NewEnergyNews More: March 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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  • Tuesday, March 27, 2012

    CALIFORNIA FUKUSHIMA? – SAN ONOFRE UNSAFE

    NRC Issues Confirmatory Action Letter for San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station Restart Preparations
    March 27, 2012 (Nuclear Regulatory Commission)

    "The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a Confirmatory Action Letter documenting actions that Southern California Edison Co. (SCE) officials have agreed to take related to unusual wear on steam generator tubes prior to restarting both units of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station…near San Clemente, Calif."

    [Elmo E. Collins, Region IV Administrator, NRC:] “This Confirmatory Action Letter formalizes commitments that Southern California Edison has made to ensure that the cause of the tube wear in both steam generators is understood and appropriately addressed in order to ensure safe operation…Until we are satisfied that has been done, the plant will not be permitted to restart.”

    Beautiful, isn't it? So was Fukushima until it became an environmental disaster. (click to enlarge)

    "On Jan. 31, operators performed a rapid shutdown of the Unit 3 reactor after indications of a steam generator tube leak. Unit 2 has been shut down since Jan. 9 for a planned refueling and maintenance outage. Subsequent inspections at both units have identified unusual wear in many tubes of the steam generators, which were replaced in January 2010 at Unit 2 and January 2011 in Unit 3…SCE has identified two causes of the unusual wear: tubes are vibrating and rubbing against adjacent tubes and against support structures inside the steam generators. They are still working to determine why this is occurring…

    "SCE has committed to [plug all tubes in Units 2 and 3 for which testing indicated wear in excess of industry guidelines, as well as all tubes susceptible to this wear because of their location and determine the causes of the tube-to-tube degradation and establish a protocol of inspections and or operational limits for Unit 2 and 3 to minimize the progression of tube wear, and ensure that any tube wear does not progress to the point where it compromises tube integrity] prior to restart of each unit…"

    DIFFERENT WIND

    Vertical axis wind turbines: The only way is up?
    Andrew Williams, March 27, 2012 (Wind Energy Update)

    "…Interest in vertical axis wind turbines (VAWTs) is growing and several design concepts including DeepWind and VertiWind are undergoing development and testing. So, how do they compare with horizontal turbines - particularly in terms of performance, costs and ease of installation?

    "…[O]ne advantage of VAWTs is that they have an 'omni-directional' operation and low centre of gravity - leading to good structural stability…[They could dispense] with struts, simplifying structural complexity compared with previous designs…[L]arge-scale VAWTs could be better at avoiding the 'gravity issues' that plague large horizontal-axis turbines (HAWTs), which can quickly exhaust blades…[O]ne of the disadvantages of VAWTs is that it can be difficult to access machinery, which is below the main turbine axis and often dug into the ground. However, in floating foundations, like their own WindFloat design, the hull can be hollowed to enable access…"


    VertiWind's floating vertical wind turbine (artist's conception - click to enlarge)

    "In terms of output capabilities, the general consensus is that VAWT efficiency is currently either the same or lower than HAWTs…[T]he VertiWind VAWT has been designed for a 2MW output, with a power curve comparable to HAWTs of the same rated power…[but] Walt Musial, Principal Engineer - National Wind Technology Center at NREL, argues that VAWT efficiency is maybe 20% less 'give or take a little' …[another expert argues] it is approximately 10% less…

    "…CAPEX is 'probably higher' for VAWTs now but should 'be about equal in the long run.'…OPEX costs can go both ways - but are likely to be higher at present…because of a lack of experience…CAPEX and OPEX costs for VertiWind are comparable with a HAWT bottom-mounted solution in shallow waters - even though they operate in deeper waters…[G]rid-connection costs are 'related to distance to shore' and are therefore more difficult to compare like-for-like…[T]he VertiWind design lends itself very well to high-volume manufacturing…[and] transportation…VAWTs have a number of novel advantages…[but] a good deal of work remains…to convince the wider industry that they can compete…"

    Monday, March 26, 2012

    WIND, THE BIG GUYS

    Vestas holds onto no1 manufacturer spot
    James Quilter, 26 March 2012 (Windpower Monthly)

    "Vestas has continued to hold onto its top spot in the in the league of the world's biggest wind turbine manufacturers, according to research analyst BTM…[Once again], Chinese manufacturers were well-represented within the top 10 with Ming Yang joining Guodian United Power, Sinovel and Goldwind.

