Tidewater Current





Original Content & Curated News Featuring Sustainable Endeavors in Coastal Virginia & beyond.


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Solar Ready Vets Training Program at TCC Chesapeake

According to Deputy Energy Secretary Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, “jobs in the dynamic solar energy sector have grown more than 20 percent per year for the past several years.” The solar industry is a leader in hiring military veterans—employing nearly 17,000 veterans to date­—and it is committed to employing 50,000 veterans by 2020. The SunShot Initiative's Solar Ready Vets program trains skilled military service members to succeed in the solar energy industry by training them to size and install solar energy systems, safely connect them to the grid, and understand and comply with local building codes. This program, enabled by the Department of Defense’s SkillBridge initiative, allows exiting military personnel to pursue civilian job training, employment skills training, apprenticeships and internships up to 6 months prior to their separation date.

Upcoming six week courses at Tidewater Community College, Chesapeake Campus are scheduled in September and October. More info here.

Hemp_VAHemp growing in a Virginia field near Harrisonburg. Image: Virginia Industrial Hemp Coalition

Sowing the Seeds of Change:
Revolutionary Crop Cultivation in Virginia

There’s good news for the struggling small farmers of the Commonwealth.  Historically significant cash crops could make a comeback. Once ubiquitous in fields across the state, hemp and tobacco are ripe for a renaissance. New eco-friendly products created from these crops could redeem their marred reputations and increase farmers' opportunities to cultivate cash crops well suited to the region.  They even have the potential to relieve another American addiction: reliance on imported fossil fuel.

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Lei ZuoA prototype multi-directional system that gathers energy as waves move back and forth will be deployed for testing in Hampton Roads in November. The apparatus in front below will be housed in a buoy similar to the yellow one behind developer Lie Zuo, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech.

Wave Energy Technology to be Tested in Hampton Roads as Virginia Tech Scientist Earns $2 Million DOE Award

Posted 4.18.16 by Carol Brighton

With momentum to develop clean energy building, there's been a recent surge in interest to harness the dense power contained in the coastal waters close to major population centers. While a team from Virginia Tech was recently eliminated from the Department of Energy's Wave Energy Prize competition, another technology under investigation at the university has caught the agency's eye.

With a small proof of concept device that was tested off of Long Island, DOE awarded $2 million in funding for Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Lei Zuo to pursue the construction and testing of a prototype 500-watt wave energy conversion unit. The technology uses a multi-directional system to gather energy as waves move back and forth. “Our expectation is that by summer we’ll have tested the components of the smaller device in lab, and we will then put the 500W wave energy converter in the water off Hampton Roads, Virginia, by November,” Zuo said. “The data we collect there will help us make improvements to the larger unit which will be tested, probably in Hawaii at the Navy’s Wave Energy Test Site, in 2017.”

“The study of ocean wave energy harvesting isn’t new — the first patent for a device dates to 1799,” claims Zuo. “Despite this, the field isn’t mature either. Wave energy technology is really still in its infancy worldwide, and that opens up an immense area of research that is really exciting to be a part of.”

Columbia Power Technologies based in Charlottesville, also a recipient of DOE funds, is likewise working to commercialize wave energy conversion with its StingRAY prototype. Read more here.

Weinsten Center Solar ArrayUniversity of Richmond Weinsten Center Solar Array - Image: Ashlee Korlach

New Solar Tech Going Online at the University of Richmond

Posted 4.18.16 by Carol Brighton

According to Rob Andrejewski, the Director of Sustainibility at the University of Richmond, the school has "committed to carbon neutrality by 2050." One way to achieve this goal is through on-site renewable energy production. By entering into a power purchase agreement with Secure Futures of Staunton, VA, the University was able to avoid high up-front costs and install a 205 kW solar system atop of the the LEED-Gold-certified Weinstein Center for Recreation and Wellness. The owners of the system, Secure Futures and Solar World, can pass on tax related savings not available to the University as a tax exempt entity.

In addition to standard monofacial photovoltaic panels, a new more efficient panel technology is being put to work. The project represents the first commercial installation in the country of the state of the art BiSUN bifacial panels fresh off Solar World's US assembly line. Bisun technology generates electricity both from direct exposure to solar radiation on the front side as well as reflected sunlight on the backside to produce 25% more power than a similar wattage standard panels. Over three-quarters of the 749 panel array are of the more efficient bifacial variety.

With different technologies being deployed, a real world research opportunity is being created on the university rooftop. Hugh Stoll of Secure Futures notes that the panels are also being mounted on two kinds of roof profiles: a highly reflective white surface and a gravel surface. Two separate inverter set ups are also being explored. He explains, "part of the system is on microinverters, which is one inverter per panel and part of the system is on string inverters which is actually 60 panels per inverter." While providing a learning experience, the array will allow the university to generate about 226,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year or the annual electricity needs for one campus residence hall. This translates into offsetting 344,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions which contributes to meeting the university sustainibility goals.

A ribbon cutting ceremony on the Governor's schedule is set for April 19. Check out this awesome view of the entire installation posted on Facebook by Bernie Stanley.

Next generation renewable technologies like this 50 MW bioinspired morphing wind turbines and floating wave energy converters could be part of tomorrow's grid. Image: Professor Eric Loth by Tom Cogill on behalf of the University of Virginia School of Engineering & Applied Science

Power Shift: The Clean Energy Revolution

The promise of renewable energy is no longer a pipe dream: Rapidly expanding across the country, it is now seen as a cost effective and clean. As cities respond to the threats of climate change, resilience strategies that embrace clean energy are spreading. Over a dozen US cities have made commitments to transition to 100% renewable power.

The role clean energy initiatives like traditional wind and solar generation to game changing technology are explored in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Featured topics include a free solar training program for transitioning vets offered through Tidewater Community College; solar power for Naval Stations Norfolk and Oceana; plans for the Commonwealth's first wind farm; new energy modeling program based on weather data; and next generation technologies like 50 MW offshore turbines and wave energy conversion.

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picThe SEIA reports that 24 GW of solar capacity is installed in the United States. NC ranks third in the nation for installed generation capacity.

Watts to Gain from Renewable Energy?

The renewable energy boom isn't just creating emission free electric watts, its creating jobs and local revenue. Business titan Michael Bloomberg notes that “the U.S. solar power industry continues to grow and create jobs, providing further evidence that promoting economic growth and fighting climate change can go hand-in-hand."

The SEIA reported in December that "GTM Research expects the fourth quarter of this year to be the largest quarter for solar installations in U.S. history. Led by the utility-scale segment, the United States will install more than three GW. Looking further out, cumulative PV installations will nearly double between now and the end of 2016, bringing the nationwide total to 41 GW."

Jobs opportunities in the wind industry are likewise exhibiting explosive potential. The Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks wind turbine service technicians as the fastest growing occupation in the United States by a long shot. Average pay for the position is over $20 per hour. Read more here.


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