NewEnergyNews More: February 2012

NewEnergyNews More

Every day is Earthday.

Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart

email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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Your intrepid reporter

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  • Monday, February 27, 2012

    CHINA SHOPPING FOR U.S. WIND

    China's State Grid in talks to buy AES' U.S. wind assets: sources
    Wan Xu and Don Durfee (w/Ian Geoghegan and Jason Neely), February 27, 2012 (Reuters)

    "State Grid Corp of China has had talks with U.S. power firm AES Corp (AES.N) about taking a controlling stake in its U.S. wind power business…as China's cash-flush state-owned power companies go on an overseas buying spree…[T]he assets could be worth around $1.65 billion…The deal involves wind power assets with capacity of around 1,100 megawatts (MW) and would give State Grid a roughly 80 percent stake in AES's U.S. wind power business…

    "…It would be State Grid's first foray into the United States…China's cashed up state power groups have been scooping up bargains, with dominant power distributor State Grid establishing a presence in the Philippines, Brazil and Portugal…One driver for such deals is a tightly regulated Chinese market that holds down profits for power firms…[The] agreement…[and] specific details… are still under negotiation…"




    "AES Wind Generation, a wholly-owned part of AES Corp, operates more than 1,800 MW of wind power generation capacity in the United States, China and Europe. Of that, nearly 1,346 MW is in the United States…[It] has a market value of $10.5 billion…Any deal would need both Chinese and U.S. regulatory approval…Since the failure of China's state oil firm CNOOC's bid to buy California rival Unocal in 2005, few Chinese companies have tried to buy U.S. conventional energy assets…[A] successful deal by State Grid would represent a significant step for China's efforts to enter the U.S. power market...

    "…[T]he Chinese company signed a deal to buy a 25 percent stake in Portuguese power grid operator REN for around $508 million. [I]t bought seven Brazilian power transmission companies with investments totaling nearly $1 billion…[A] consortium led by State Grid [won] operation of the Philippine power grid…[in] an auction for a 25-year operation license for $3.95 billion…AES, in which sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corp CIC.UL holds a 15 percent stake…[wants] to sell all or part of its businesses in China, a deal that could raise $300-400 million…"

    AZ UTIL TO STORE 1.5MW OF SUN

    Electrovaya Delivers 1.5 Mwh Lithium Ion Battery-Based Energy Storage System To Arizona Public Service Company; Energy Storage Enables Intermittent Renewable Energy for Grid Applications
    February 23, 2012 (Electrovaya Inc.)

    "Electrovaya Inc…has delivered a 1.5MWh capacity Lithium Ion SuperPolymer® Battery Energy Storage System (“BESS”) to Arizona Public Service Company, that state’s largest electric utility. The BESS will be providing energy storage for a pilot program to study ways to optimize the integration of renewable energy sources to the grid."



    "…Electrovaya…partnered with ABB, a leading global power and automation technology company, to provide the power conditioning and conversion equipment for the battery energy storage system…Energy storage can help…integrate more renewable energy onto [the APS] system…[by allowing the storage of] solar energy during the day and dispatch [of] it in the evening…"

    THE POWER OF BUILDINGS

    Viridity, ConEd Solutions Take On Demand Response 2.0; Viridity and ConEd Solutions launch a commercial-scale effort to turn buildings into energy market resources.
    Jeff St. John, February 24, 2012 (Greentech Media)

    "Demand response -- turning down building power loads to shave peak grid demand -- sometimes gets split into 1.0 and 2.0 versions…[DR 2.0] comes when buildings can lower their peak power use not only to respond to utility emergency calls (DR 1.0), but to actually bid their power reduction into energy markets…But to manage it, this DR 2.0 technology has to stretch from the individual building, all the way to the energy markets where blocks of power are bought and sold every day...Viridity Energy and big energy services company ConEdison Solutions…[have built a platform to do that and thereby offer] building owners a chance to lower power bills and bring in new energy revenues, all at little to no cost.

    "The program has…a big target market, in the form of ConEd Solutions’ energy services (ESCO) and commodity energy trading customers…As a sister company of New York utility Consolidated Edison, ConEd Solutions is comparable to Honeywell and Johnson Control in terms of ESCO work, and competes against the likes of Constellation Energy and Dominion Power in the business of buying and selling power for big customers."


    click to enlarge

    "Viridity and ConEd Solutions bring a distinct new challenge to the competition for the title of the first commercial-scale demand response 2.0 project…[against] EnerNOC, Comverge, Constellation Energy, Johnson Controls, Honeywell…[which are] working on projects that link building control systems with energy markets ready to pay a premium for fast-responding, reliable power shed…

    "…ConEd Solutions’ big customer base gives it an advantage…[and] its energy commodity trading business [offers] more insight into how to better manage customer energy use to lower their rates and bills…Viridity has also proven its ability to handle both the emergency capacity demand response markets, which pay customers a monthly fee in exchange for a promise to cut power drop a few times a year, and the energy, or economic, demand response markets, where customers actually bid power reductions into energy markets…"

    UTILITIES PLANNING FOR SMART GRID

    Utilities' Smart Grid Deployment Plans Show Nuance
    Charles Newton, 23 February 2012 (Renew Grid)

    "…[2012] is likely to be the first time global smart grid expenditures approach $10 billion…[but] the development of multiple systems, subsystems, equipment and devices to effectively monitor, measure, control and protect electricity grids has been under way for the past half century or longer. Each new generation of electrical equipment manufactured for electric power utilities and industrial companies has become more intelligent and powerful, with smaller footprints, than its predecessors.

    "What's truly new is the attempt to better integrate so many disparate operational and engineering activities and to provide a more intelligent and visual approach to information management and telecommunications operations, as well as to include physical and cybersecurity safeguards as a foundation for an intelligent electricity grid…[or] a set of enabling technologies that will more easily and accurately inform utility management and staff by providing improved situational awareness through better visualization of real-time conditions…"


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    "Eighty-four percent of all utilities surveyed responded that smart meters/advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) are a part of their smart grid plan…[J]ust 49% of all responding utilities indicated that dynamic pricing was an integral part of their smart meter implementation…Time-of-use (TOU) was the most often cited pricing model…The roles of control systems (e.g., SCADA) and substation automation were clear leaders in providing utilities with the greatest operating efficiencies relative to the investments…

    "The top three overall factors that determine the success of smart grid initiatives are return on investment, communications network availability and IT technology availability…Just over a quarter of utilities overall said they plan on investing in V2G technology…Forty-one percent of all respondents are uncertain about whether or not they plan to implement V2G pilot projects. Thirty-six percent said they do not plan to try a pilot program…Most utilities do not have plans to invest in V2B technology. IOUs are an exception…"

    BP WIND’S 1,000TH TURBINE

    BP Wind Energy Inaugurates 150 MW Texas Wind Farm
    23 February 2012 (North American Windpower)

    "BP Wind Energy has marked the full commercial operation of the Sherbino 2 wind farm, the company's third wind facility in Texas."

    click to enlarge

    "The Sherbino 2 project, located in Pecos County, has a generation capacity of 150 MW, and is 100% owned and operated by BP…[T]he inauguration also marked the installation of its 1,000th wind turbine."

    BETTER BIPV

    Report Recommends Ways To Improve BIPV Glass For Solar Applications
    24 February 2012 (Solar Industry)

    "The total market for building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) glass will reach $6.4 billion in revenues in 2016, compared to $1.5 billion this year….

    "Today's BIPV glass provides transparency well below 50%, and the initial markets for BIPV glass are found in skylights, facades, spandrels, curtain walls and atrium roofing, where high levels of transparency are not required…[B]y improving on the current level of transparency, manufacturers of BIPV glass may be able to expand their addressable markets…"


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    "[O]ne way that transparency can be improved is through new absorber materials, such as very thin layers of copper indium gallium diselenide or advanced dye-sensitized cells (DSC) using more transparent dyes…Another approach is to use advanced optics to enable the positioning of the PV panels so that they do not block sunlight to the same degree as in conventional BIPV glass panels, the report adds.

