NewEnergyNews More: March 2010

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  • Wednesday, March 31, 2010


    Solar, Wind Power Groups Becoming Prominent Washington Lobbying Forces After Years of Relative Obscurity
    Cassandra LaRussa, March 30, 2010 (Open Secrets/Center for Responsive Politics)

    "In 1998, the entire alternative energy industry barely even registered as a political player in Washington, spending a mere $2.4 million on lobbying the federal government…[I]n the same year, the oil and gas, electric utilities and mining industries spent a combined $142 million advancing their own legislative interests…That landscape, however, has changed considerably.

    "…In 2009, alternative energy organizations shelled out an unprecedented $30 million to protect and promote their interests on Capitol Hill…In comparison, oil and gas spending and mining spending have grown [much more slowly]…The growing involvement of the alternative energy industry in legislative affairs is reflected not just in increased spending…In the late 1990s, only about 20 alternative energy industry organizations used federal lobbyists…By 2009, there were about 200 alternative energy companies and organizations employing lobbyists…"

    click to enlarge

    "…Until 2008, [The American Wind Energy Association] failed to crack the $1 million mark…and most years, it spent less than $500,000. In 2009…the group spent almost $5 million on lobbying…The involvement stems from the growth in number of alternative energy companies, which was made possible by the growth in popularity of wind power in the national consciousness, said Christine Real de Azua, an AWEA spokeswoman.
    Real de Azua states that this, in turn, increased AWEA's ranks by more than 1,000 new business members in 2009 alone…AWEA cites the sheer potential of wind energy and the opportunity for job creation as two key points that their lobbyists emphasize in the fight for favorable legislation.

    "…Until 2007, [the Solar Energy Industries Association] had never spent more than half a million dollars on federal lobbying efforts. In 2009, it spent more than $1.6 million…[It] attributes the increase in lobbying presence to a growth in membership that enabled the organization to expand legislative activities…[get an] eight-year extension of the solar investment tax credit…[and] move on to lobbying regarding climate, renewable energy standards, green jobs and appropriations…SEIA has already seen positive gains from their increased expenditures…The group’s lobbyists were successful in promoting several provisions of the stimulus bill…"

    click to enlarge

    "But while alternative energy interests are just getting acquainted with K Street, the oil and gas industry has been a permanent resident for years…Since 1998, the oil and gas industry has never spent less than $50 million on lobbying in any given year, and in 2009, it reported $168 million in lobbying expenditures…American Petroleum Institute spokesman Bill Bush…[is unconcerned] about the alternative energy industry's efforts…[and unaware of any impact] they're having on the petroleum industry…The institute spent more than $7.3 million in 2009 on federal lobbying efforts after spending between $2.8 million and $4.8 million each year on lobbying between 2002 and 2008.

    "As this decade moves forward, climate and energy policy remains a key issue in Congress…Barack Obama labeled such legislation a high priority…Although most of the conversation regarding the drafting of legislation has revolved around the question of greenhouse gases and the proposed “cap-and-trade” policy, the bipartisan bill also makes a point of emphasizing job creation and the use of renewable energy…And with political focus on alternative energy constantly expanding, the lobbying power of the alternative energy industry may soon become as plentiful as Great Plains breezes and desert sunshine."


    Wind Power Soared Past 150,000 Megawatts in 2009
    J. Matthew Roney, March 30, 2010 (Earth Policy Institute)

    "Even in the face of a worldwide economic downturn, the global wind industry posted another record year in 2009 as cumulative installed wind power capacity grew to 158,000 megawatts. With this 31 percent jump, the global wind fleet is now large enough to satisfy the residential electricity needs of 250 million people. Wind provides electricity in over 70 countries…

    "China led the way in 2009 with an astonishing 13,000 megawatts of new wind capacity, the first time any country has built more than 10,000 megawatts in a single year. With 25,000 megawatts overall, China has doubled its total installed wind capacity in each of the last five years, bringing it into third place behind the United States and Germany…Six wind-rich [Chinese] provinces across the country’s northern half—from northwestern Xinjiang to eastern Jiangsu—have been selected to host seven wind mega-complexes of between 10,000 and 37,000 megawatts each…close to 130,000 megawatts of generating capacity…"

    click to enlarge

    "The United States passed longtime leader Germany in installed capacity in 2008 and then widened its lead in 2009, expanding its wind fleet by nearly 10,000 megawatts to reach a cumulative 35,000 megawatts. Texas remained the leading state in both annual and total wind installations, reaching 9,400 megawatts overall…Spain added the most new wind in [the EU]…But with 26,000 total megawatts installed, Germany still commands Europe’s largest wind capacity…[S]everal rapidly growing markets in the [EU] have great potential. In Italy, France, and the United Kingdom, total installed capacity has at least doubled since 2006…[The EU] actually saw net reductions in coal and nuclear generating capacity in 2009…[and] wind accounted for close to 40 percent of all newly installed capacity, making it the region’s number one new power source for the second straight year.

    "…[O]ther countries are also [building]…India, for example, installed 1,300 megawatts in 2009…to make it the fifth country to surpass 10,000 megawatts…Canada installed 950 megawatts…in 2009…Latin America and Africa, both rich in wind…[are] accelerating [development]…With 600 megawatts installed, Brazil now claims half [Latin America’s] wind development. Mexico’s wind capacity grew…to 200 megawatts, while Chile climbed…to nearly 170 megawatts…By the end of 2009, just 760 megawatts were installed on the African continent, 90 percent of which was in Egypt and Morocco. But…[there is building] in several sub-Saharan countries, including Ethiopia, South Africa, and Kenya…"

    click to enlarge

    "Most of the world’s wind turbines are found on land, but offshore wind capacity is poised to grow rapidly from its current 2,100 megawatts…Nearly 600 megawatts were brought online in 2009, including the world’s largest offshore project: Denmark’s 209-megawatt Horns Rev 2 wind farm in the North Sea. The United Kingdom leads the offshore category, with 40 percent of global capacity…

    "Having increased ninefold in total capacity since the start of the twenty-first century, wind power is quickly solidifying its position as an important part of the global energy mix..In a 2009 study of world wind resources, Harvard University scientists concluded that the top 10 carbon dioxide-emitting countries could satisfy all of their electricity needs using wind alone…"


    Recurrent Energy to Develop 15 MW of Solar Projects at Kaiser Permanente Facilities; Kaiser Permanente to Buy All Power Generated From 16 Recurrent Energy Solar Power Systems
    March 30, 2010 (Recurrent Energy)

    "…[Independent power producer and solar power project developer Recurrent Energy] has signed agreements with Kaiser Permanente to develop 15 MW of solar power systems at multiple locations across California. Recurrent Energy will build, own, and operate 16 solar power systems located across 15 Kaiser Permanente hospitals and office facilities…

    "The 16 solar power systems will be implemented across the 15 sites through rooftop solar, ground mount solar, and elevated solar above existing ground-level parking spaces and garages. Several projects are underway and all sites are expected to be completed by the summer of 2011…"

    Rendering from Recurrent Energy of Kaiser hospital rooftops covered with solar panels. (click to enlarge)

    "Citigroup, an equity investor on a portion of the projects, was a key partner in structuring the agreements…"

    [John Kouletsis, director of strategy, planning and design at Kaiser Permanente:] “Kaiser Permanente sees renewable and clean energy as a key part of our environmental and sustainability strategy…As a health care organization, we are concerned with the health of our patients and our communities.”


