Technology Merit: Low Carbon & Renewable Power

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AER (Lexington, Mass.) for developing new approaches and methods for measuring and forecasting solar and wind resources which can allow renewable power plant developers to more accurately measure both long-term production and short-term variations in resource availability. For concentrating solar (thermal) power projects, AER has developed a solar irradiance forecast specifically tailored to the needs of CSP. A combination of customized weather modeling and advanced statistical techniques, the forecast technique has been presented at industry conferences including the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Annual Meeting's Energy conference.

In 2012, AER also innovated a new method specifically designed for the offshore wind energy market to provide synthetic 30-year climatologies-at ultra-high space and time resolution-of wind at hub height. This approach, a hybrid physical modeling and statistical approaches, provides project stakeholders with the ability to reliably assess prospective energy production in any offshore lease area without the presence of any ground truth wind observations.

AER has presented this new technique at multiple conferences, including Energy Ocean International 2012, the American Wind Energy Association Offshore Windpower 2012 and the AMS Conference on Energy and the New Economy.

AWS Truepower (AWST; Albany, NY) for its contribution to advancing the technical frontiers of forecasting energy production from wind and solar power resources. In its 30th year, AWST is one of the world's leading meteorological and engineering consultancies for the wind and solar energy industries. Among its pioneering services is the delivery of accurate forecasts, ranging from next-hour to multiple days ahead, of energy production for nearly 20 GW of installed wind and solar capacity in North America, Europe and India.

To deliver this capability, AWST draws on world-class atmospheric modeling systems and advanced statistical tools that have been optimized for local climates. These services have been instrumental in facilitating the economic integration of significant amounts of variable renewable generation into existing electric grids, and they will become even more significant as the grid penetration of wind and solar resources increases rapidly in parts of Europe, North America and elsewhere.

Recent forecasting enhancements have focused on zero to six-hour ahead time horizons when transmission system operating costs and reliability can be challenged by sudden changes in wind or solar conditions that result in unexpected ramping up or down of energy production. Through 2012 AWST led a $3.1 million DOE-funded multi-stakeholder research initiative (including NOAA as a key collaborator) to improve forecasting skill and utility value for wind projects in Texas, the state with the largest wind capacity. Similar work was completed in 2012 for the Hawaiian Electric Company for both wind and solar projects.

Both initiatives rely on higher resolution prediction tools and new weather surveillance systems. Using innovative observational targeting techniques, these systems incorporate LIDAR-based atmospheric profilers and other sensing technologies in locations that yield the greatest forecasting skill improvements for the desired generation projects.

Westinghouse Electric Co. (Pittsburg) for doing more than any other company worldwide to advance nuclear power technology. As the nuclear power industry and its regulators worldwide responded to the Fukushima disaster, the focus has been increasingly on deploying only advanced third-generation technology which is considered inherently safer than existing second-generation reactors. And Westinghouse's AP1000 pressurized water reactor (PWR) design is the clear leader in Gen III nuclear technology in the United States, China-where Westinghouse won a competition with AREVA/EDF and other bidders for the first third-generation plants in 2007-Korea, Japan, the United Kingdom, Europe and elsewhere.

Along with its design-build partner Shaw Group, Westinghouse is supplying AP1000 reactor designs for all four new reactors (at two sites, Summer in South Carolina and Vogtle in Georgia) currently under construction in the United States, where the AP1000 was the first Gen III reactor design approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2006.

As noted in CCBJ's recent edition on the future of fossil and nuclear power, the AP1000 has half as many safety-related valves, far fewer safety-related pipes and one-third fewer pumps as older reactor design-a passive approach to safety engineering that sees less as being more safe and stable.

According to Westinghouse, which is majority owned by Toshiba, nearly 50% of the nuclear plants worldwide use its technology. In addition to developing its own technology, Westinghouse has partnered with other firms to co-develop reactor designs. For example, South Korea's Gen III APR-1400 design is based on the original Combustion Engineering-Westinghouse technology that launched the country's nuclear presence in the late 1970s.

And Westinghouse's value proposition goes far beyond reactor technology to include nuclear automation to enhance the reliability of plant control and safety systems through an integrated, plant-wide approach; nuclear fuel and fuel-related products worldwide for PWRs, boiling water reactors and advanced gas-cooled reactors; and services ranging from engineering for enhanced reliability and performance to decommissioning and dismantling.

Solar Frontier (Tokyo) for successfully manufacturing and commercializing thin-film solar PV modules using copper indium gallium arsenide (CIGS) materials, which Solar Frontier prefers to label CIS. While cadmium telluride manufacturer First Solar (CCBJ award winner for growth in 2009 is the hands-down leader in thin film, Solar Frontier is in a strong second place. A subsidiary of Showa Shell Sekiyu K.K., Solar Frontier shipped 577 MW of panels in 2011. 2012 figures weren't available at CCBJ's deadline, but some key announced deals during the year show that the firm is continuing its strong growth and leadership in thin film.

First Solar is the module supplier for enXco/EDF's 143 MW Catalina Solar Project in Kern County, Calif., and by the end of the year the company had delivered 80 MW, shipped from Japan in in 623 containers using steel-resin pallets with reusable plastic corners, a custom shipping mode that allows Solar Frontier to pack 130% more modules per container, cut its logistics carbon footprint by more than 10% and reduce breakage to just 0.002%, according to the company.

Other major deals for the year include a contract with Japanese convenience store chain Lawson to supply modules to its 2,000 stores in Japan; supplying a 29 MW solar power plant in Bochow, Brandenburg, Germany for CommerzReal, which went into commercial operation in May 2012; forming a JV with Germany's Belectric, which Solar Frontier claims is the world's largest solar EPC firm, to develop, build and sell ground- and roof-mounted PV power plants; and achieving a record 17.8% aperture area efficiency in tests by Japan's New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization in February.