    "According to BTM, Vestas has a 12.9% share of the market, with Goldwind leaping into second place with a 9.4% share. They are followed by GE on 8.8%...The five companies hovering outside the top 10 are Nordex, Dongfang, XEMC, Sewind and Enercon India."


    click to enlarge

    "Onshore turbine size continued to grow with the average size delivered to market in 2011 at 1,678kW. Offshore the growth has been more pronounced with the average size rising 710kW to 3,700kW…[D]espite the relative strength of the Asian market, the average growth rate for new installations is 10%. This year a growth of around 3.5% is expected…partly due to fall out from the European debt crisis.

    "Make Consulting also published its own report into turbine manufacturer market share. Again it rated Vestas as market leader, but found GE was at number six with only 7.4% of the market…Vestas – 12.9%...Goldwind – 8.8%...Enercon – 7.6%...Suzlon Group – 7.6%...Siemens - 7.6%...GE Wind – 7.4%...Sinovel – 7.2%...United Power – 7.0%...Gamesa – 6.4%...Mingyang – 2.9%"

    SOLAR POWER PLANT BLDR IN $182.5BIL IPO

    BrightSource Seeking Up to $182.5 Million in Solar-Thermal IPO
    Andrew Herndon, March 21, 2012 (Bloomberg News)

    "BrightSource Energy Inc (BRSE) the developer of solar-thermal power plants, is seeking as much as $182.5 million in an initial public offering…The company is offering 6.9 million shares at $21 to $23 apiece…The stock would be listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market under the symbol BRSE. The offering is expected to be priced on April 11…

    "BrightSource, based in Oakland, California, plans to use proceeds from the IPO to develop additional solar-thermal power plants, which use mirrors to focus the sun’s energy on boilers that make steam to drive turbines. The company has 13 contracts to sell power from projects totaling 2.4 gigawatts of capacity to electric utilities of PG&E Corp. (PCG) and Edison International (EIX)…"


    click to enlarge

    "BrightSource is vying with other developers including Abengoa SA (ABG), Areva SA, Acciona SA (ANA), Siemens AG (SIE) and ABB Ltd. (ABBN) to commercialize its technology…Other solar-thermal developers are using so- called parabolic trough systems, with curved mirrors that focus sunlight on an overhead tube that contains a heat transfer fluid and is routed to steam generators…The [company’s] first power plant is expected to enter operation in 2013…[It] is backed by a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the U.S. Energy Department, as well as equity investments from Google Inc. and NRG Energy Inc. (NRG) …

    "Alstom SA (ALO), an existing investor, and Caithness Energy LLC’s development unit agreed to purchase $65 million and $10 million worth of the company’s stock, respectively, in a concurrent private placement…Alstom, BrightSource’s largest backer currently with a 19.9 percent stake, would [then] own 21.9 percent…[O]ther backers include Draper Fisher Jurvetson [5.9 percent]…VantagePoint Capital Patners [24 percent]…and Morgan Stanley (MS) [9.4 percent]…Goldman Sachs (GS) Group Inc., Citigroup Inc. (C), and Deutsche Bank AG (DBK) are leading the proposed offering…[and] have an option to purchase an additional 1.035 million shares."

    STILL CHALLENGES FOR SMART GRID

    Smart Grid Standards Challenges Remain, Report Finds
    March 23, 2012 (Metering.com)

    "The introduction of smart grid interoperability standards has the potential to transform the electric industry and the fundamental electric utility business model, but there are challenges in the short, mid and long terms, according to a new report…from the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Smart Grid Advisory Committee (SGAC)…

    "…[T]he Committee has identified several common emerging themes across the smart grid stakeholder landscape. In the short to mid-term, these include prioritizing, streamlining and leveraging the smart grid activities of NIST, given the shortage of resources to participate in these activities, and the urgent need for a communication plan and an education and outreach effort for utilities and regulators to enhance their understanding of the smart grid and interoperability standards."