    Deutsche Bank, BarCap see 10% drop in 2009 EU ETS emissions
    Michael Szabo (w/William Hardy), March 29, 2010 (Reuters)

    "Carbon emissions under the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme fell by over 10 percent in 2009 but are expected to rebound this year as Europe's economy recovers, Deutsche Bank and Barclays Capital said…

    "Deutsche bank said in an analyst note that carbon emissions from heavy industry fell to 1.9 billion tonnes last year, down 220 million tonnes from the 2.12 billion tonnes emitted in 2008, the first year of the scheme's second phase…[It expects half the drop to come back in 2010 and 2% in each of the next 2 years]…"

    From Reuters. (click to enlarge)

    "BarCap also…[calculated a 2009 10% drop and] expects 2010 emissions to climb back to 1.95 billion tonnes, a 2.8 percent rise.

    "The European Commission is scheduled to publish preliminary 2009 emissions data for the scheme on April 1, though both analysts said the data will likely be incomplete.
    Sikorski said the data's impact on EU emissions permit prices is likely to be muted…"

    click to enlarge

    "Deutsche Bank…expects CO2 from the EU's power sector, the 27-nation bloc's largest emitters, to have dropped by 110 million tonnes or 7.3 percent to 1.4 billion tonnes of CO2 last year…[It estimates] industrial emissions, which include those from the steel and cement sectors, to also have fallen by 110 million tonnes, or 18 percent, to 500 million tonnes of CO2.

    "Last month, analysts Point Carbon estimated 2009 EU ETS emissions fell by 11 percent to 1.886 billion tonnes."

    Tuesday, March 30, 2010


    Edison seeks commercial customers to participate in solar energy program
    March 29, 2010 (San Francisco Examiner)

    "…Detroit Edison…[t]he Detroit-based utility and subsidiary of DTE Energy is looking for commercial customers to participate in its SolarCurrents program…[that] seeks to install photovoltaic systems on customer rooftops or property to generate 15 megawatts of electricity throughout its southeast Michigan service area during the next five years.

    "…Detroit Edison will invest more than $100 million in the program. Customers who agree to having the equipment installed must participate for at least 20 years…Edison will own, operate and maintain the equipment; customers will get an annual credit on their energy bill based on system size as well as a one-time upfront construction payment."

    Get the point? (click to enlarge)

    "The utility will accept applications until April 29. Applicants should own a facility with at least 15,000 square feet of unobstructed roof in good condition, or a similar sized ground area…

    "…Edison also offers incentives to residential customers who install photovoltaic systems…Edison has announced that it plans to add more than 1,200 megawatts of renewable energy, including wind farms and other green energy facilities."


    GE Seeks Green By Going Green
    Peter Gwynne, March 2010 (Industrial Research Institute via WaterWorld)

    "…[Though] the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and some fossil fuel companies lobby hard to deny the effect of human activity on global warming, some high-technology firms are…embracing environmental attitudes as a source of new business enterprises. Prominent among those firms is General Electric…

    "In 2005, GE launched what it called its "ecomagination initiative," which it intended to meet customers' demands for more energy-efficient products and, in the process, improve the company's bottom line. Since then, the company has brought more than 80 "ecomagination solutions"- both products and services-to market. Revenues from the ecomagination sector represented 9% of the company's total last year, and increased by 21% from 2008 to 2009."

    click thru for more info on ecomagination

    "GE hasn't adopted the approach simply because it feels it should do its bit for the environment…[It’s] a hard-edged business strategy…To GE…"eco" means economics plus ecology. Thus, the corporation bases the venture on the fundamental proposition that "green is green"-in other words, that the development of innovative solutions to environmental problems will inevitably produce profit for the company…[And it sees New Energy as the] next big emerging market…

    "The approach has a natural fit with GE's corporate footprint, which covers a wide range of industries and locations. GE's businesses that have benefited from ecomagination's products and services so far include energy, transportation, consumer & industrial, oil & gas, water & process technologies, aviation, healthcare, enterprise solutions, and even GE Enterprise Services and GE Capital."

    click thru for more info on ecomagination

    "The venture has also provided strong assistance to the company's global growth. In December 2009, for example, General Electric China announced that ecomagination products in China produced revenues of $656 million in the first three quarters of 2009… a 50% increase over the similar period in 2008…

    "…Each GE division is encouraged to come up with green products and…to develop its own plan for reducing its environmental footprint…[GE has doubled] the firm's investment in R&D on clean technologies over a period of four years, from $750 million in 2005 to more than $1.4 billion in 2008…[Work on new battery technologies, advances in wind energy, smart grid te3chnologies, “clean” coal and energy efficient lighting reresent] roughly one-third of the company's current overall investment in R&D…"


    Suzlon Wind Energy Corp. Will Install More Than 700 MW of Clean Energy in 2010; Construction of Nine Wind Power Projects Expected to Funnel $1.5 Million into Communities
    March 5, 2010 (Suzlon Wind Energy Corp)

    "Suzlon Wind Energy Corp., the North American subsidiary of Suzlon Energy Limited…plans to bring online 728 MW of renewable energy in the U.S. in 2010…

    "Among the nine 2010 projects, 351 newly installed turbines will produce clean energy that can power as many as 220,000 homes in seven states. In addition, these projects will create more than 50 long-term wind turbine maintenance-related jobs in rural areas. During the construction and commissioning of the nine wind farms across the [U.S.], Suzlon estimates that its employees will contribute $1.5 million to the local economies where they live and work…"

    click to enlarge

    "The nine Suzlon projects are located in seven states… Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington. They encompass community projects in Kansas and Minnesota, and the expansion of the first wind farm in Arizona. Nearly all projects feature Suzlon’s S88-2.1 MW wind turbine that routinely has performed well…

    "Frequently, Suzlon hears about how its wind farm construction and maintenance employees are appreciated for bolstering local communities and economies. At one wind power plant, Suzlon even contributed to the rebuilding of a town - Greensburg, Kansas - where 95 percent of its structures were destroyed by a tornado in May 2006. Greensburg’s wind farm is home to 10 Suzlon S64-1.25 MW wind turbines that can generate enough energy to power 3,750 homes."

    click to enlarge

    [Greensburg Mayor Bob Dixson:] “Suzlon and this wind farm provided a huge boost to this community after the tornado devastated the region and during our recent recovery…The town is making a remarkable comeback with our mission to be ‘better, stronger and greener.’ Suzlon’s turbines are helping us achieve our green energy goals and are serving to exemplify the potential for wind-powered towns.”