    "A similar evolution is expected to occur in the nature of the BIPV glass products themselves. Currently, all BIPV glass is highly customized to the needs of specific projects…[A]s BIPV glass shifts…to the broader commercial construction market, off-the-the-shelf products will have to be developed that can be sold through large construction firms and PV systems integrators…[F]uture generations of BIPV glass products will be characterized by monolithic integration and the incorporation of lighting, dimming and self-cleaning capabilities."

    Sunday, February 26, 2012

    SAVING NEW ENERGY IN THE EU

    Carbon Trust and GE Partner to Pump Up Europe’s Clean Tech Sector
    February 24, 2012 (GE Reports)

    "In a step to reverse Europe’s falling share of clean energy investment, GE has partnered with British non-profit Carbon Trust to infuse the European clean tech sector with fresh capital. The initial phase of the alliance includes a business incubation fund of $5 million to support new low carbon technologies in infrastructure applications. The initiative is an extension of GE’s ecomagination Challenge – a $200 million global program to find and fund the best ideas in clean technology.

    "Some of the impetus to forge the new relationship came from trends revealed in a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report that shows a discouraging 40% drop in Europe’s share of clean energy investment over the past five years, a period during which Asia Oceania almost doubled its share."


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    "GE’s Innovation Barometer shows that roughly half of UK businesses see the UK as a challenging environment for innovation. 84% of them also believe that developing partnerships and collaborating with a combination of players – including government, big business, SMEs and individuals – is crucial for their success in innovation.

    "In light of those facts, Carbon Trust will work with GE to sift out the most promising early stage companies focusing on clean tech infrastructure in areas such as smart grids, lighting systems, heating and ventilation and building controls. Those fortunate start-ups will receive funding and support from GE and Carbon Trust…"

    PRES WANTS PERMANENT PTC

    Obama tax plan takes scalpel to oil tax breaks, boosts renewables
    Andrew Restuccia, February 22, 2012 (The Hill)

    "The Obama administration outlined a plan…to eliminate a slew of oil-and-gas industry tax breaks, while extending a key tax credit for renewable energy… in a broad corporate tax reform framework unveiled by the Treasury Department…

    "The plan echoes President Obama’s longtime call to [cut $39 billion worth of tax breaks for oil and gas companies over a decade in his fiscal 2013 budget request because]… the industry receives preferential treatment…Among other things, the plan would repeal the expensing of intangible drilling costs and percentage depletion for oil and natural gas wells."


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    "Obama’s plan to nix tax breaks for oil and gas companies faces major opposition from many Republicans, oil-state Democrats and the oil industry. Recent efforts to pass legislation to eliminate the tax breaks have fallen short…[It] is the latest indication that the president hopes to revive the yearlong fight over oil industry tax breaks, signaling the White House believes it’s a winning election issue…Republicans have ramped up attacks on Obama over his energy policies in recent months, pointing to rising gas prices…

    "Obama’s tax framework also calls for making permanent the production tax credit for [each kilowatt-hour of electricity that is produced], which is set to expire at the end of the year…A study commissioned by the American Wind Energy Association, the wind industry’s trade group, says that expiration of the production tax credit could cost as many as 37,000 jobs… Republicans have attacked plans to extend the tax credit…[and called it] an unnecessary subsidy for ‘Big Wind.’"

    SIEMENS WIND TO MID-AMERICA FOR MIDAMERICAN

    Siemens wins 407MW MidAmerican deal
    James Quilter 24 February 2012 (Windpower Monthly)

    "Siemens will supply 176 SWT 2.3 108 turbines…[and] five-year maintenance…[to projects in Iowa’s] Vienna, Marshall and Tama counties (103.5MW)…Eclipse, Guthrie and Audubon counties (200MW)…[and] Morning Light, Adair County (101.2MW)…"

    Iowa is number 2 with a bullet! (click to enlarge)

    "…The turbines will be produced in Siemens’ factories at Fort Madison, Iowa, and Hutchinson, Kansas. The nacelle assembly facility in Hutchinson was opened in December, for Siemens’ 2.3MW and 3MW turbines."

    A NEW GENERATION OF PV MANUFACTURING

    20 GW of PV Manufacturing Equipment To Be Replaced By 2016
    Tim Dawson, February 2012 (PV Group)

    "Despite the outlook for the PV manufacturing equipment market remaining bleak in 2012, a new report from IMS Research forecasts that there could be a 20 GW opportunity for the upgrade or replacement of existing capacity over the next four years.

    "…[R]evenue declines of over 65% are forecast for the PV manufacturing equipment market in 2012. However, a new opportunity has been identified as equipment vendors seek out new market bright spots in the industry."


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    "Aging equipment requiring upgrade or complete replacement represents the biggest opportunity currently and this is where the majority of equipment revenues will come from in 2012…[T]his could provide a 20 GW opportunity for equipment suppliers, generating some $25 billion in revenues over the next four years.

    "Ingot, wafer, cell and module makers are all placing less criticality on expanding production, and are instead focusing on increasing end-product quality and overall efficiencies. Utilization rates are at an all-time low and the current lull in new demand and capacity across the supply chain will provide a potential opportunity for PV-product makers to gain market share longer-term through upgrading equipment now…"

    FEDS BACK SUN R&D

    DOE Awards Millions In Funding To Solar Energy Research And Development
    24 February 2012 (Solar Industry)

    "The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded $9 million in funding to its Bridging Research Interactions through collaborative Development Grants in Energy (BRIDGE) program for solar energy research and development.

    "…[As] part of the DOE's SunShot Initiative, research teams will be able to access the tools and staff expertise at existing DOE Office of Science research facilities so fundamental scientific discoveries can be rapidly transitioned to existing product lines and projects."


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    "The BRIDGE program is the first within the SunShot Initiative to provide engineers and scientists who are developing solar technologies with the tools and expertise of the Department's Office of Science research facilities, including major facilities for x-ray and neutron scattering, nanoscale science, advanced microcharacterization, environmental molecular sciences, and advanced scientific computing.

    "…[The DOE said a] collaborative approach will accelerate innovations to lower the cost of solar technologies…"

    THE DONALD (TRUMP) VS. OCEAN WIND

    Trump backs Cats over wind farm row
    James Quilter, 23 February 2012 (Windpower Monthly)

    "US entrepreneur and TV celebrity Donald Trump's war against the Vattenfall-led 100MW offshore wind farm in Aberdeenshire Bay, Scotland has taken a new turn with his company stating Trump will do ‘whatever it takes’ to stop the plans.

    "The Aberdeenshire Bay project is being developed by a Vattenfall-led consortium in Aberdeen Bay to test next-generation wind turbines. Trump is opposed to the project as he believes they will spoil the view from a golf course he is building nearby. The offshore project is currently going through the permitting process…Trump has ordered work on the golf course to be stopped."


    This guy's opposition is a good argument FOR the offshore wind. (click to enlarge)

    "…Trump is [reportedly] planning to work alongside anti-wind group Communities Against Turbines Scotland (Cats)…[and] back Cats financially…The issue puts the Scottish government in a difficult position. Although renewable energy is a keystone of the ruling Scottish National Party's policy, the party's leader and Scottish first minister Alex Salmond has previously thrown his weight behind Trump's plans…"

    [Dan Barlow, head of policy, World Wildlife Fund Scotland:] "Given the urgent need to tackle climate change it is deeply depressing to hear in detail how Donald Trump intends using his vast wealth to try to kill-off one of the clean, green solutions available to the people of Scotland."