    "In the longer term, as the smart grid evolves NIST will need to develop greater expertise in the technological and administrative functions necessary to support the smart grid. There will also be a need for interagency collaboration, for example between NIST and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to define the federal response to national cyber emergencies.

    click to enlarge

    "The SGAC was established in September 2010, with representatives from U.S. industry, academia, and trade and professional organizations to advise NIST on smart grid standards, priorities and gaps, and on the overall direction, status and health of smart grid implementation by the industry…[T]he SGAC also reviewed NIST’s smart grid research activities…[and found] that NIST should be a facilitator of multi‐stakeholder smart grid research collaboration, and it should invite and promote strong collaboration with utilities and the private sector on research into metrics for interoperability, cybersecurity, and other properties of the smart grid. NIST also should conduct research to determine the metrology requirements for smart grid devices…"

    NOT THE BEAVER’S BIKE

    Electric Bicycles; Global Market Opportunities, Barriers, Technology Issues, and Demand Forecasts for E-Bicycles, Pedal-Assist Bicycles, and E-Bicycle Batteries
    1Q 2012 (Pike Research)

    "Electric bicycles are the world’s best-selling electric vehicles with sales expected to reach over 30 million units in 2012. E-bicycle sales volumes are being driven by macroeconomic trends such as the growth of urbanization and the increasing need for low-cost transportation in developing markets…

    "…[T]he e-bicycle market is very broad, with a number of manufacturers offering different styles including throttle-controlled drive trains, pedal-assist electric bicycles (or pedelecs), and scooter-style electric bicycles. E-bicycle component companies have successfully lowered the cost of entry for manufacturers looking to enter the market…"


    click to enlarge

    "…[T]he market in North America and Latin America continues to struggle with a weak distribution network and modest demand. As a result, the e-bicycle market is experiencing an accelerated rate of acquisitions and business failures.

    "China is the largest market for e-bicycles and 92% of all e-bicycle sales are within China. The vast majority of the e-bicycles sold in China utilize sealed lead acid (SLA) batteries. While this has resulted in extremely low cost e-bicycles in China, it has also led to a number of challenges including e-bicycle traffic congestion, lead contamination, and manufacturers effectively ignoring laws relating to e-bicycles speed and weight limits…"

    Sunday, March 25, 2012

    PRES CHALLENGES GOP ON NEW ENERGY

    Obama knocks GOP over solar power
    David Jackson, March 21, 2012 (USA Today)

    "…[On his energy policy tour last wee], President Obama said…Republicans would cause gas prices to rise even higher by withholding federal support for alternative energy sources."

    [The President:] "If some politicians have their way, there won't be any more public investment in solar energy…There won't be as many new jobs and new businesses…As long as I'm president, I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy…"

    A recent Pike Research poll showed the public overwhelmingly agrees with the President. (click to enlarge)

    "…[The tour included stops at oil and gas fields in New Mexico, an oil pipeline project in Oklahoma, and an energy speech in Ohio…With gas prices rising, Republicans said Obama is not doing enough to promote domestic oil production. They also criticized his alternative energy investments, particularly the now-bankrupt Solyndra…

    "Obama is promoting what he calls an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy policy, one he said includes developing new sources as well as increasing oil production…Domestic oil production is up, Obama said, but ‘drilling alone’ will not solve the problem of higher gas prices…"

    BIG CHANGES IN MATURING WIND INDUSTRY

    Wind Energy Update: End of Warranty Requirements for Wind Energy
    March 24, 2012 (San Francisco Chronicle)

    "Over 100,000MW of wind energy capacity is set to come out of warranty by 2020 forcing operators to either repower or retrofit their wind farms or lose money… the Retrofitting, Reliability & Repowering report 2012…[found that of the countries with turbines] between 8 and 20 years of age and either entering or approaching post-warranty status… China leads the way with over 40,000MW capacity followed by the US with 37,000, Germany with 15,000MW and the UK's 4000MW…