    "At present, Suzlon has more than 1,750 MW of wind turbine capacity installed in the U.S. and expects to have 2,480 MW by the end of the year."


    The Future of Thin Film: Beyond the Hype; 2009 was undoubtedly a difficult year for most thin-film producers. What does the future hold?
    Shyam Mehta, March 29, 2010 (Greentech Media)

    "From only 17 MW in 2002 to 966 MW in 2008, thin film's rise over the last decade has been remarkable indeed. Fueled by the greatest success story in the PV industry -- cadmium telluride producer First Solar -- the technology has captured the imagination of industry participants and interested observers alike. First Solar represents the disruptive potential of thin-film PV in full: high throughput (1,011 megawatts in 2009), competitive efficiency (11%), and an industry-leading cost (currently 83 cents per watt), enabling significant profit… listed on the S&P index…[and] the largest PV module producer in the world…

    "The search for alternative technologies led to a tidal wave of investment and entrepreneurial activity in thin film, with 46 companies entering the market between 2004 and 2008, as well as $1.8 billion in venture capital investment in the space. As market share rose from a mere 3% in 2001 to 12% in 2007, companies spoke confidently of hundreds of megawatts of production at below a dollar per watt being within arm's reach. It was only a matter of time before thin film would replace crystalline silicon as the dominant PV technology, finally enabling the long sought-after dream of grid parity…"

    From Greentech Media (click thru for more info)

    "…As of 2010, only one other company besides First Solar -- triple-junction amorphous silicon firm United Solar -- has produced in excess of 100 MW annually. The cost structure of most amorphous silicon, considering its low efficiency, is barely competitive with crystalline silicon, and CIGS producers have encountered technical issues in manufacturing…[C]capital constraints made banks and developers shy away…Asian crystalline silicon PV producers continue to ramp down costs and increase capacity beyond the gigawatt level…[T]thin film [may] fulfill its potential and make meaningful inroads into the solar energy landscape, creating new markets…Or [it may] be relegated to a bit-player role…

    "…GTM Research's just-published report Thin Film 2010: Market Outlook through 2015…[offers a] set of insights…[1] Thin film capacity will exceed 10 GW by the end of 2012…[2] Best-practice producers across all technologies will achieve costs of 80 cents per watt by the beginning of 2012, but there will be significant variation across producers…[3] First Solar will continue its dominance, remaining the largest thin film manufacturer in the world over the next three years…"

    From Greentech Media (click thru for more info)

    "[4] CIGS and amorphous silicon (particularly turnkey line production) will likely not see meaningful market share before 2013, after which cost reductions and efficiency improvements will finally start to drive a competitive product offering at an adequate margin…[5] High-margin thin film production will be a game played by the select few…[6] All signs point to one of the venture-backed CIGS companies (Solyndra, Nanosolar, Miasolé) emerging as successful representatives of this technology…7. The coming years should see a great deal more consolidation than has been witnessed so far in the thin film industry…

    "…Only past 2013 will thin film adoption, the case of First Solar aside, begin to really take off, and developments over the next three years will play a crucial role in determining the exact pace of this transition…[S]uccess [may] arrive a lot later than expected. But [it is quite likely to] arrive…"

    Monday, March 29, 2010


    Texas Weighs Efficiency, Solar Mandates
    Kate Galbraith, March 29, 2010 (NY Times)

    "Texas regulators may soon ramp up mandates requiring tougher energy-efficiency standards and development of renewable energy sources other than wind power.

    "Earlier this year, the state’s Public Utility Commission proposed requiring utilities to offset 50 percent of their growth in electricity sales with energy-efficiency measures by 2014. That would be well above the current requirement of 20 percent…The utility commission has also put forward an early-stage proposal that would require 500 new megawatts of power in Texas to come from renewable energy sources like biomass, geothermal, solar and hydro in 2014…"

    Texans know better than to squander energy resources like this. (click to enlarge)

    "Texas leads the nation in wind development, but under the proposal, 50 megawatts of nonwind renewables in 2014 would have to come from solar projects. Texas currently has less than seven megawatts of solar power…

    "Both proposals are still receiving comments, and must be approved by the three commissioners, who are appointed by the Texas governor. Environmentalists, however, are hopeful…If the regulations get approved, they will be doing essentially what the the Texas legislature had contemplated doing a year ago. So many prosolar bills were filed in last year’s legislative session that it was dubbed the “solar session.” Several efficiency bills also were introduced…[But] only one clean-energy bill, which promoted property tax-financed solar and retrofit measures for homes, made it to the finish line."

    Efficiency will save Texans money. (click to enlarge)

    "…[S]ince the Texas legislature does not convene again until next year, advocates are worried that the window for attracting renewable energy projects — and manufacturers of solar panels, who might favor locating in a big market — is closing…

    "Kirk Watson, a state senator from Austin who sponsored one of the ill-fated renewables bills last session, said that he was glad that the Public Utility Commission was moving forward with their renewables rule, even if it only requires one-third as much development as his bill called for…"


    Far East Wind Power Announces LOI to Acquire 700MW Wind Farm Development Rights in China
    March 29, 2010 (CNN Money)

    "Far East Wind Power Corp…has entered into a Letter of Intent ("LOI") with Wuhan Guoce Nordic New Energy Co. Ltd. of Wuhan, China ("Guoce") to acquire…development stage wind farm projects located in Jilin Province and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region ("Inner Mongolia").

    "The proposed projects will be acquired from Guoce for cash and other considerations…Guoce is a manufacturer of wind turbines and has been assembling a 700 megawatt ("MW") portfolio of project locations and working with local, regional and national agencies as well as regional grid operators to acquire requisite permits and approvals necessary for development…[Far East Wind Power] has agreed to exclusively use wind turbines manufactured by Guoce should the projects proceed and to position Guoce as a strategic partner…"

    Absorbed by a bigger player in a consolidating industry in...(click to enlarge)

    "The most advanced-stage project of the portfolio is known as the TianHe 1 Project and is a proposed 50MW development with all approvals in place and a site ready for construction commencing in April. This Inner Mongolia location has been determined to be a robust wind resource…The TianHe Phase 2 project is planned for an additional 50MW later this year subject to permitting and approvals…"

    ...A rapidly expanding marketplace. (click to enlarge)

    "Additional projects as part of the Guoce portfolio include a number of locations in Jilin Province. They include a proposed 100MW development site at the Min Ying Development Zone, and a planned 500MW program dispersed across the proposed Taonan Project Phases 1-5. All sites have been identified by various government agencies as recognized wind resource development locations…which could offer short lead times to development.