    Thursday, February 23, 2012

    NEW ENERGY COULD CONSOLIDATE

    Clean energy set for consolidation says E&Y
    Nina Chestney (w/Jason Neely), February 16, 2012 (Reuters)

    "The clean energy sector is unlikely to sustain its frenzied rate of investment growth and looks set for consolidation led by Asian players [according to an Ernst & Young renewables authority]… …[The global clean energy sector drew a record $260 billion in investment in the face of the financial crisis…Driving growth are countries keen to replace fossil fuel energy with cleaner sources, but the rate of growth faces challenges]…"

    [Gil Forer, head of global cleantech, Ernst & Young:] "The (renewables) space has grown dramatically in the last seven to eight years. No industry can continue to grow indefinitely at such rates, there is always a point of correction…You cannot anticipate 40 to 50 percent growth rates year-on-year indefinitely…"

    click to enlarge

    [Gil Forer, head of global cleantech, Ernst & Young:] "In developed markets you see continuous growth, although its more pressured…On the other hand, many markets in the developing world have seen increases in government commitments such as in South America, Africa and the Middle East…[I] t takes several quarters for industry to synchronize…[and] stabilize…We will see consolidation for sure and big players doing acquisitions, particularly the Chinese, Japanese and South Koreans…"

    "Uncertainty about governments' renewables policies and support is having an impact on financing projects in the sector…When investors do not have a stabilized long-term horizon they do not invest…Capital is scarce right now across the board, from venture capital to project finance…[and leaders are] looking at ways to move pension money into the industry because….[for] renewable energy projects…[with] power purchasing agreements, there is not that much risk…Venture capital firms are having difficulties raising cash…[but] there are still lots of opportunities in smart grid technology, electric car technology, solar components and wind turbine niche markets..."

    MONEY FOR NEW ENERGY, THE OUTLOOK

    Project Finance Lawyer Offers Financing Outlook
    22 February 2012 (North American Windpower)

    "…[I]n the wake of some dramatic pullback by European lenders, along with continued debate in Congress whether to extend tax credits for wind farms and other alternative fuel sources…the Obama administration, hoping to reinvigorate the sector, is planning a major meeting on March 13 to deliver a pitch to the country’s largest companies about the benefits of tax-equity deals for renewable projects.

    "Allan Marks, partner at Milbank, Tweed Hadley & McCloy, says now might be a good time for a renewables reality check…[but] there are some near-term bright spots…[M]ore strategic investors and other sources of funding will commit to renewable projects in coming months…Although European banks continue to step back, Marks believes that American, Canadian, and Japanese banks and funds will be stepping up financing for renewable deals…[as will] insurance companies, pension funds and other institutional investors…[and] capital markets activity in general, including private placements and other securities offerings such as project bonds…"


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    "Marks agrees that tax-equity partnerships being pushed by the White House and U.S. Department of Energy could be a key factor in attracting new capital, thereby boosting the value of existing renewable tax credits, which otherwise could be squandered…He also expects more financing to come from industry vendors, especially equipment manufacturers with ample balance sheets looking to enhance their competitive share of a given market - say, solar panels. That lowers the cost of the project…

    "…[T]he global market for renewable energy investment remains extremely strong…[with] still-expanding demand for power in China, Latin America, India and…Japan, which had previously put so much faith in nuclear, is now taking a more serious look at renewable energy sources in the wake of last year’s Fukushima disaster…In the U.S., renewable energy demand will actually be a boon to the gas industry…[U]tilities will turn to clean gas [to back up] renewable sources…"

    GERMANY SPEEDS F-I-T CUT

    Report: Germany To Accelerate Scheduled Solar Feed-In-Tariff Reductions
    22 February 2012 (Solar Industry)

    "Germany's environment ministry and economy ministry have developed a plan that calls for accelerating the next round of PV feed-in-tariff (FIT) reductions. Under the plan, the government will now slash FITs earlier and more deeply than was originally planned.

    "…[T]he next FIT reduction will now take place on April 1 (rather than July 1 as initially scheduled) and will reduce the FIT by 20% for small roof-mounted projects and up to 30% for larger installations. The July FIT cut was scheduled to be just 15%."


    This decision could impact the world solar market. (click to enlarge)

    "The plan also imposes a 90% limit on the proportion of solar power that can be fed into the grid from a given plant…[T]he accelerated FIT reductions [may] threaten thousands of solar jobs and hurt installation growth in Germany.

    "…[This follows the release of a new report] projecting that Germany will produce 36% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2020."

    Tuesday, February 21, 2012

    ANTELOPE VALLEY SOLAR GETS GO

    First Solar Receives Missing Antelope Valley Project Permit
    17 February 2012 (Solar Industry)

    "A critical county-level project permit that threatened to derail First Solar's 230 MW Antelope Valley Solar Ranch 1 project has been secured."click to enlarge

    "…[A] Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing [had indicated First Solar] was in danger of losing its U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) loan guarantee if it could not obtain the required construction permit by a Feb. 24 deadline…However, the matter has since been settled…[AVSR1] is now fully permitted by Los Angeles County, and the DOE is expected to begin funding the loan guarantee shortly…"

    CHICAGO BULLS & BLACKHAWKS POWERED BY WIND

    Utility To Buy Wind Power RECs For Chicago Bulls, Blackhawks Games
    17 February 2012 (North American Windpower)

    "Constellation Energy has announced that it will secure renewable energy credits (RECs) to match United Center electricity usage with wind power before, during and after all Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks games."

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    "As a prelude to Earth Day, Constellation says it will sponsor games for the Blackhawks on April 1 and the Bulls on April 2…The utility sponsored similar efforts last year for the Chicago Bears, Cubs and White Sox. In addition to powering the United Center, Constellation also supplies electricity to Wrigley Field and the Bears' Halas Hall team offices and practice facilities."

    ANTI-KEYSTONE HAS FUNDERS, TOO

    Campaign against Canadian Keystone XL pipeline driven by US foundation millions
    David Martosko, February 21, 2012 (Daily Caller)

    "...[D]uring a July 2008 meeting, the $789 million Rockefeller Brothers Fund proposed to coordinate and fund a dozen environmental and anti-corporate activist groups’ efforts to scuttle pipelines carrying tar sands oil from Canada to the United States...The most recent incarnation of that pipeline plan, the Keystone XL project, was the subject of intense public controversy until the Obama administration rejected it in January.

    "The 2008 meeting consisted of presentations from Rockefeller Brothers Fund program officer Michael Northrop, Corporate Ethics International Executive Director Michael Marx, Natural Resources Defense Council attorney Susan Casey-Lefkowitz and the director of a Canadian activist group called the Pembina Institute."


    click thru for the meeting slide presentations

    "Northrop’s presentation described the extraction of oil from Canada’s vast tar sands oil deposits as a threat to environmentalists’ efforts to curb global warming. He outlined a ”globally significant response” consisting of a 'network of leading US and Canadian NGOs' engaged in a 'coordinated campaign structure'...

    "The subject of U.S. interests raining money on environmental organizations north of the border is a front-burner issue in Canada."

    THE FIGHT FOR WIND GOES ON

    Senators File Amendment That Includes Wind Power PTC Extension
    17 February 2012 (North American Windpower)

    "U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., are making a bipartisan push to extend the production tax credit (PTC) for wind energy.

    "The senators have filed an amendment to a bill currently under debate in the Senate, and they say the measure is fully paid for. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., is a co-sponsor of the amendment…"


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    "According to the American Wind Energy Association, the expiration of the wind PTC could lead to the elimination of as many as 37,000 U.S. jobs."

    [Senator Jerry Moran, R-Kan.:] “If we expect the wind energy industry to make long-term investments in their businesses and provide for our country’s future energy needs, Congress must quickly work to reauthorize the wind production tax credit…Our failure to extend this tax credit would destabilize this growing manufacturing industry and cost thousands of American jobs…[W]e cannot afford to miss this opportunity to invest in our energy future.”