    "The report…assesses how wind farm operators can best measure the reliability of their operations post warranty and… what they can do…[R]etrofitting…[which is] improving…existing turbines efficiency and capacity by fitting new technology such as better grid connections or the latest blade designs…[is compared with] repowering…[which is] decommissioning…existing turbines and building [more modern turbines]…"


    click to enlarge

    "…[O]perators need… [to understand] failures that occur when a turbine warranty ends and the [productivity and profitability impacts of paying] for their repairs… 42% of events after a warranty ends are related to component failures…21%...relate to control system failures…

    "…The cumulative number of failures in a year for a single wind turbine is 2.43 with the most affected parts being the Electrical System (0.57 failures per year) and the Electronic Control (0.43 failures per year). The most reliable component is the drive train…[but] the biggest loss of downtime, lethal to site profitability, at an average of 6 days is [from] the gearbox…"

    GUANTANAMO GOES SOLAR

    Solar Source Installs PV At Guantanamo Bay
    15 March 2012 (Solar Industry)

    "…Solar Source has completed construction on a 1,200-panel solar power system at the Naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The solar array, which is the first of its scale on the island, will produce electricity to power a new fitness center for military personnel…Solar Source provided engineering, procurement and construction for the approximately 300 kW system, which required six-foot screws, custom engineering and pre-drilling to penetrate the dense shell and rock ground. The turnkey solar installation is part of a larger military effort to save money by lowering power bills."

    A view of the Guantanamo solar array after security redaction. (click to enlarge)

    "The military base at Guantanamo Bay has produced its own electricity since the 1960s, when Rear Adm. John Bulkeley spearheaded the base's efforts to become independent from Cuba's water and power supplies. However, electricity is expensive for the base, with diesel fuel shipped in from overseas…The naval base is undergoing several conservation measures."

    WIND, ENVIROS AGREE ON BIRD PROTECT MEASURES

    American Wind Wildlife Institute Welcomes Wind Energy Guidelines, Stands Ready to Support Effective Implementation
    March 23, 2012 (American Wind Wildlife Institute)

    "The American Wind Wildlife Institute (AWWI)…welcomed the release by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of Wind Energy Guidelines to avoid or minimize impacts to wildlife and their habitats related to land-based wind energy facilities and said it stands ready to support effective implementation. AWWI is a partnership of conservation nonprofits, wildlife agencies, and wind energy industry members…"

    [Abby Arnold, Executive Director, AWWI:] "Facilitating the timely and responsible development of wind energy while protecting wildlife and wildlife habitat is the shared goal of the conservation organizations and wind energy companies that founded AWWI… "

    click to enlarge

    "…Several of the conservation organizations and wind energy companies that commented on or participated in the development of recommendations regarding the guidelines are AWWI partners…[and regard the] voluntary guidelines [as] an unprecedented pathway…to increase renewable wind energy on the ground, while employing scientifically sound strategies to protect a very broad range of avian species and habitats…"

    [Taber Allison, Director of Research and Evaluation, AWWI:] "Reliance on the science played an important role in the development of the guidelines and will continue to do so in their implementation…For example, as companies assess the potential level of impact to certain species at a proposed location, it is important that they have access to information about the possible range and presence of a species, models to predict behavior and possible interactions, and tools to mitigate impact that are all grounded in the science.”

    NO GLIDE PATH FOR WIND

    Wind Industry Should Mull Tax Credit Phase-Out, Baucus Says
    Kathleen Hunter, march 20, 2012 (Bloomberg News)

    "…U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said… that phasing out the [wind industry’s] tax credit might be the most realistic way to keep it from expiring altogether at the end of the year…[The industry hasn’t endorsed a phase-out, American Wind Energy Association CEO Denise Bode said, and a full one-year extension in the first part of this year remains its top priority]…

    "The production tax credit provides an incentive for installation of wind turbines, based on the number of kilowatt- hours generated. For wind, the credit will cost the government $1.3 billion in fiscal 2012…Similar credits are available for energy produced from other renewable sources…Given the tight budget outlook, the idea of phasing out the wind credit rather than extending it has drawn support from Republican senators."


    click to enlarge

    [Senator John Thune, R-SD:] “If you can demonstrate a glide path to getting where you don’t need the credit any more, phasing it out over time, I think it’s going to be a lot more palatable politically to try to get an approach like that through.”

