How to crowdfund unsubsidized solar

This solar power plant is an important milestone in Spain!

Since April this year, the new 2 MW crowdfunded solar park in Spain from Som Energía has been producing power. It is unique because it has no subsidies and because the energy is sold to the retail cooperative, so the price is supplied at cost* to the investors.

Image Share by Som Energía from Alcolea plan

Image Shared by Som Energía from Alcolea plan

I’m proud of having participated in this project. It’s sustainable, doesn’t need subsidies and also a good investment. The funding will be returned with no interest, but the benefit is through the reduced energy costs in the retail monthly invoice.

Living in a flat with little space for solar panels, I find it very difficult and inefficient to install one or a couple of self-consumption solar panels. So this is a natural option, to team-up with other people to own together renewable power generation. And it avoids facing the so-called tax on the sun (discussed some time ago here).

Of course there are other investment options like Yieldcos (I have shares from Saeta Yield myself). Or simply buying 100% renewable electricity from the retailer. But helping build this small project with a cooperative feels closer to owning the plant. And power generation not only owned by big corporations is also positive, as has been the case in Germany. We can say it’s a good example of the sharing economy, too…

What other options do you see to participate as an individual in the energy transition?

*Actual calculation is 36 €/MWh, which means 6 €/MWh below the market before taxes and network charges.

Asset utilization Vs Energy transition

Collaborative economy, also called the sharing economy, is growing, and it can be understood as a synonym for resource efficiency and increased asset utilization. It also allows the energy transition. How? An example; car sharing, offers increased asset utilization of the vehicles and fosters the energy transition with more sustainable mobility.

In the energy sector, and in the case of utilities, this is not very common, but let’s try to look at some trends;

For example, grid interconnections, as proposed with the EU Energy Union policy, is part of a more collaborative economy. It means the sharing of power capacity and available renewable resources in an extended market. Of course it is not peer-to-peer, but instead “grid-to-grid”. Interconnections improve asset utilization (of the most competitive assets at least, as well as avoiding investments in peaking capacity) and also help toward the energy transition as abundant renewable power can be exchanged between countries.

Image by Gabriel Schouten de Jel

Image by Gabriel Schouten de Jel on freeimages.com

For Spain, with high generation overcapacity, to increase interconnections is key to making use of existing power capacity and avoiding wind spilling, for example.

However, there is another example of improved asset utilization where there is a conflict with the energy transition…

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TET. Tecnology+Energy Tourism

Tourism is one of the main contributors to Spain’s prosperity, as it represents more than 10% of GDP. The attractiveness of the country internationally as a tourism destination is key, as it is to have a well designed strategy. In 2012, the ministry approved the “National and Integrated Tourism Plan” to 2015, with the goal of improving the sector.

The Plan does not discuss all categories of tourism, and where the country should focus, but, for example, proposes increasing experiential tourism as a diversification from the traditional sun&beach. Additionally, there is a plan to put in value the cultural, natural and eno-gastronomical resources of the country and complementing the offering with preventive health services for aging European customers.

Molinos HD

Image courtesy of alvarjuan from freeimages.com

Tourism categories there are many; sun&beach, cultural, MICE, urban, rural, gastronomic, nature, etc. There is one related to technology and energy that, although small, I think should be promoted: technology-energy tourism (TET). Why?

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Movilidad eléctrica interurbana – Artículo

Recientemente publicaron un artículo parte de mi doctorado, algo que llevaba intentando desde hace tiempo y que aprovecho para explicar también en el blog.

El artículo completo está disponible en la red en open access.

El ejercicio de investigación que planteamos consistió en elaborar un método para planificar la infraestructura de movilidad eléctrica interurbana.

Source: sxc.hu, Axonite (www.pavelmatousek.cz)

Source: sxc.hu, Axonite (www.pavelmatousek.cz)

¿Qué quiere decir esto? Significa determinar cuantas “electrolineras”,

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MegaPV Plants, Power ¿and crops?

One of the concerns of utility scale solar plants is the land use. While wind power plants only employ aprox. 1% of the agricultural land where they are installed, a solar photovoltaic power plant normally hinders other uses for almost 100% of the power plant’s surface.

Exceptions can be found, of course, as with 2-axis single post trackers, that can be designed to allow cattle land use, as a reference with CPV in California for cows. The use of sheep under a solar field, is also a solution for maintaining the land under the panels, as in Puerto Errado, Spain (picture from Novatec Solar)

Ganaderia en CSP

Actually,the higher the structure the bigger the cost, so it has to compensate with the land usage increase. Other solutions for crop farming (not cattle) would be, for example, moveable solar plants that cover only fallow land with wheeled structures.

But what, as far as I know, has not been developped enough, is Sigue leyendo

Solar Panel 3D printing

Solar panel manufacturing has benefited from economies of scale in the race to lower the costs, following an impressive learning curve (see BNEF curve). But will the future bring the cheapest solar panels, being printed where needed from a simple and cheap device?

This is already happening in manufacturing, as described brilliantly by Chris Anderson in Makers. With technology already available for printing solar cells on paper, innovation improving efficiency and durability, is set to revolutionize solar panel manufacturing. Centralized production would be complemented by local micro-manufacturing.

Printer

Solar photovoltaics is today the best example/solution for democratization of power generation, as it allows simple and scalable self-consumption. Democratizing also the manufacturing of the panel would take it a step further, boosting solar generation capacity well above the actual double digit yearly growth.

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Building the Smart Grid bottom-up

I strongly support the democratization of energy, understood as the access to energy for all and the open participation of the people in the energy market, for example by generating energy for self-consumption or through energy cooperatives. (I already posted on this subject here)

I see energy independence is of less importance. Having energy inter-dependencies with other countries may be positive. As an example, electric grid interconnections, even if they meant energy dependence, are built for increased efficiency and optimized use of generation assets. Increasing the interconnection of France and Spain, would increase competition and efficiency, although it could lead to greater inter-dependence. How about islands interconnections? That makes them dependent on the mainland, but energy less costly, more reliable and allowing greater renewable penetration.

Democratization gives an additional momentum to any change, with this I mean, once some technology market is democratized, accessible to all, and each individual can invest in it, the speed of it’s implementation and development is exponential. An example that anyone can understand is the development of apps for mobile devices.

In the energy industry, the democratization of power generation is mainly due to solar power. Germany has built more than 30 GW of solar power plants, thanks to individuals and cooperatives, not concentrated by traditional big utilities and concentrated power plants, now more decentralized.

Ulm church bottom up (tallest church in the world, built by the citizens of Ulm), by Szeder László (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Ulm church bottom up (tallest church in the world, built by the citizens of Ulm), by Szeder László (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

On this subject I wrote an article for Energética s.XXI on their international publication July-August. Individuals not only can have important effects on the grid, they have also have the responsibility to act with sustainability and energy efficiency.

Smart grids have brought the prosumer, as part of a more democratized system where the consumer can also be a producer of energy and participate in the energy market. Building rehabilitation, making homes prosumer microgrids increases the efficiency, the reliability, the sustainability, the security of supply and is also has a very good return on investment. (An example I also wrote about is the V2H business case, part of these home microgrids)

A widespread implementation of smart homes as microgrids would build a smart grid, from the bottom up, from where the energy is consumed, but with effects on the whole grid and energy landscape.