    THE LITHIUM-ION SHAKEOUT

    Assessment of Strategy and Execution for 10 Leading Lithium Ion Battery Vendors
    1Q 2012 (Pike Research)

    "Lithium ion batteries currently dominate the nascent market for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and are slowly becoming selected for use in hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and stop-start vehicles (SSVs). As these vehicle segments grow to hundreds of thousands and then millions of vehicles sold per year, Li-ion production will enter volume production, lowering their cost and making the technology cost-competitive with alternative technologies such as Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries."

    click to enlarge

    "The Li-ion automotive market is currently led by Japanese and Korean companies that originally produced cells for the consumer electronics and computing markets. These veteran companies are being challenged by companies mostly from China and North America that are slowly gaining customers, mostly in their domestic markets. The Li-ion automotive market is entering a mature phase that will see some smaller companies fail or be acquired due to an inability to reach volume production. The market will likely see volatility during 2012 as some supplier agreements change hands…"

    YET ANOTHER SOLYNDRA INVESTIGATION

    White House Allegedly 'Shielding' Key Personnel From Solyndra Probe
    Jessica Lillian, 16 February 2012 (Solar Industry)

    "As the investigation into failed PV module manufacturer Solyndra hits its one-year anniversary, the lawmakers…House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns…[plan to issue] subpoenas to five requested witnesses who are believed to have key information on Solyndra's $535 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

    "The five individuals are Kevin Carroll, energy branch chief at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB); Kelly Colyar, branch chief at the OMB; Aditya Kumar, deputy assistant to the vice president and senior advisor to then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel; Fouad Saad, program examiner at the OMB; and Heather Zichal, deputy assistant to the president for energy and climate change."


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    "Upton and Stearns insist that President Obama's administration has repeatedly hindered their committee's investigatory efforts...necessitating the issuance of the subpoenas…[They also claim] the Solyndra-related documents supplied so far have proven to be inadequate...[ Last week, the White House sent the Energy and Commerce Committee 313 pages of new internal documents and emails…Upton and Stearns believe certain crucial documents are still being withheld…[T]he committee has set a new deadline - Feb. 21 - for the Obama administration to provide all of the documents that they deem necessary]…

    "…[S]pecific Solyndra-related questions that allegedly remain unanswered include…- What was the extent of the White House's involvement in the restructuring of Solyndra's DOE loan guarantee?...Who gave a directive to Solyndra to hold off on announcing job cuts until after the 2010 elections?...Why did the White House give Solyndra "so much attention," in comparison to other loan-guarantee recipients?...[and] Why did President Obama visit Solyndra's fab in May 2010, after the company's "worsening financial condition" had been made apparent?"

    Sunday, February 19, 2012

    MANUFACTURING CLIMATE DOUBT

    Leaked docs offer insight into how climate-skeptic groups operate
    Brad Plumer, February 16, 2012 (Washington Post)

    "…[D]ocuments from the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based nonprofit that spends a fair bit of time disputing mainstream climate science…[reinforce the well-known fact that] skeptic groups spend a lot of money trying to call into question the scientific consensus on man-made global warming…[and] offer some fuller insight into how these organizations operate…

    "1) There’s still a lot of money in climate skepticism…[The documents show] the group has spent at least several million dollars attacking climate science over the past few years…[I]t took nearly two years for the Heartland Institute to [repond to the 2007 IPCC report on climate change]…[but] Heartland is trying to raise at least $200,000 to make sure that it has its “Climate Change Reconsidered” report ready as soon as the IPCC releases its next big assessment in 2013…"


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    "2) Big oil companies seem to be increasingly minor players in the skeptic arena…[M]uch of the money comes from individual donors, particularly a person referred to as “the Anonymous Donor,” who gave $14.26 million over the past six years…That’s one possible signal that climate skepticism…[has] become a self-sustaining ideological endeavor…3) Many firms don’t like being associated with climate denial…[Donors] were quick to distance themselves from Heartland’s stance on global warming…

    "4) Skeptic money doesn’t necessarily corrupt, but it can amplify marginal viewpoints…Craig Idso, a skeptical scientist…says that he has long opposed the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change — even before he was getting paid by Heartland…It’s doubtful that many skeptics meaningfully alter their views in order to receive money…5) The climate wars are moving to the classroom…[Heartland] plans to spend $100,000 per year to develop a curriculum for schools that would call basic climate science into question…[B]attles over the teaching of evolution in public schools…[could be replaced by] fights over climate science…"

    CAPE WIND GETS NEW MONEY

    Cape Wind to proceed after 129MW NStar PPA
    James Quilter, 16 February 2012 (Windpower Monthly)

    "Plans to build the Cape Wind 468MW project in Nantucket Sound, Massachusetts, took a big step forward after the state PUC made the merger of two utilities NStar and Northeast Utilities conditional on signing a power purchase agreement with the wind farm.

    "Cape Wind has all of the necessary permits to build the project…[but] only has a PPA with National Grid for 50% of the 468MW project and has been struggling to find a buyer for the remaining half to finance the build…Nstar is to purchase 129MW of capacity from the project as of its $4.8 billion acquisition by Northeast Utilities. Cape Wind said this would allow the project to be constructed."


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    "Last year, Cape Wind called on the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities to make NStar/Northeast buy the remaining 50% in order to fulfil its renewables obligations. At the time, there was a question over whether this was possible as NStar has tended to prefer onshore wind and has acquired PPAs in several projects…

    "The decision...[will allow Cape Wind’s] the search for project financing. Last year, there was speculation that Cape Wind may tap into the bond market for financing…[T]he Department of Energy [shelved the project's] application for a loan guarantee for the $2 billion project…[A]t one point Siemens [the project’s turbine supplier] said it would consider financing the project…"

    CHINA SOLAR MODULE PRICE BREAKS $1/W

    Chinese Tier-2 PV Module Prices Fall Below $1/W in January, But Price Cuts Slow
    16 February 2012 (IMS Research)

    "The average price of Chinese Tier-2 crystalline PV modules fell to $0.96 per watt in January 2012, according to the latest PV module pricing report from IMS Research...Annualized price declines (ignoring seasonality) slowed to 22% in January, having exceeded 50% in December, as incentive levels were reduced in a number of major PV markets at the end of 2011.

    "Highly competitive pricing from Chinese Tier-2 manufacturers has continued into 2012…and the average crystalline PV module price from these suppliers declined twice as quickly as the total market in January dropping to $0.96/W."


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    "Although many spot prices were offered below this in recent months, this is the first time that the global average price had fallen below this industry milestone. Prices as low as $0.80/W (~€0.60/W) were recorded for Chinese Tier-2 module suppliers in January, typically for large orders from German distributors.

    "The report also found significant pricing variations throughout the supply chain with distributors seeing an even faster fall in prices…[D]declines actually slowed in comparison to previous months in response to strong demand in Europe…"

    Tuesday, February 14, 2012

    NEW ENERGY IN THE NEW BUDGET

    Obama’s Pitch on Energy
    Editorial, February 14, 2012 (NY Times)

    "President Obama’s new budget lays down a clear and much-needed challenge to the Republican House’s large number of climate-change deniers and all of the Republican Party’s many panderers to Big Oil…The budget calls for spending $6.7 billion on clean-energy programs in fiscal-year 2013 — 13 percent more than Congress appropriated for this fiscal year. It also calls for an end to $4 billion in annual tax cuts and subsidies now enjoyed by the oil and gas industry…

    "…[P]rograms included in the budget…Increased financing for the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which underwrites a broad range of energy efficiency initiatives. The budget asks for $2.3 billion, up from $1.6 billion…Reauthorization of cash grants to wind, solar and other renewable energy companies…expired at the end of last year…[A]nother year of financing could create nearly 40,000 new jobs in the solar industry alone."


