago Transit Authority — the country’s second-largest public transportation system — will completely electrify its fleet of more than 1,850 buses by 2040.

Chicago is now an official member of Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign, which now counts 119 cities amongst its ranks. Chicago will develop a transition plan by December 2020 that illustrates just how the city will reach its goal.

Anaheim Solar

We’ve seen a number of solar carports in Massachusetts, and the city of Anaheim, Calif. is joining in, deploying nine solar projects at local public schools in five different districts. The projects are both solar carports and shade structures from Duke Energy Renewables’ REC Solar.

The City of Anaheim has covered 100 percent of the costs, but the solar power generated is not actually used at the schools —  it will benefit low-income residents. REC Solar CEO Matt Walz said,

“Solar in schools and public spaces brings so much more to communities than simply reducing emissions and utility bills. The City of Anaheim is a great example. The utility meets its targets by licensing land from schools, creating long-term revenue streams for districts and immediate solar structure shade and educational opportunities for students and staff. The solar generated then produces zero-emissions energy for low income residents who may not afford it otherwise. The benefits are truly full circle.”

Amazon Climate Change

Following a scathing report on Amazon which revealed a “concerted push to win over” fossil fuel companies, more than 5,200 Amazon employees signed a public letter to Jeff Bezos and the company’s board of directors to tackle climate change.

The letter, posted on Medium, asks that Bezos and board adopt a climate plan resolution from shareholders and release a company-wide climate plan based on six listed principles:

  1. Public goals and timelines consistent with science and the IPCC report.
  2. A complete transition away from fossil fuels rather than relying on carbon offsets.
  3. Prioritization of climate impact when making business decisions, including ending all custom solutions specifically designed for oil and gas extraction and exploration.
  4. Reduction of harm to the most vulnerable communities first.
  5. Advocacy for local, federal, and international policies that reduce overall carbon emissions in line with the IPCC report and withholding of support from policy makers who delay action on climate change.
  6. Fair treatment of all employees during climate disruptions and extreme weather events.

The letter says “Amazon has the resources and scale to spark the world’s imagination and redefine what is possible and necessary to address the climate crisis.” Thus far, the company has yet to release its carbon footprint, but is expected to do so later this year.

Amazon introduced its Shipment Zero initiative, aiming for half of all Amazon shipments to be net zero carbon by 2030, and the company recently announced three new wind farms. But even its own employees believe it can do a lot more.

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