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EGEB: Solar flaw solved after decades, Vegas solar scammers, supersized Scottish battery, and more

In today’s EGEB:

  • Researchers have figured out a flaw in solar panels that’s been studied for decades.
  • Nevada’s booming solar industry has opened the door for scammers.
  • Scottish Power is building a giant industrial-scale battery.
  • The UK is fixing its solar laws.

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

UK researchers believe they’ve cracked the case when it comes to a long-acknowledged type of degradation in silicon solar cells containing boron and oxygen. The light-induced degradation observed during initial stages of use “has been studied for 40 years resulting in over 250 research publications” with no consensus, the researchers wrote in the Journal of Applied Physics. Until now.

The team found that when the silicon solar cell hits sunlight it creates a “trap” that prevents electron flow. As researcher Iain Crowe said in an article from the University of Manchester,

“This flow of electrons is what determines the size of the electrical current that a solar cell can deliver to a circuit, anything that impedes it effectively reduces the solar cell efficiency and amount of electrical power that can be generated for a given level of sunlight. We’ve proved the defect exists, it’s now an engineering fix that is needed.”

As research coordinator Tony Peaker said,

“During the first hours of operation, after installation, a solar panel’s efficiency drops from 20% to about 18%. An absolute drop of 2% in efficiency may not seem like a big deal, but when you consider that these solar panels are now responsible for delivering a large and exponentially growing fraction of the world’s total energy needs, it’s a significant loss of electricity generating capacity.”

Vegas Solar Scams

The Nevada solar industry has been growing since the state reinstated its net metering policy in 2017, and one unfortunate side effect has been a proliferation of solar scammers, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. The article describes one such scam:

…the scammers often appear legitimate at first. An unlicensed company might come in with a sales agent who persuades a homeowner to pay a down payment on rooftop solar. After receiving payments from a few homes, the company will leave the state.

Another technique involves unlicensed companies putting official county or state logos on flyers. Home solar is no different than anything else in that you should always educate yourself before you decide to make a big purchase. Never assume everything is on the up-and-up.

Super Scottish Battery

Scottish Power is preparing to embark on what The Guardian calls “the most ambitious battery power project in Europe in an attempt to unlock the potential of the UK’s wind and solar farms.”

The Whitelee wind farm and its 215 turbines will connect to an industrial-scale lithium-ion battery that’s “the size of half a football pitch” (a soccer field, if you’re unaware). The 50MW battery system will have more than double the capacity of any existing UK battery.

No MWh figure was given, but Scottish Power told The Guardian the battery “would take an hour to fully charge and could release enough electricity over an hour to fully charge 806 Nissan Leaf vehicles over a total of 182,000 miles.”

Scottish Power is looking to develop similar projects across at least six of its other renewable energy sites. Construction on the Whitelee battery will start in 2020 and should be online by the end of the same year.

UK Solar

Staying in the UK, solar installations plummeted recently after subsidies were phased out with no adequate policy to replace them. But next year, solar homeowners will be able to sell unneeded electricity back to the grid, with energy companies having to purchase that electricity under new laws, The Guardian reports.

The government hopes to convince more homeowners to install batteries, on top of this move to spur solar. Though these new laws are set to be introduced this week, they’ll only go into effect for users who install panels from Jan. 1, 2020.

Customers may be able to wait an extra six-plus months, but it seems the government’s lack of proper planning has made 2019 a lost year for UK home rooftop solar.

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