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    "…Extension of a vital production tax credit for the wind industry that is scheduled to expire this year. Without some assurance that the credit will continue, investments in wind turbines and other equipment will dry up…[And incentives to] encourage the building of more energy efficient commercial buildings; promote tough new fuel-economy and greenhouse-gas standards for vehicles; and support the Interior Department’s aggressive program of permitting new renewable energy projects on public lands…

    "Last year, the five biggest oil companies racked up $137 billion in profits. They and their allies in Congress will fight to maintain their subsidies. Mr. Obama will have to push back. The cuts would not cost jobs or slow exploration. What they would do is save the government $4 billion to spend on the country’s energy future."

    WHAT PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT THE SMART GRID

    Consumer Pulse Research Program – Wave 2
    December 11, 2011 (Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative)

    "…Smart grid awareness remains low: About half of consumers (51%) say they have never heard the term and another one-fifth (21%) say that they have heard the term smart grid but don’t know much about what it means…Awareness levels are similar for smart meters (46% have never heard the term and 20% don’t know much about what it means).

    "…Knowledge of smart grid and smart meter varies by demographics and by consumer segment…Most people now have positive or neutral impressions of smart grid: 54% of those who are familiar with the term say that their general feelings about smart grid are favorable; 21% say neutral; 15% say negative; and 10% don’t know…General impressions of smart meters are about the same, at 54% favorable, 23% neutral."


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    "…Smart grid/meter favorability vary by demographics and consumer segment…Seven benefits were tested to determine which ones consumers feel are most/least important. All seven benefits are considered important by at least 80% of consumers.

    "…Overall the most important benefit is…A smart grid senses problems and reroutes power automatically. This prevents some outages and reduces the lengthof those that do occur…[T]he benefit that the highest percentage of customers said was important enough to help justify a higher electric bill is…Smart grid reduces greenhouse gas emissions by making it easier to connect renewable energy sources to the electricity grid…Five of the seven benefits were identified as most important by at least one of the five SGCC segments…"

    BRINGING ENERGY NUMBERS HOME

    Taking Steps to Make Energy Data More Accessible
    Mathew Lawless, February 7, 2012 (U.S. Department of Energy)

    "From economic projections and fuel costs to renewable energy potential estimates and power outage reports, the Energy Department produces vast amounts of data. These data are most valuable when they are being used to produce reports, analyses, tools, and applications, and so it is no surprise that we are always looking for ways to make energy data more accessible.

    "That is why we’re excited about the growth of tools for making energy data available via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). APIs allow web and mobile applications to access updated energy data in a variety of formats, and often simplify the process of developing a data-driven application."


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    "The Socrata Open Data API (SODA) is one of these new tools. Data.gov makes this service available to federal agencies, providing a platform for interacting with data online and connecting that data to applications via the API. We’re just getting started with hosting energy data on SODA…

    "OpenEI is another example of Energy Department web services, this one sponsored by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. OpenEI hosts a variety of U.S. and international energy data, with a focus on renewables. In particular, OpenEI contains a database of incentives and policies that encourage renewable energy generation and energy efficiency, and this database is available to developers…"

    CA DESERT FOLK LIKE SUN

    New Survey Shows Support For Solar Development In California Deserts
    10 February 2012 (Solar Industry)

    "A decisive majority of citizens in California's desert communities [in Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Riverside and San Bernardino counties] strongly support the development of solar power facilities in their counties, according to a new survey conducted by Vote Solar, a nonprofit solar advocacy group, in partnership with Probolsky Research."

    [Adam Probolsky, CEO, Probolsky Research] “Nearly four out of five people surveyed believe that the California desert is a great resource and should be used to develop solar power projects…We polled just residents living in the desert communities where renewable energy projects are being proposed. Voters understand the impacts and the rewards of utility-scale solar projects in California's desert communities, and they support it."

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    "The survey also found that the majority of respondents are concerned about global warming. Two out of three agree that renewable energy is an important part of California's future and that the state and federal government is right to provide financial support and tax incentives for renewable energy projects.

    "Jobs and the economy are by far the most important issues concerning voters in California desert counties. Unemployment rates in the counties polled are high, peaking at 26.8% in Imperial County. The construction sector is facing 18.9% unemployment across the state…[C]itizens of California's desert regions became even more supportive of utility-scale solar development in their county when informed that solar facilities will improve the overall air quality in their region…The survey was underwritten by BrightSource Energy…"

    BOULDER WIND POWER

    Boulder Wind Power hires Suzlon CEO Cukurs
    James Quilter, 13 February 2012 (Windpower Monthly)

    "Turbine component designer Boulder Wind Power has appointed Suzlon CEO Andy Cukurs as its new chief executive…[He was] with Suzlon for seven years…headed up its entrance into the North American market…[and] replaces founder Former National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) chief engineer Sandy Butterfield, who will become chief technology officer.

    "Last year, Boulder clinched $8 million in Series A Preferred Stock venture capital financing to help develop its next-generation direct-drive design…The company is designing a radically different architecture that could substantially reduce generating costs…[It] has the industry's only direct drive that has no need for iron in the core, as it uses ‘air core’ axial flux. Iron cores tend to ‘cog’ or vibrate…which makes them rougher and noisier."


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    [Butterfield:] "My goal as founding CEO of Boulder Wind Power was to assemble a world class team, prove the technical and economic superiority of our breakthrough technology, raise capital to fund our development, and build partnerships with some of the best companies in the wind industry…With those goals accomplished, it is the perfect time to add a seasoned business leader like Andy to the team to help us expand our organisation and achieve global deployment of our product…"

    [Cukurs:] "Boulder Wind Power has created a game changing approach that will enable the delivery of wind energy at a levelised cost competitive with fossil fuel sources. I’m excited to have the opportunity to build on the foundation that Sandy and team have created and establish the company as a leader in delivering advanced technology to the wind industry."

    ROBO-BLDGS SAVE ENERGY, MAKE $$$

    Global Revenues for Commercial Building Automation Systems Will Reach $146 Billion by 2021
    February 7, 2012 (Pike Research)

    "…[C]ommercial buildings consume roughly 23% of all electricity globally…[T]he automation systems that ensure efficient performance are a critical part of energy management. Until the mid-1990s, modern building automation consisted of little more than individual systems with simple control panels for switches, timers, and alarms. Today, the market for commercial building automation systems is in the midst of revolutionary change in terms of technology and utility…

    "…In the last several years, the focus has shifted from an individual system view…[Building system] can be defined to include virtually any device or data source within the building. The amount of data created by automation systems can be overwhelming, but real competitive and economic value exists in using the data to monitor performance and uncover trends…"


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    "…According to a new report from Pike Research, the market for commercial building automation systems will double over the next decade, increasing from $72.5 billion in 2011 to $146.4 billion by 2021…This surge is being driven by two important trends that are transforming the building industry. The first is aggressive energy efficiency goals within the building stock, which is undergoing tremendous growth, particularly in developing Asia Pacific nations…

    "Second is the fact that building automation controls and field devices, which communicate via a range of protocols such as BACnet and LonWorks, are starting to be fitted with Internet Protocol capability so as to utilize the same protocols and infrastructure equipment as the IT network. As a result, the silos that IT, property management, software, and traditional BASs occupied within companies are disappearing…"

    Monday, February 13, 2012

    LOVE THOSE LOAN GUARANTEES

    Federal Energy Loan Guarantees Win Clean Bill of Health; Noted Conservative’s Independent Report Demonstrates Effectiveness
    Richard Caperton, February 11, 2012 (Center for American Progress)

    "…Federal loan guarantees for energy projects have been successful, cost-effective investments…[according to] Herb Allison, former national finance chairman for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who led a team of accountants and auditors in conducting an independent analysis of the Department of Energy’s Loan Guarantee Program

    "…[D]espite the hysteria around the now-bankrupt solar-panel maker Solyndra LLC, this program will cost [$2.7billion instead of $5 billion, more than] $2 billion less than initially expected…[T]he fossil-fuel industry got a whopping $70 billion in government subsidies from 2002 to 2008. Many of these subsidies have been in place for nearly 100 years. The nuclear industry, too, has benefited from billions of dollars in subsidies, including loan guarantees, over the last half-century…"


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    "…[The Allison’s review] includes an analysis of every loan guarantee issued from Department of Energy, as well as recommendations for managing this portfolio of federal guarantees going forward. This independent review was requested by the White House in late 2011 to make sure that the DOE loan guarantee portfolio was cost-effective for taxpayers…[It confirms findings from] the Congressional Research Service and Bloomberg Government…that the overwhelming majority of the portfolio was in electrical generation projects, which DOE structured to have very low risk…[and] the media’s incessant focus on Solyndra was ‘not proportional to its impact.'