    "Far East's mission is to develop wind farms with the highest rates of return on investment in the industry by working with strategic partners to develop or acquire innovative solutions to drive cost out of the turbine manufacturing process…"


    Solar Power, Inc. Selects McClellan Business Park for Manufacturing Facility and New World Headquarters; Governor Applauds Solar Power, Inc.'s Move to Help Bring Jobs to the Region and Advance Energy Independence
    March 29, 2010 (Business Wire via MarketWatch)

    "Solar Power, Inc…has selected McClellan Business Park as the site for its U.S. manufacturing facility…[T]he Company has received an initial commitment of $24.7 million in Recovery Zone Facility Bonds ("RZFB") from Sacramento County and plans to use the proceeds from the sale of these bonds to help finance renovation and outfitting of the manufacturing facility to build its high-performance solar panels…

    "…A portion of the RZFB Bond proceeds, upon successful placement, will also go in part towards the development of a utility-scale photovoltaic solar system in Sacramento County that will exceed 10 megawatts and have an estimated value of $50 million."

    How does the map of states with strong solar polices compare to...(click to enlarge)

    "Solar Power, Inc.'s…plans to open a major manufacturing operation in Sacramento…[were heralded by California] Governor Schwarzenegger…"

    ...the map of states with strong solar business development? (click to enlarge)

    "The proposed manufacturing facility at the McClellan site will be approximately 100,000 square feet with an annual production capacity of 50 megawatts of Solar Power, Inc.'s top-ranked solar panels. It is estimated that the facility will bring 120 new construction jobs to the region during the 9-month construction period and 100 full-time skilled workers and office staff to the facility upon completion. Together with Solar Power, Inc.'s current manufacturing facility in China, the McClellan facility is expected to double the Company's annual production capacity to 100 megawatts…

    "Solar Power, Inc. anticipates receiving the bond proceeds and beginning construction on the new headquarters and manufacturing facility in July with completion in early 2011…"


    EPA proposes oil, gas sector should track its emissions
    John-Laurent Tronche, March 29, 2010 (Fort Worth Business Press)

    "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed adding emissions data from oil and gas operations to a list of 31 other sectors from which the agency collects greenhouse gas emissions information.

    "The EPA is proposing for the first time a national mandatory greenhouse gas reporting system to…[better understand GHG sources]…The information also will help the EPA and businesses draft policies and programs to reduce emissions…"

    click to enlarge

    [Lisa P. Jackson, Administrator, EPA:] “Gathering this information is the first step toward reducing greenhouse emissions and fostering innovative technologies for the clean energy future…It’s especially important to track potent gases like methane, which traps more than 20 times as much heat as carbon and accelerates climate change. Once we know where we must act, American innovators and entrepreneurs can develop new technologies to protect our atmosphere and fight climate change.”

    "The 31 sectors covering 85 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions would be joined by the oil and natural gas sectors, industries that emit fluorinated gases and facilities that inject and store carbon dioxide underground for geologic sequestration or enhanced oil and gas recovery."

    click to enlarge

    [EPA:] “Methane is the primary GHG emitted from oil and natural gas systems and is more than 20 times as potent as CO2 at warming the atmosphere, while fluorinated gases are even stronger and can stay in the atmosphere for thousands of years…Data collected from facilities that inject CO2 underground would enable EPA to track the amount of CO2 that is injected and in some cases require a monitoring strategy for detecting potential emissions to the atmosphere.”

    "Collecting emissions data would begin at the start of 2011…[Oil and gas industry] trade groups have bristled at the suggestion that their operations should be held accountable for greenhouse gas emissions, arguing new federal rules would throw the industry and economies into nothing short of total calamity…"

    Sunday, March 28, 2010


    NASA Proposes Wind Turbines For Va Launch Facility
    March 28, 2010 (AP via WJZ13-TV)

    "NASA wants to install wind turbines on Wallops Island to generate electricity for its flight facility…

    NASA says the wind turbines would generate about a third of the flight facility's electricity. The goal is reduce the facility's utility costs and meet federal energy management requirements."

    Virginia's coastal winds look strong enough to launch a rocket. (click to enlarge)

    "Two 2-megawatt utility-scale turbines and up to five 2.4-kilowatt residential scale turbine would be installed.

    NASA says it studied several renewable energy sources, including solar and geothermal. Wind turbines are the preferred alternative."


    Enviros, growers agree on farmland reuse for solar
    Jason Dearen and Tracie Cone, March 21, 2010 (AP via Washington Post)

    "Cash-strapped farmers in California's agricultural heartland and environmentalists at odds over water rights and wildlife protections finally agree on something: that thousands of acres of cracked, salty farmland is the perfect site for a sprawling utility-scale solar farm.

    "The 47 square-miles of land proposed for the Westlands Solar Park in remote Kings and Fresno counties is just one of dozens of unfinished solar projects in California, but renewable energy analysts say it is a rare one that enjoys the broad support of environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, powerful agriculture interests and state government."

    click to enlarge

    "Thousands of solar panels would be located on and near the salty-white, fallowed farm land [with transmission nearby], most of which is owned by the Westlands Water District, the largest such district in the country comprised of 600,000 acres of San Joaquin Valley farmland…Once [regulatory hurdles are met and construction is] completed, the first chunk of solar proposed for the site - the total size of which is roughly that of San Francisco - could generate up to 1 gigawatt of power, or enough to energize up to one million homes…

    "The embrace of solar power as a new cash crop comes at a time when the district is struggling with mounting debt…A decade ago, Westlands floated a bond to buy 100,000 acres of farm land where poor drainage had created a salt buildup called selenium, making the land unusable for growers. But with the salty land came water rights, so Westlands bought it so it could divert the water allocations to more productive farms."

    click to enlarge

    "Since then, drought and environmental issues have cut revenue to Westlands by reducing the amount of water it can sell…Westlands now sees solar power as a way to put the land back to work…[W]ith Mojave Desert solar projects shrinking in number because of recent proposed legislation…the valley has become…[a prime location for solar and] other types of energy development…

    "The path to the finish line is more clearly defined here than perhaps any other project in the state right now, said Carl Zichella, Sierra Club's director of western renewable programs…[and] with the more sunny desert sites mired in a political, regulatory and environmental morass, the Valley's solar value has increased…"


    Wisconsin wind-farm project means work for Vestas' Colorado plants
    Cathy Proctor, March 25, 2010 (Denver Business Journal)

    "Vestas Wind Systems’ Colorado wind-turbine manufacturing plants will…[fill] an order for 81 turbines for a Wisconsin wind farm, the Danish company’s spokesman said…The plants will make giant blades and steel towers and assemble nacelle housing for the project…

    "Vestas said it had received an order from We Energies for 81 wind turbines, model V90-1.8 MW, for the Glacier Hills Wind Park…The turbines will be delivered in early 2011, with commissioning for the 145-megawatt project expected by the end of 2011. The order also includes a two-year service and maintenance agreement…"

    click to enlarge

    "The wind farm will help We Energies meet the state’s requirement to get 10 percent of the utility’s power from renewable energy resources by 2015…The total cost of the Glacier Hills wind farm is expected to be about $452.1 million, including site work, turbines and transmission lines…The capital cost of the farm alone is expected to be between $335.2 million and $413.5 million, depending on the turbines…"