    [Senator Kent Conrad, D-ND:] “We are making great progress at getting wind to be almost viable without help, but we’re not there yet…” [and Senator Ben Cardin, D-MD:] “It would be, I think, ill-advised to start talking about a finite policy on wind without knowing how it affects the other sources of energy…So I’m for a straight extension. I think that gives us the time to try to come up with a rational energy policy"

    Tuesday, March 20, 2012

    U.S. PUTS TARIFF ON CHINESE SUN

    US to impose tariff on Chinese solar panels in victory for domestic makers; American solar panel manufactuers welcome Obama administration decision, saying it exposes unfair trade practices
    Suzanne Goldenberg, 20 March 2012 (UK Guardian)

    "…In a much-anticipated decision, the Commerce Department… said it would impose tariffs of [2.9% on Suntech, 4.73% on Trina and 3.59% on all other Chinese solar panel manufacturers], after finding the Beijing government was providing illegal subsidies to manufacturers…The commerce department could impose heavier penalties in May, when it is due to decide whether China is dumping solar panels at prices below their actual cost.

    "…[The] move did not suggest the Obama adminstration is willing to risk a trade war with China in support of struggling solar panel manufacturers…Domestic solar panel makers, who had requested the tariffs, welcomed the decision, saying it had helped expose unfair Chinese trade practices…Solar installation companies, whose business relies on Chinese-made panels, expressed relief that the small tariffs would not drive up costs…"


    click to enlarge

    "…Some industry executives had hoped for a greater show of support from the administration – even at the risk of causing a trade rift with China…[which] has now taken the lead [in solar manufacturing]…[A few] Chinese companies have acknowledged receiving cheap loans and other government support…But low-cost solar panels are also helping some sections of America's clean energy industry…

    "The US made $56bn in clean energy investment in 2011, overtaking China, which invested $47.4bn…[G]rowth of the US clean energy industry was led by the plummeting costs of Chinese-made solar panels, which brought solar farms closer to the cost of electricity generated from fossil fuels…American imports of Chinese solar panels have grown…from $21.3m in 2005 to $2.65bn last year…But cheap Chinese solar panels have also put American solar panel makers out of business – and proved a political embarrassment for the Obama adminstration…"

    Monday, March 19, 2012

    SOLAR’S BLESSINGS, DISPLAYED

    Growatt North America Releases New PV System Monitoring System
    19 March 2012 (Solar Industry)

    "Growatt North America, a PV inverter supplier…has introduced a new solar monitoring system…[T]he proprietary hardware and software package is designed to provide a complete and user-friendly presentation of PV system performance in real time…[It] covers exact net and production history (in 15-minute, hourly and daily increments); the environmental impact of the system; power meter details; and inverter model product details. Data can be embeddable live into a website location or downloaded into a .CSV format."

    click to enlarge

    "The report-generation software meets or exceeds all current requirements for renewable energy subsidies and rebates, and presents data in dynamic and easy to understand graphic displays…The product will be available for all Growatt inverter solar PV installations and includes free access to the proprietary Web-based dashboard, as well as free software updates…"

    BASEBALL’S MOST DIFFERENT WIND

    Progressive Field's wind turbine being assembled in parking lot
    Karen Farkas, March 14, 2012 (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

    "An innovative wind turbine that will look like a fat corkscrew [and is designed to pivot with the wind] is being assembled in the players' parking lot at Progressive Field…Within a few weeks it will be mounted atop the ballpark's southeast corner…shorter than the stadium's light poles but highly visible…

    "Ironworkers are adding the finishing touches to a 3,000-pound eight-sided aluminum frame that will be covered with 80 translucent white plastic pieces to form a helix…Near the frame is the steel base that will hold the turbine. Close by is a triangular steel platform that will be mounted on to the stadium that will support the base…The turbine, which will be lighted within by colored LED lights, is the latest version of a ‘wind amplification turbine system,’ developed by Majid Rashidi, chairman of Cleveland State University's department of engineering technology."