    "There are multiple reasons why the risks to taxpayers from this program are so low…It’s important to remember why the Loan Guarantee Program exists. Innovative companies—key to our future competitiveness and economic prosperity—risk getting caught in the “valley of death,” where nascent but promising companies often languish as they strive to accumulate the necessary funds…[It] can require hundreds of millions, even billions, of dollars…The DOE’s Loan Guarantee Program brought companies across the “valley of death” by providing these businesses with loan guarantees that made it possible to raise the necessary capital and…The Loan Guarantee Program helped America compete in the global economy…"

    WIND WANTS CONGRESS TO BRING THE LOVE

    Lawmakers Pushing Tax Committee For Wind Energy PTC Extension
    9 February 2012 (North American Windpower)

    "Seven members of the Colorado congressional delegation…delivered a letter to the chairmen of the conference committee that is negotiating the payroll tax credit extension, urging them to extend the PTC…The letter…called for the payroll tax reduction package to include the wind energy PTC, as well as a way to pay for the tax credit…"

    [The Letter] “The PTC has been very effective in facilitating new market penetration of wind energy and moving us toward a more diversified and cleaner energy portfolio…A delay in this extension would do enormous damage to that progress."

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    [The Letter:] “Unless the wind PTC is renewed in the first quarter of this year, new wind energy development projects and the thousands of jobs associated with those projects are predicted to drop off precipitously after 2012…"

    "The congressional leaders also emphasized the impact that a failure to extend the PTC would have on jobs both in the state and nationwide…Colorado renewable energy leaders have also called for an extension of the wind PTC…Christine Shapard, executive director of Colorado Cleantech Industry Association…[said that if] the United States wants to bring back its manufacturing base - in both small and large companies - the wind industry is one of the best places to start…"

    FLORIDA LOVES SUN

    Solar Power Ambitions Grow Under Florida Sun
    Lauren Craig, February 13, 2012 (Earth Techling)

    "National Solar Power…[last year planned] two large solar farms in Florida: a 400-megawatt (MW) solar farm in Gadsden County and a 200-MW solar farm in Hardee County. Now, National Solar Power has entered into an agreement with Liberty County to build a [$350 million, 100 MW] solar farm…on five 200-acre plots of Liberty County property adjacent to the…Gadsden County project.

    "The project will be designed, built and operated by Hensel Phelps Construction—the same firm that rebuilt the Pentagon after the 9/11 attacks in 2001…[T]he first phase of the project is expected to be online within six to seven months [after groundbreaking]. National Solar Power estimates the project will create up to 100 construction, and up to 25 permanent operations jobs, with an average salary of about $40,000 per year."


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    "To finance the project, National Solar Power says it is negotiating with multiple financial institutions and private equity investors. It has also created its own venture capital fund—Green Infrastructure Partners…externally managed and advised by Solar Capital Management, a subsidiary of National Solar Power Partners.

    "The company has entered into an agreement with Progress Energy Florida, and is having discussions with other potential customers to purchase power generated by its Florida solar farm projects…Despite the fact that Florida is one of the top 10 states in solar power capacity, [Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) is a leader in skepticism about] government support for solar energy…"

    Sunday, February 12, 2012

    PRES PREVAILING W/PUBLIC ON PIPELINE

    Recent Swing State Polling On The Keystone XL Pipeline
    Geoff Garin and Allan Rivlin, February 3, 2012 (Hart Research Associates)

    "…Seven in nine voters [in four key battleground states, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, and Colorado] now say they have heard or read about the controversy involving the Keystone XL pipeline, and despite a sustained ad campaign by the oil industry in several of these states, President Obama continues to hold the high ground over the Republicans in Congress on both jobs and energy. By 45% to 38%, voters in these battleground states trust Obama over congressional Republicans on addressing America’s energy needs. Similarly, President Obama holds an advantage of 44% to 39% on promoting jobs.

    "…Before hearing any arguments…32% say Obama made the right decision in this matter, 43% said he made the wrong decision, and 25% have no opinion or are undecided…After hearing pro and con arguments…47% conclude that Obama’s decision was the right one, and 36% say it was the wrong one; 17% still have no opinion…'


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    'The most effective arguments in moving voters to support the President and oppose the pipeline involve the risk of a toxic oil spill over an aquifer that provides fresh water and water for farming to one-third of the United States—a concern that is compounded by questions about TransCanada’s safety record and the number of spills that have occurred in the first year of the Keystone One pipeline. Under these circumstances, there is broad concurrence that the President should not give the project a go ahead until he is satisfied that the project will not be dangerous or lead to an environmental and economic disaster.

    "…There also is a sharp decline in the salience of the proponents’ case regarding its impact on America’s energy security, as voters learn the likelihood of the refined oil being shipped off for export…[M]ore than three-quarters of voters oppose building the pipeline if there is not a requirement for all of the oil to stay in the United States…[and there is significant mistrust of both the oil industry and the Republicans in Congress…"

    MONEY FROM CHINA FOR WIND HERE AND EVERYWHERE

    Goldwind signs loan deal for foriegn expansion
    James Quilter, 10 February 2012 (Windpower Monthly)

    "Goldwind has secured a credit agreement with Xinjiang Uygur branch of the Export-Import Bank of China to finance the manufacturer's expansion overseas…The five-year deal consist of credit loans and guarantees to Goldwind for the development of projects in overseas markets and the export of equipment.

    "This is the second finance deal Goldwind has signed this month. On 1 February Goldwind signed an agreement with China Development Bank (CDB) for $5.6 billion."


    Funding like this is why there are so many Chinese names on this list. (click to enlarge)

    "Goldwind has been busy on the international market over the last year. The manufacturer's US foothold includes the 4.5MW pilot Uilk project in Minnesota and 109.5MW Shady Oaks in Illinois, to be completed this quarter.

    "The CDB finance is to help construct projects in Goldwind's domestic market. Under the agreement, Beijing Tianrun New Energy Co. Ltd., a Goldwind subsidiary, will receive the loans from CDB up to 2013 to develop, construct and operate wind farms in China. It will also and launch and acquire companies…"

    AZ’S BIG SUN BOOM

    Large-Scale Solar Booming in Arizona
    D.A. Barber, 2012 February 6 (Energy Trend)

    "…Until recently, Arizona’s power generators included four coal-fired power plants and the largest nuclear power plant in the U.S…But in 2011 the state had become very aggressive in expanding its solar output and is fast becoming a showcase for a variety of solar technologies not found in other areas of the U.S., including projects using SunPower’s C7 Tracker technology, Areva's Compact Linear Fresnel Reflector technology, and EnviroMission’s "solar updraft" technology.

    "…[The state has 300 days of sunshine, high quality solar insolation, vast stretches of open desert near both major metropolitan areas and] has been pushing a solar manufacturing “cluster” for several years with some success luring manufacturers such as thin-film solar giant, First Solar. California-based inverter manufacturer Power-One Inc. is also among the newest solar manufacturers to move to Arizona, opening a 120,000-square foot facility in Phoenix in 2011."


