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EGEB: Silicon breakthrough could boost solar, Rhode Island wind education, and more

In today’s EGEB:

  • A new type of silicon could be a boon to solar power.
  • Rhode Island gets funding for offshore wind education.
  • New York announces its third solicitation for large-scale renewable projects.
  • A US furniture chain invests in rooftop solar.

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

Another week, another possible breakthrough for solar power. This time it comes in the form of a new type of silicon created by researchers.

A team led by The Australian National University claims this new silicon makes better use of sunlight, and could lead to reduced solar costs and more efficient cells. ANU Professor Jodie Bradby said,

“Just by poking silicon with a tiny hard tip, we’ve created a more complex silicon capable of absorbing more sunlight than the standard type commonly used in solar cells. We have proved that we can easily make this new kind of silicon — previously thought unobtainable under normal room temperature and pressure — which could be used for making more efficient solar cells and lead to cheaper energy.”

Researchers are calling the new silicon r8-Si. They’re going to use high-pressure facilities to produce enough material for a prototype cell. Scaling up and integrating the material into existing solar would take 3-5 more years, they said.

This announcement follows the unveiling of a new design for pairing silicon with perovskites, as well as a method that pairs perovskites without any use of silicon. It’s too early to tell if any of these methods can be successful long-term at a larger scale, but it’s all promising and shows there’s still plenty of untapped potential in solar technology.

Learning the Wind

Ørsted US Offshore Wind and Eversource, the companies behind the Revolution Wind project in Rhode Island waters, announced $4.5 million in funding that will be used for education and workforce development in the state, the Providence Journal reports.

$3 million of the funding will go to offshore wind education, led by the University of Rhode Island, though other universities will also be involved. The remaining $1.5 million will go to the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation and the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training. Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo said, “We are going to receive massive economic development and job-creation benefits because of that first-mover advantage.”

A Rhode Island high school also recently announced an offshore wind training program as the industry looks to take off in the Ocean State.

ReNew York

New York has announced its third annual solicitation for large-scale renewable energy projects. This latest solicitation is expected to support approximately 1.5 million MWh of renewable electricity per year, enough to power over 200,000 homes.

The release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo claims the solicitation is “expected to spur over one billion dollars in private investment, creating over 1,000 good-paying jobs for New Yorkers.”

In the past two years, the state has awarded $2.9 billion in contracts to 46 land-based wind and solar projects. These projects will generate over 7.1 million MWh each year — said to be enough to power nearly one million homes. The state is aiming for 70% renewable electricity by 2030.

Building Solar

Ashley Furniture, the world’s largest furniture manufacturer, is trying to reduce its carbon footprint, and installing solar panels at ten of its largest US facilities is where the company has decided to begin the initiative.

Ashley is partnering with SunPeak to design and install the systems. The company is investing $29 million in the first phase of the project, and it expects to save more than $5 million on energy costs in its first year.

The furniture giant will start with an installation at an Illinois facility, and will soon construct arrays in Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin, and at three California sites. It aims to complete the installations by next year.

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