    Thanks to Vestas, Colorado stands out. (click to enlarge)

    "Vestas is one of the largest manufacturers of wind turbines in the world. The company has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Colorado to build a wind blade manufacturing plant in Windsor…[It] opened in March 2008…had a production shutdown during the first quarter, due to a drop in orders for wind turbines in 2009 stemming from the recession…[and] is expected to resume manufacturing within the next two months…

    "The company also is completing the world’s largest tower plant in Pueblo, plus a nacelles assembly plant in Brighton and a second wind blade plant in Brighton. The new plants are expected to be up and running by the end of the year…Vestas supplied 88 wind turbines, model V82-1.65 MW, to We Energies in 2007 for the Blue Sky Green Field wind farm in Fon du Lac County, which started operations in 2008."


    Schwarzenegger Urges ‘Very Small’ Carbon Auctions
    Simon Lomax (w/Joe Link and Richard Stubbe), March 25, 2010 (Bloomberg News via BusinessWeek)

    "California’s planned cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases shouldn’t make industrial companies buy large numbers of pollution allowances at auction when it starts in 2012, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said…

    "California’s 2006 global warming law aims to cut the state’s greenhouse gases to their 1990 level by 2020. The law authorized the air resources board to develop regulations, including a cap-and-trade program…If all the allowances are auctioned instead of given away at the beginning of the cap-and-trade program…[the transition could be too costly for] power plants, oil refineries and factories…"

    click to enlarge

    "Carbon allowances sold for $20 to $60 each would be worth $2.51 billion to $7.53 billion in 2012 and $7.3 billion to $21.9 billion in 2020, the panel, called the Economic and Allocation Advisory Committee, said…[Much] of the revenue should be used for rebates or tax breaks for California households, the panel said. Making polluters pay for most, if not all, the emission rights they need is better…

    "Environmental groups in California support auctioning all the cap-and-trade program’s allowances. Companies to be regulated under the California cap-and-trade program, including oil refiners BP Plc and Chevron Corp., oppose the auction plan, which they say will drive up their costs and give interstate and international competitors an edge."

    click to enlarge

    "The air resources board, which will write the rules of the state’s cap-and-trade program, should use…[free] allowances to reward companies that have already cut their emissions [but not penalize California business]…

    "To further limit the cost of the state’s global-warming program, regulators should give companies access to [offsets similar to those used in Europe’s Cap&Trade system]…Offsets are pollution-cutting projects from unregulated sources, such as farms and forests, which power plants, oil refineries and factories covered by a cap-and-trade program can buy instead of cutting back their own emissions…"

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010


    Report: Tribes key in renewable energy development
    Felicia Fonseca, March 23, 2010 (AP)

    "…[American Indian tribal] lands make up about 5 percent of the United States and hold an estimated 10 percent of the country's renewable resources. Projects to harness the sun's energy, particularly in the Southwest, and to use wind power in the Great Plains and Alaska's coastal Native villages are the most promising, [The New Energy Future in Indian Country] by the National Wildlife Federation said.

    "But funding the projects and moving the power through transmission lines across reservations and onto the grid can be difficult. Among the recommendations in the report — some of which are being lobbied for in Congress — is to provide tribes with the same access to financial and technical resources that state and local governments have."

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    "Tribal governments can be wary of state incentives for renewable energy development, which vary from state to state and require that tribes create a state-chartered organization to be eligible…Doing so means tribes relinquish sovereign immunity and subject themselves to state law and reporting requirements.

    "Tribes, as tax-exempt entities, also do not benefit from a federal production tax credit for renewable energy projects. However, legislation pending in Congress would allow tribes to transfer their share of the tax credit to private entities financing projects in a joint venture…Tribes also must consider whether to assess taxes on projects by non-tribal investors, which the state also would tax, and which could drive away the investors…The more than 560 federally recognized tribes can apply for grants through the U.S. Department of Energy's Tribal Energy Program, but the funding is scarce — about $5 million a year. A 2005 federal law authorized up to $20 million a year for the program, but it has no specific appropriations…Of the 93 projects the program funded from 2002-2008, most have been for feasibility studies. Large-scale projects typically are possible only if they're close to transmission lines, which the report noted often skirt tribal lands and can cost $10,000 or more per mile…"

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    "Tribal lands have the potential to produce 17.6 trillion kilowatt hours of electricity a year from solar power, about 4.5 times the total amount of electricity generated in the U.S. in 2004. The lands also are capable of producing an estimated 535 billion kilowatt hours of electricity per year from wind power.

    "The Campo Kumeyaay Nation outside San Diego hosts the only wind farm on tribal land…It plans to invest $60 million in a second one, securing 20 percent ownership. The tribe will acquire full ownership of both wind farms after 25 years of operation…[T]he tribe signed on as a lessee on the first wind farm to gain experience…[and in return] got…a substation and transmission lines…Ownership was a nonnegotiable aspect of the second project…Financing, some of which would come through bonding authority, is the next hurdle…"


    Champaign County wind farm gets OK from Ohio
    March 23, 2010 (Dayton Business Journal)

    "…[Ohio] energy regulators have given clearance to a wind farm planned for Champaign County, the first to receive a construction license from [the state]."

    "The Ohio Power Siting Board…modified and approved plans for a 54-turbine Buckeye Wind Project wind farm about 40 miles northeast of Dayton. The project is being developed by New York-based EverPower Renewables Inc."

    Dayton is a long way from Ohio's greatest winds on Lake Erie but... (click to enlarge)

    "EverPower originally applied to build a wind farm with 70 turbines with a price tag of about $380 million, but the board – the rule-making body for wind-powered projects in the state – rejected plans for 14 of them because of concerns they could be hazardous to aviation routes. Several civic and municipal groups had rallied on both sides of the proposal, opponents expressing worries about noise and shadow flicker and proponents stressing the project’s environmental benefits."

    ...Dayton is where Ohio's wind industry is. (click to enlarge)

    "The Siting Board…required the company set up an informal process to field public complaints, all of which will be routed to the state. EverPower also is on the hook for damage to land and roads. Plans call for having the farm up and running by the end of next year with construction set to begin in late 2010.

    "The Champaign County wind farm project was the first to officially seek approval from the state following the passage of comprehensive energy legislation that requires at least 25 percent of all electricity sold in Ohio to come from alternative sources by 2025, with at least half to be generated by renewables such as wind, solar, hydropower, biomass and geothermal. A separate bill put the Power Siting Board in charge of setting up rules for construction, operation and maintenance of wind-powered facilities."