    The resource warrants the boom. (click to enlarge)

    "Since China-based Suntech Power opened its Arizona manufacturing plant in October 2010, the facility has grown steadily. By May 2011, the 117,000-square foot facility began running 24 hours per day bringing the annual production to about 50MW, representing 15,000 Suntech 280W solar panels per month…Germany-based Solon ceased production of PV modules in Tucson at the end of October 2011…

    "…Arizona will be generating an additional 720MW by 2014…As of October 18, 2011, there were already three large-scale utility projects under construction…Between December 2011 and mid-January 2012, there were a number of medium and large-scale projects approved… that will add over 800MW of additional solar power…Other recently approved projects in Arizona involve using some emerging solar technologies for the first time on a large scale…Arizona seems likely to be a huge market for various solar power equipment suppliers over the course of the next several years."

    Wednesday, February 8, 2012

    WORLD WIND STILL GROWING

    World wind capacity increases by 6%
    James Quilter, 07 February 2012 (Windpower Monthly)

    "The world's wind energy capacity increased by 41GW in 2011, a 21% increase on 2010's rise, according to figures from the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC).

    "Overall global capacity has increased by 6%. The largest addition came from China, which installed an additional 18GW and almost three times as much as the US with 6,810MW. China took its capacity to over 62GW with the US on 47GW…"


    click thru for more numbers

    "Other big increases came from India, adding 3GW to go to 16GW, and Germany, adding 2GW to go to 29GW…Germany was also the major developer in Europe, with Spain and the UK adding 1GW and 1.2GW respectively. Overall Europe installed 10GW to take its total to 96.6GW.

    "Although the figures show wind capacity continues to grow, rate of growth has slowed…[In 2010] capacity increased by 35.8GW a rise of 22.5%...In emerging markets, Brazil and Mexico continued to add capacity with 583MW (to 1.5GW) and 354MW (873MW) respectively. Both were increases on last year's figures…"

    WHAT GEOTHERMAL, BIOMASS & HYDROPOWER ALL NEED

    Hydropower, Geothermal and Biomass Power Executives Call for
    Extension of the Production Tax Credit; Industries with significant operations in Southeastern and Western states see risk to thousands of jobs

    February 8, 2012 (GEA, NHA, BPA)

    "…[E]xecutives from the hydropower, geothermal and biomass power industries called on Congressional leaders to extend the production tax credit through 2016 for hydropower, geothermal and biomass. The three industries operate in parts of the country not often associated with renewable energy – particularly the Southeast and Mountain West – and company and trade association leaders expressed concern for a looming crisis that has put thousands of jobs in these states at risk. The call comes as opponents of renewable energy tax policy place the future of these industries in jeopardy.

    "The group called for the immediate passage of H.R. 3307: American Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit Extension Act of 2011, which covers all renewable technologies, and is sponsored by Rep. Dave Reichert [R-WA8] and Rep. Earl Blumenauer [D-OR3] with over 60 bipartisan cosponsors, including 16 Republicans…"


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    "The call to action was accompanied by a letter to Congressional leaders…[which stated:]…For most renewable electricity technologies in the United States, the tax incentives put in place over the last decade provided the first significant federal support in decades. By any measure, those policies have been tremendously successful in spurring construction of new projects and the deployment of new technologies, expanding the supply of affordable, clean electricity to the grid, supporting significant local economic opportunities, and creating tens of thousands of U.S. jobs in regions of the country not usually associated with renewable energy…

    "…The policies signed into law over the last decade sought to expand federal support and incentives to a wide range of technologies, and to provide longer-term incentives that support industry growth and new technology deployment. And they have been successful in creating momentum for new construction, new capacity and new jobs in America’s renewable energy industry. Those policies and the investments and jobs that they help create need to be kept in place so they can continue to work for America’s economy…"

    GERMANY IN HUGE CALIFORNIA SUN BUY

    German firm buys two solar projects east of the Coachella Valley
    K. Kaufmann, February 8, 2012 (Desert Sun)

    "Two stalled solar projects east of the Coachella Valley could still repower after being sold to a German company with a track record of financing and completing utility-scale projects.

    "But it may take two years or longer until new owner Solarhybrid breaks new ground on either the 1,000-megawatt Blythe project or the 500-megawatt Palen project…[Both were acquired] from former owner Solar Millennium, the German developer that filed for bankruptcy [and both were originally planned as solar thermal plants that promised hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in economic growth for eastern Riverside County [only to be delayed and changed to PV projects]..."


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    "…The deal also gives Solarhybrid a 70 percent interest in Solar Trust of America, Solar Millennium's U.S. subsidiary that has managed the projects…Solar Millennium filed for bankruptcy in December, citing the delay in completing the deal as a cause of its cash flow problems.

    "…[B]oth the Blythe and Palen plants are listed on Solarhybrid's website as projects the company has under development, with starting dates estimated between 2013 and 2018…The company has completed 18 solar projects in Europe — mostly in Germany, all photovoltaic and all 60 megawatts or less. Its own financial management subsidiary handles funding for its solar projects…"

    EV NAMED GREENEST CAR

    Electric Car Tops Greenest Vehicle List for First Time in 12 Years; New Mitsubishi i-MIEV Unseats Honda Civic Natural Gas after 8 Consecutive Years at the Top
    February 7, 2012 (American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy)

    "…[In the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE)] 14th annual comprehensive environmental rankings…[the] “Greenest” list saw a considerable shake-up this year, with the Mitsubishi i-MIEV battery electric vehicle claiming the top spot from the Honda Civic Natural Gas, which has held on to first place for eight years in a row…

    "…Making its model year 2012 debut on the American market, the i-MIEV earns a score of 58, the highest Green Score awarded since the rankings began in 1998. With a combined city and highway fuel economy of 112 miles per gallon equivalent, the i-MIEV outpaces all other vehicles currently sold in United States…"


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    "The Honda Civic Natural Gas, despite its improved fuel economy this year, appears in second place, tied with the Nissan Leaf. Rounding out the top six are the Toyota Prius, the Honda Insight, and the Smart ForTwo. This year, hybrids dominate the “Greenest” list occupying half of all spots. Highly efficient conventional gasoline vehicles also continue to have a presence on the “Greenest” list, claiming three of the top twelve spots…This year saw the arrival of a number of new hybrid options for drivers from Hyundai, Kia, and Infiniti, but none broke into the top twelve.

    "…[The listing] provides the facts necessary to examine the eco-performance of any 2012 model…Vehicles are analyzed on the basis of a “Green Score,” a singular measure that incorporates unhealthy tailpipe emissions, fuel consumption, and emissions of gases that contribute to climate change…[Thids year’s updates] include improved emissions estimates for the vehicle manufacturing process, changes reflecting current natural gas extraction practices, and consideration of upcoming shifts in the generation mix for the electricity used to power electric cars…"

    UTILITIES AND NEW ENERGY

    The power to transform; U.S. power and utilities sector's role in cleantech deployment
    February 2012 (Deloitte)

    "Beyond the attention of many observers, America’s clean energy transformation is already well underway, thanks in large part to massive investments by the electric power industry. Utilities have picked up where many venture firms and other investors left off — at the point where technologies already proven in a laboratory setting are ready to be deployed in the market. In 2010, regulated utilities generated an estimated 16.9 terawatt hours (TWh) of renewable-based power generation, while unregulated utility-owned generation assets and independently owned generation assets contributed another 122.3 TWh to the U.S. electricity supply…"

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    "…Utilities are the largest investors in smart grid infrastructure, with more than $8 billion in projects in the works, and the industry has contributed both directly and indirectly to the adoption of energy efficiency, electric vehicles, and energy storage technologies…These investments, which have all transpired in the absence of a federal price on carbon, have helped push clean technologies into new territory…"

    CA BIG SUN GETS SMART

    Some good news: Fewer solar projects in Cali will fail in the future
    Ucilia Wang, February 3, 2012 (GigaOm)

    "All of those wind and solar power projects you hear about being built in California actually have a pretty high failure rate of around 30-40 percent, according to regulators and utilities…[but] that failure rate is expected to come down significantly now that the these markets are maturing and utilities are seeing better prepared and managed projects…

    "Developers these days tend to already have secured land and are often times far further along in the permitting process…[T]he utility also is seeing more developers bidding for projects…[T]he failure rate [is expected] to drop based on the various recent analyses…[but] those analyses don’t add up to one number that characterizes the overall decline…"


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    "…[O]verall the state’s utilities are more confident that they can meet the state’s renewable energy mandate. But at the same time it also means that the clean power developers could see less deals coming their way — another hurdle for the battered solar and wind industries this year...First Solar’s interim CEO, Michael Ahearn, cited the dropping amount of new deals in California as one of the reasons that the company must seek opportunities elsewhere around the world in order to continue its growth.

