Weekend reads - Smart Energy Decisions

Distributed Energy Resources, Energy Storage, GHG Emissions, Regulation, Utilities, Finance  -  August 26, 2017

Weekend reads: DIY Powerwalls; solar's civil war; automakers become energy companies & more

 Every Saturday, we'll bring you five of the most interesting — or quirky; it is the weekend after all — energy stories from around the web that you may have missed this week. This weekend's reads:

DIY Powerwall Builders Are Using Recycled Laptop Batteries to Power Their Homes (Vice): In May of 2015, Elon Musk unveiled Tesla's Powerwall. The battery allows homeowners to store electricity, either from the grid or solar panels. The tech was alluring to those interested in alternative energy, but for many, the starting price of $3,000 was too steep. The battery could only store up to 10 kWh of electricity, or around a third of the amount the average American household consumes a day (the newer version can hold up to 14 kWh). For some alternative energy enthusiasts, Musk's deal wasn't good enough. Instead of buying Tesla's Powerwall, they build their own DIY versions using recycled batteries for a fraction of the cost.

A trade dispute threatens America's booming solar industry (The Economist): Last year California Solar Systems (CSS), a small installer of residential solar panels, decided to "Buy American". It turned to Suniva, a Chinese-owned firm that makes photovoltaic panels in Georgia and Michigan, rather than use cheap imports. But according to CSS's boss, Bastel Wardak, Suniva was unable to deliver what it promised, leading to unacceptable delays. He then tried SolarWorld, a more expensive producer in Oregon whose panels could also be marketed as “Made in the USA”. But troubles at SolarWorld’s German parent put a stop to that. Now Suniva and SolarWorld are seeking new protections from America’s International Trade Commission (ITC). 

White House Snub Sends Coal Miner Murray Energy's Bonds Plunging (Bloomberg): Bonds of Murray Energy Corp. dropped deeper into distress on Thursday after the Trump administration denied the coal miner's requests for an emergency order that the company said would help it avoid potential bankruptcy. Murray, the largest closely held U.S. coal producer, had sought to help keep power plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania in operation. Those facilities are owned by FirstEnergy Solutions Corp., a large customer of Murray's that’s "on the verge of bankruptcy," according to letters from the coal company to the White House and the Energy Department.

From Tesla to Mercedes-Benz, automakers become energy companies (GreenBiz): Drive your electric car to your solar-powered home, plug it in to charge and enjoy the flexibility provided by the oversized battery parked in the driveway. It's a long-sought environmental ideal, but one that may be getting closer to reality as automakers throw their technical expertise and deep pockets more directly into new ventures in the energy business.

Could This Glass Brick Be the Solution to Solar Energy's Design Problems? (Architectural Digest): Between cost savings and environmental concerns, there’s plenty of demand for solar energy these days. But designing something sexier than your average rooftop panel has remained a vexing challenge. Luckily, researchers at Exeter University in England seem to have hit on a solar-cell solution that effortlessly combines form and function.

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