    Oilfield Company Failed to Report Fracking Violations to EPA – Documents
    Mike Soraghan, March 23, 2010 (NY Times)

    "One of the world's largest oilfield services companies continued to tell U.S. EPA it was complying with an agreement barring the injection of diesel fuel near drinking-water aquifers, documents show, after admitting to Congress that it had violated the pact.

    "BJ Services Co. acknowledged in January 2008 to investigators from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that it had violated a 2003 agreement not to use diesel in specific types of hydraulic fracturing. When that was disclosed last month, a BJ Services executive said that the company had "self reported" the violation to EPA…But EPA says the company never told agency officials. And documents show the company has twice since then told the environmental agency that it has always been in compliance with the agreement…A BJ Services executive stressed that the violation was a breach of company policy and that the company has found ways to eliminate diesel from its fracturing fluids…"

    Diesel isn't the only problem. (click to enlarge)

    "The discrepancy has arisen as the credibility of industry and regulators becomes key to a debate about how to regulate the technique, which is common in the industry but worrisome to some who live near drilling operations and draw their water from underground…Democrats in [Congress] have proposed federal regulation of fracturing and the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee has launched an investigation…

    "Hydraulic fracturing blasts truckloads of water, along with sand, chemicals and sometimes diesel or other toxic substances deep into a wellbore to break compact rock and release gas trapped inside. Though the industry has used the process for decades, questions about drinking water contamination have mounted in the past few years as the process has opened up vast reserves in shale formations in new areas [where fracturing is essential], such as Texas and New York…EPA [recently] announced the beginning of a congressionally ordered study of how fracturing affects drinking water…"

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    "The agreement not to use diesel was aimed at calming fears about groundwater contamination when [Congressional Republicans] decided to exempt fracturing from federal drinking water laws in [2005] energy legislation…in response to industry requests to head off potential federal regulation and leave oversight to the states…Democrats consistently protested that the exemption would allow oil companies to inject diesel into drinking water. So in the final version of the bill [signed by Halliburton, BJ Services and Schlumberger, which then did nearly all U.S. fracturing work], fracturing was exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act unless diesel was used…

    "After the agreement…[each company] indicated they were complying…After Democrats took control of Congress, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee [chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the Democrats' most dogged investigator and now chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee] started…questioning companies…BJ Services acknowledged…it had injected diesel in violation of the agreement… [and] Halliburton Co. reported using fluids containing diesel fuel from 2005 to 2007 to fracture oil and gas wells in 15 states…[This] could be a violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act…[though the] agreement covers only fracturing in coalbed methane wells in underground sources of drinking water…It is not clear what EPA has done since announcement of the two companies' disclosures…There is no enforcement or penalty for violating the agreement, but the Safe Drinking Water Act does have [monetary] penalties…"


    Solar’s Dirty Little Secret; The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition’s new report ranks solar manufacturers on environmental health and safety
    Eric Wesoff, March 23, 2010 (Greentech Media)

    "...[S]olar panels can have their dirty side in terms of disposal and manufacturing. And what happens to the millions of solar panels planted in solar farms and installed on roofs once they've reached the end of their useful life in 20 or 25 years?

    "…[There was an outcry] when the Washington Post reported on the alleged dumping of silicon tetrachloride, a toxic byproduct of polysilicon production on farmland in China. Lax environmental enforcement and the drive to save money on expensive recycling and treatment drove the polysilicon supplier to this irresponsible act…The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) has called on the solar industry to adopt environmentally friendly measures for manufacturing and disposing of solar panels. Sheila Davis, executive director of the non-profit SVTC, believes that solar companies should start investing in recycling efforts now rather than waiting for their products to clog up landfills before taking action…"

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    "To encourage solar manufacturers to do the right thing, SVTC just released its 2010 Solar Company Scorecard, which ranks manufacturers of PV modules according to environmental health and safety, sustainability, workers’ rights, and social justice. The responding companies self-reported on these areas and the results can serve as a resource for institutional purchasers, investors and consumers…

    "Fourteen companies representing 24 percent of the 2008 module market share and 31 percent of the cumulative market share responded to the inquiry. The top three scores were earned by German manufacturers Calyxo, SolarWorld and Sovello, which scored 90, 88 and 73 respectively…Two U.S.-based cadmium telluride manufacturers responded and scored in the mid-range: First Solar in Arizona received a score of 67 and Colorado-based startup Abound received a 63."

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    "What really needs to occur to drive a recycling culture is the adoption of a takeback program by every solar module manufacturer. Firms can go it alone like First Solar [with its highly responsible 100 percent takeback program bonded by Swiss Re in the event that First Solar is not around in 20 to 30 years] or they can get together, as in the PV Cycle Association, which is developing a voluntary solar panel recycling program in Europe…SVTC is calling for mandatory takeback and responsible recycling by solar companies as a step toward reducing the solar industry’s environmental footprint. Larger institutional customers and city or school districts can drive this process by insisting that there be takeback programs as well…

    "The SVTC got started more than 25 years ago in response to water contamination caused by the semiconductor industry. Their focus has been on electronics, but the rapid growth of the solar PV industry has spurred them into getting an early start on working with the solar panel manufacturers, and to avoid the late start that the semiconductor industry had…"

    Tuesday, March 23, 2010


    Coal Beats Solar as Analysts Favor Peabody Energy
    Christopher Martin and Jeremy van Loon, March 17, 2010 (Bloomberg News)

    "Wall Street’s contribution to the debate on how to curb global warming: Buy coal, sell solar.

    "Peabody Energy Corp., the biggest coal producer, is rated a “buy” by 79 percent of analysts, while 44 percent recommend First Solar Inc., the largest maker of thin-film solar panels. The Stowe Global Coal index of 38 coal producers has gained 6.5 percent in 2010, and the Bloomberg Global Leaders Solar index of 38 solar module and component makers has dropped 17 percent."

    "While investors including T. Boone Pickens and Warren Buffett are pushing cash into green technologies, the tilt toward Peabody and away from First Solar is the widest in two years. It reflects a sense that government support for reducing air pollution may be waning…Solar companies’ profitability is falling because of competition from China and cuts to state support in Germany and Spain, where about 72 percent power-producing photovoltaic panels were installed in 2008 [and panel prices are expected to fall as much as 10 percent in 2010 after dropping 30 percent in 2009].