    "Thanks in part to the federal government’s now defunct loan guarantee program, companies such as First Solar, SunPower and BrightSource Energy are building solar power plants that are hundreds of megawatts each…PG&E, for one, has lined up enough power purchase contracts to meet its goal through 2016…[D]evelopers like First Solar, which also makes solar panels and other equipment, now expects much fewer opportunities to develop mega projects like the two projects of 550 MW each that First Solar is building in California now…"

    Monday, February 6, 2012

    BIGGEST U.S. WIND BUILDER BOOMING

    NextEra Fourth-Quarter Profit More Than Doubles on Wind Power Output
    Benjamin Haas, January 27, 2012 (Bloomberg News)

    "NextEra Energy Inc. (NEE), the largest generator of wind and solar power in North America, said fourth- quarter profit more than doubled as its wind turbines produced more electricity.

    "Net income rose to $667 million, or $1.59 a share, from $263 million, or 63 cents, a year earlier…Excluding gains from contracts used to lock in commodity prices, per-share profit was 2 cents more than the average of 14 analysts’ estimates..."




    "Sales rose 13 percent to $3.86 billion. Profit more than quadrupled at its wind and solar unit, rising to $402 million from $73 million, the company said. NextEra’s wind farms generated 580,000 more megawatt-hours in the quarter from the same period a year earlier…The company plans to spend as much as $2.3 billion this year and $1.5 billion in 2013 and 2014 on solar development…

    "NextEra plans to finish building all its existing wind projects by the end of 2012, before a federal tax credit worth 2.2 cents a kilowatt-hour expires…"

    $440 MIL FROM U.S. BANCORP TO NEW ENERGY

    US Bancorp to Invest $440 Million in Renewable Energy This Year
    February 3, 2012 (SustainableBusiness)

    "US Bancorp, the fifth-largest commercial bank in the US says it will invest 30% more in renewable energy projects this year, about $440 million.

    "The bank has financed $680 million in solar and wind projects since 2008, and roughly half of that was in 2011…As the renewable energy projects become more profitable, investors are considering them as candidates for asset-backed securities…"


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    "Last May, the bank made its largest financing commitment to SunRun to support the purchase of $200 million in residential solar systems. SunRun owns the system and homeowners pay a monthly electricity fee for the solar energy…

    "In 2010, Residential solar provider Sungevity formed a partnership with US Bancorp to create a $24 million tax equity fund to finance 10-year solar leases for Sungevity customers in California."

    BIG BUCKS IN BUILDINGS’ ENERGY

    Revenues for U.S. Energy Service Companies to Reach $13 Billion by 2020
    February 2, 2012 (Pike Research)

    "While the energy service company (ESCO) industry has been active for approximately 30 years…newer service offerings, such as demand response and energy management software, enabled by intelligent metering and control systems that afford customers greater flexibility and control over their energy usage, are opening new opportunities…[According to] Pike Research, the ESCO market for energy efficiency project installations and services in the United States exceeded $5.1 billion in 2011.

    "Driven by public policies that encourage a greater emphasis on energy efficiency to reduce costs and improve operations, this market is expected to continue to grow faster than the domestic economy and reach at least $13 billion in sales by 2020. Under a more aggressive scenario, the ESCO market could reach $16 billion by 2020…"


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    "The ESCO market predominantly takes the form of direct contracting between providers of energy efficiency services and equipment and government agencies, public institutions, and commercial customers – typically via performance-based contracts…[T]he federal sector’s appetite for this energy service performance contract model is growing, helping give rise to a market structure dominated by a group of very large companies that specialize in these contracts…

    "…At the same time, project sizes are increasing as clients look for more comprehensive technologies and designs to address their energy consumption. Of particular significance for ESCOs is President Obama’s 2009 executive order, which mandates that all federal agencies must achieve a 30% reduction in energy use by 2015…"

    WIND IS BEST DEAL EVER

    Cost Of Wind Energy Trending Toward An All-Time Low
    2 February 2012 (North American Windpower)

    "The levelized cost of wind energy (LCOWE) is headed toward an all-time low - approaching approximately $0.03/kWh in the best wind resource sites…[A] new report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL)…notes, however, that these numbers are dependent on the continuation of current federal tax incentives, such as the production tax credit, which is set to expire for wind energy at the end of this year.

    "When only capital cost and capacity factor trends are considered, the LCOWE based on current turbine pricing is estimated to be approximately 5% to 26% below the previous low in 2002-2003, depending on the quality of the wind resource. When plausible assumptions for operations and maintenance (O&M), financing and turbine reliability trends are also considered, levelized cost reductions are estimated to be between 24% and 39% since 2002-2003…"


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    "These trends have been driven primarily by sizable improvements in capacity factors within individual wind resource classes due to hub-height and rotor-diameter scaling, and by the drop in wind turbine prices over the last two years. Longer-term improvements in O&M, reliability and financing are also playing a role…

    "…[L]ow-wind-speed technology [advances] have…[opened] new areas of the U.S. for potential development…[T]he amount of land area in the U.S. that can support 35%+ project-level capacity factors has increased by 130% to 270% since 2002-2003…The amount of land area that can support wind projects with costs of under $0.05/kWh (with federal tax incentives) has increased by almost 50%..."

    SOLAR PANELS FROM GRASS

    Harnessing nature’s solar cells; Photovoltaic panels made from plant material could become a cheap, easy alternative to traditional solar cells.
    David L. Chandler, February 3, 2012 (MIT News)

    "Within a few years, people in remote villages in the developing world may be able to make their own solar panels, at low cost, using otherwise worthless agricultural waste as their raw material…[according to] MIT researcher Andreas Mershin…he work is an extension of a project begun eight years ago by Shuguang Zhang, a principal research scientist and associate director at MIT’s Center for Biomedical Engineering…

    "…Zhang was able to enlist a complex of molecules known as photosystem-I (PS-I), the tiny structures within plant cells that carry out photosynthesis. Zhang and colleagues derived the PS-I from plants, stabilized it chemically and formed a layer on a glass substrate that could — like a conventional photovoltaic cell — produce an electric current when exposed to light."




    "But… it required expensive chemicals and sophisticated lab equipment…[and the] solar cell was weak…Mershin says the process has been simplified to the point that virtually any lab could replicate it…[and the] efficiency is 10,000 times greater than in the previous version — although…it still needs to improve another tenfold or so to become useful…

    "…Mershin thinks that because he and his colleagues have now lowered the barrier to entry for further work on these materials, progress toward improving their efficiency should be rapid…Because the system is so cheap and simple, he hopes this will become…low-tech electricity to people who have never been thought of as consumers…He hopes [that within a few years] the instructions…[a] sheet of cartoon instructions…[and the] only ingredient to be purchased would be [inexpensive] chemicals to stabilize the PS-I molecules…"