    "Peabody has rallied 9.6 percent since Feb. 12, when the benchmark coal price was $49 a ton, its lowest for 2010. First Solar is little changed. Coal is burned to make about 41 percent of power worldwide and will increase its share to 44 percent by 2030, the International Energy Agency forecast…"

    "Even with growth predicted for coal-fired power generation, global investment this year in all forms of renewable energy, including wind and biomass, will climb to between $175 billion and $200 billion from $162 billion last year…With economies in Europe and the U.S. coming out of recession, attention has focused on the costs of renewable energy. The price in the U.S. of a kilowatt-hour of power from renewable sources, enough to run a toaster for 60 minutes, is about 20 to 25 U.S. cents…[One coal] company’s cheapest coal plant makes power for 2.7 cents a kilowatt-hour [but building new coal plants is more expensive than building new solar or wind capacity]…

    "Even with coal demand rising, solar photovoltaic panel sales will climb this year…Germany may install 3,000 megawatts, or about a third of the world’s total…In the Czech Republic, a country of 10 million people, about 900 megawatts of solar power will be deployed, almost matching existing U.S. installations…[R]ising global demand will help some companies weather the slump in panel prices…"


    IGCC power plant project costs top $5,500/kW
    19 March 2010 (Power-Gen Worldwide)

    "Mississippi Power Co…proposed capping the cost of its proposed 582 MW Kemper County integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) coal-fired power plant at $3.2 billion, or almost $5,500/kW. The cap would be around 30 percent higher than the current estimate of $2.4 billion, or $4,123/kW, for the coal-fired power plant.

    "…Tenaska [recently] said its planned 602 MW Taylorville coal to gas-fired power plant would cost about $3.5 billion and enter service in 2014. The estimated cost for that power plant is around $5,800/kW."

    That's $5.5 nillion per megawatt. Wind is $1.5-to-$2.5 million per megawatt. Building twice as much wind saves half a million dollars, leaving aside externalities. How could any bank justify financing coal? How can any honest person ever say cheap and abundant about coal? What's cheap and abundant is wind. (click to enlarge)

    "Mississippi Power executives last month told state regulators the company could guarantee neither the cost nor performance of the coal-fired Kemper County IGCC facility without risking the company's future credit rating and access to capital…The facility is being designed to burn Mississippi lignite. State regulators are weighing the risk and rate impact of building the coal project versus buying power under long-term contracts from existing generating plants that burn natural gas. The three-member commission is expected to issue a decision in early May…

    "Tenaska said its proposed Taylorville Energy Center will use Siemens integrated gasification combined cycle technology to convert coal into a synthetic natural gas and then burn the gas to generate electricity. The conversion process would also separate pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, mercury and nitrogen oxide."

    Maybe those investors in the preceding story will want to consider investing in energy instead of PR. (click to enlarge)

    "The power plant design uses carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology and would capture more than half of the greenhouse gases produced. Tenaska said the plant’s emissions would be comparable to a natural gas-fired plant of similar size.

    "Tenaska based its cost estimates on construction starting in December 2010, with the power plant entering service in December 2014…[but it] still needs an air permit from environmental regulators and the Department of Energy…"


    Terra-Gen Power Annouces Closing of $390 Million Construction Financing for Alta Wind I
    24 March 2010 (PR-USA.NET)

    "Terra-Gen Power, LLC ("Terra-Gen") has closed a $394 million financing for its 150 megawatt ("MW") Alta Wind I project located in Tehachapi, California. The financing includes a seven-year construction and term loan, a bridge loan to the ITC cash grant from the US Department of Energy, and ancillary credit facilities. The proceeds of this financing will be used to complete construction of the 150MW project, which utilizes GE 1.5 SLE wind turbine generators, and to repay the pre-construction financing…

    "Credit Agricole CIB and Natixis, New York Branch acted as Co-Bookrunners and Co-Structuring Leads for the financing. The lender group also includes Union Bank N.A., Prudential Investment Management, Inc., Cooperatieve Centrale Raiffeisen-Boerenleenbank B.A. ("Rabobank Nederland"), and Banco Santander S.A…"

    Wind turbines in the Tehachapi Mountains where Terra-Gen will build Alta I. (click to enlarge)

    "The Alta Wind I project represents the first phase in the development of the Alta Wind Energy Center, a 3,000 MW initiative and one of the largest wind development projects in the United States. The Alta Wind Energy Center is underpinned by a 1,550 MW power purchase agreement ("PPA") to sell clean, renewable energy to Southern California Edison ("SCE"). Alta Wind I will be constructed by a joint venture between Wind Energy Constructors and Balfour Beatty and will begin delivering energy to SCE in early 2011. Alta Wind I will be the first project to interconnect to and utilize SCE's Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project…

    "Alta Wind I is owned by California Highwind Power, a subsidiary of Terra-Gen. Terra-Gen, owned by affiliates of ArcLight Capital Partners, LLC ("ArcLight") and Global Infrastructure Partners ("GIP"), is a United States-based leading renewable power generation company…"


    Will Better Place Make It?;A look at the dollars, cents and psychology behind the electric car guys
    Michael Kanellos, March 22, 2010 (Greentech Media)

    "…Driving a gas car costs about 12 cents a mile when gas costs $3 a gallon, says Jason Wolf, vice president the [Beter Place] North American division…Electricity, on the other hand, costs about 3 cents a mile: a kilowatt hour costs around 12 cents and a car can go around 4 miles on a kilowatt hour. A battery for an electric car, meanwhile, will cost around 6 cents a mile over a 200,000 mile lifetime.

    "Since Better Place says it will supply the electricity and batteries to consumers, the company has a margin of 3 cents per mile (12 cents minus 9) before potential customers complain about the higher cost of going electric…[With the 3 cents] Better Place proposes building thousands of charging stations, hundreds of battery swapping stations, and devising software so these cars won't crash the grid when charging…There are around 200 million drivers and 254 million vehicles in the U.S. and insurance companies say the average person drives 12,000 miles a year. That comes to 2.4 trillion miles, or $72 billion of potential three-cent transactions per year. Even one percent of that would probably placate investors. And in Europe and Asia, higher gas prices boost that 3 cent margin to 9 or 12 cents. Additional revenue can come from selling semi-depleted batteries to utilities…"

    A Better Place fast-switch battery-switching station. (click to enlarge)

    "And with the battery separated from the car, the down payment and resistance toward going electric goes way down…In a short period of time, [Better Place] has joined the ranks of Google, Apple, Microsoft and Tesla Motors as a subject of endless debate and speculation. How did they raise over $700 million? How much have they spent? Will car dealers and manufacturers work with them?

    "…[There] appear to be five big hurdles the company will have to overcome…Consumers will buy electric cars, but not the battery. Better Place will build charging networks and then charge consumers subscription fees that cover the cost of the car's battery, the electricity to run them, and ancillary services like smart charging software and charging station maps… 2.1 charging stations per car…Since the battery accounts for about one-third of the cost of an electric car, the sticker price will be far lower than competing cars sold with batteries…[Better Place] will also offer discount entertainment packages, insurance and other services."

    Common driving habits mean most charging will take place at home. (click to enlarge)

    "…[T]he Better Place hurdles…[1] Fear, Uncertainly and Doubt…[are] perhaps the largest looming barrier. It's just plain weird to buy a car but lease the most expensive component…[Consumers] will have legitimate questions…[2] Swapping…Consumers don't have to worry about their battery degrading…Better Place will circulate newer, longer-lasting batteries into the fleet….[B]atteries will decline in price…Better Place's battery expenses drop to 3 cents a mile and the gross margin doubles to 6 cents. The company can then add to its margins by selling the semi-depleted battery packs to utilities for grid balancing…

    "…[3] The battery is one-third of the price of an electric car…[so] car manufacturers only get to sell two-thirds of a car, leaving them…[less] profit…On the other hand, fleet sales… are drawing customers, which car makers won't want to miss out on…[4] Technically, you will need to install a charger for safety reasons, but it's essentially the same outlet [as the 240-volt home dryer socket]…Your first electric car will likely be a commuter car, plowing less than 40 miles a day…If you drive 12,000 miles a year like the average American, your electricity costs come to $360 a year, or $36 a month. And if you charge at off-peak hours like the utilities will urge you to, the monthly costs drop to $24…[5] Better Place often analogizes the service to the cell phone industry. In the early days, cell phone equipment was expensive…Now, phones go worldwide and the infrastructure costs have dropped…Still, the prices of cell phone equipment and Better Place equipment aren't remotely [the same]…Then again, with a leased battery, electronics are someone else's problem…So it could work."

    Monday, March 22, 2010


    Don't back away from renewable energy commitment
    Editorial, March 17, 2010 (Rochester Post-Bulletin)

    "At the end of last year, 37 states had set some type of goal related to the percentage of energy they produce from renewable sources…All but five…[are] legally binding targets that power companies must meet, or face some type of penalty."

    "…[Republican gubernatorial asperant] Rep. Marty Seifert…introduced a bill that would let Minnesota back away from its commitment of using 25 percent renewable energy by 2025. Seifert voted in favor of the energy standard in 2007, but he now says it should be replaced…Make no mistake: Minnesota has set the bar high. Only a few states are pursuing a 25 percent renewable goal…only Illinois and Oregon are trying to get it done by 2025…"

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    "But there are many reasons we should stand by our commitments to renewable energy…Right now, renewable energy is more costly than electricity produced from coal or natural gas, so without a legal imperative, utility companies would have no incentive to invest in alternative energy infrastructure…With the standards in place…companies like Xcel Energy must act… For the average, 3.5 kilowatt system, Xcel will pay $7,875, about one-third of the total cost. The "Solar Rewards" program is expected to attract more than 1,300 participants in the next three years."

    The best thing about Minnesota's RES is that it will prevent the state from squandering these wind assets. (click to enlarge)

    "Then there's the matter of pollution…Energy produced on wind farms kept 62 million tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere last year, the equivalent of taking 10 million cars off America's highways. Without renewable energy, our air would be even dirtier…Finally, there's the direct economic impact of renewable energy…[T]he hundreds of wind turbines that dot our landscape…represent jobs for manufacturers, installers and maintenance workers, as well as a direct revenue stream for the landowners who sign long-term leases…

    "…[I]f Minnesota backs away from its commitment to renewable energy, all bets are off concerning future research and growth in the wind and solar industries. If "green energy" developers don't have a guaranteed market for their product, they'll go elsewhere…[W]e might face a future in which wind turbines wouldn't be worth maintaining…We're just three years along in a process [of developing a New Energy infrastructure] that was supposed to take 18 years to complete…It's far too early to be bailing out."


    Bill would extend solar tax credits to solar farms
    Samantha Abernethy, March 17, 2010 (AP via BusinessWeek)

    "U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., …is introducing a bill in Congress to extend residential solar energy tax credits to community-based solar farm collectives.

    "Current tax law allows homeowners to receive a 30 percent tax credit for installing solar panels on their property…[Udall’s] Solar Uniting Neighborhoods [SUN] Act -- would allow homeowners to receive tax credits for panels installed somewhere else. That would extend the credit to community-owned solar farms, where neighbors designate sunny, treeless areas for installation of community solar panels…"

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    "Udall said this change would make the tax credit more accessible financially and logistically. The tax credit would run until 2016…"

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    "The so-called SUN Act would be a logical amendment to the clean energy bill introduced in December by Sens. John Kerry, Lindsay Graham and Joe Lieberman, Udall said. The cost would be offset if the bill passes as part of a larger package.

    "The Colorado-based Clean Energy Collective estimates a five-year cost of $117 million, but the Joint Committee on Taxation has not yet released an official estimate…Udall said this is one of a number of clean energy jobs initiatives he plans to roll out in the coming months."


    Ore. Town Uses Geothermal Energy to Stay Warm; Ore. town is poster child for geothermal energy, toasty sidewalks during winter and all
    Jeff Barnard, March 20, 2010 (AP via ABC News)

    "A combination of hot rocks and water like those that created Yellowstone's geysers have been tapped by the city to keep the sidewalks [of Klamath Falls] toasty since the early 1990s. They also heat downtown buildings, kettles at a brewhouse, and greenhouses and keep the lights on at a college campus.

    "Geothermal wells in this town of 20,000 mark one of the nation's most ambitious uses of a green energy resource with a tiny carbon footprint, and could serve as a model for a still-fledgling industry that is gaining steam with $338 million in stimulus funds and more than 100 projects nationwide…Geothermal energy is unknown in much of the country but accounts for 0.5 percent of the nation's energy production."

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    "…[H]ot rock is closer to the surface here, and comes with the water needed to bring the energy to the surface…With more than 600 geothermal wells heating houses, schools and a hospital as well as turning the turbine on a small power plant, Klamath Falls shows what everyday life could be if stimulus grants and venture capitalists turn geothermal energy from a Western curiosity to a game-changing energy resource.

    "Until now, geothermal energy has been limited by having to find the three essentials ingredients occurring together in one place naturally: hot rock relatively close to the surface, water, and cracks in the rock that serve as a reservoir…Those limitations go away if engineers can tame…Enhanced Geothermal Systems [EGS]…[which] could be producing 100 gigawatts of electricity — equivalent to 1,000 coal-fired or nuclear power plants — by 2050, and has the potential to generate a large fraction of the nation's energy needs for centuries to come…"

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    "One form of EGS involves drilling thousands of feet down to reach hot rock, pumping water down to fracture the rock to create reservoirs, then sending down water that will come back up another well as hot water or steam that can spin a turbine to generate electricity…The system can be dropped in practically anywhere that hot rocks are close enough to the surface to make drilling economical…The major problem with EGS is the potential to create earthquakes…[Earthquakes have stopped EGS projects] and an international protocol has been developed for monitoring and mitigating earthquake problems…

    "Federal funding for geothermal started during the 1970s Arab oil embargo…[T]he Obama administration revived support for geothermal energy…[I]t is funding 123 demonstration projects in 38 states with stimulus funds…The centerpiece is $25 million to AltaRock Energy, Inc., of Seattle and Sausalito, Calif., to demonstrate EGS can produce electricity economically and without producing earthquakes…People in Klamath Falls don't have to be convinced…"