    Not Abner Doubleday's wind mill (click to enlarge)

    "CSU had received a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy…to design and install two structures based on Rashidi's patented system of a wind-deflecting structure with small-scale turbines that can generate power at low wind speeds…[The Cleveland Indians have] a commitment to sustainability, including adding solar panels to the stadium…Indians officials said the size of the turbine fits the ballpark, which did not have enough space to put up a traditional three-blade turbine…

    "When asked when the turbine will be installed and working, [the contractor] pointed to a sign on Progressive Field above the parking lot. It indicated 23 days to the first pitch of the new Indians season…"

    SOLARCITY-RABOBANK $42.5MIL OFFC BUILDING SUN DEAL

    SolarCity and Rabobank Announce $42.5 Million Fund for Commercial Solar Projects; Latest collaboration will fund construction of over 30 corporate solar installations
    March 15, 2012 (SolarCity)

    "Rabobank and SolarCity® today announced $42.5 million in structured financing to fund over 30 commercial solar projects in California. This new fund is the latest iteration of a Rabobank-SolarCity collaboration that has produced a solar-powered electric vehicle charging corridor to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco, and a series of solar installations at local bank branches in California…"

    [Lyndon Rive, CEO, SolarCity:] “We can allow many businesses to install solar panels for free, and pay less for solar electricity than they pay for utility power…With the help of strong partners like Rabobank, we’re allowing businesses to generate their own clean power and improve their bottom lines at the same time.”

    click to enlarge

    "Since the expansion of its renewable energy finance platform to the Americas in 2009, Rabobank has become a leader in the U.S. renewable energy project finance field, focusing primarily on the solar, wind and bio-mass sectors…

    "SolarCity can allow a wide range of organizations to install solar panels for free, and pay less for solar electricity than they pay for utility power. The company now has more than 1,000 solar projects completed or underway for U.S. businesses and non-profit organizations."

    PLANNED ARKANSAS WIND PLANT IN DOUBT

    Mitsubishi US turbine plant depends on legal issues; Mitsubishi Heavy Industries' (MHI) plans to open its first wind turbine factory in the US are dependent on the government renewing a critical subsidy and the outcome of legal battles there.
    Dominque Patton, March 14, 2012 (Recharge)

    "In 2009, the Japanese company [MHI] revealed plans for a $100m nacelle manufacturing plant in Arkansas to support demand in its main market. It was scheduled to have opened earlier this year…However, turbine sales are certain to plummet if Washington does not renew the production tax credit (PTC), which is due to expire at the end of the year…Mitsubishi Power Systems Americas’ legal dispute with GE over wind turbine designs and patents is also very important…

    "MHI has a 10% share of the US market and ‘several hundred megawatts’ of orders in hand…But it needs new orders to sustain a local factory, and future growth of the American market is a big challenge…MHI is not the first to warn of the impact of the PTC expiry. Vestas has said it will cut jobs in the US if the government does not renew the subsidy…MHI has built up turbine sales in the US by leveraging its reputation in the traditional power business. Large electricity companies like to work with established suppliers such as GE, Siemens and MHI…"


    An assembled nacelle being placed in its housing. (click to enlarge)

    "This will also be an advantage in the group’s next target, the UK offshore sector, where…MHI’s financial resources [are expected to] give it an edge…MHI also hopes to see growing sales at home, after the introduction of a new feed-in tariff in July. But with cumbersome environmental laws set to drag out installation time for Japanese wind projects, the company may have to play a waiting game…

    "MHI also wants to increase its technology transfer to China. It licensed rights to its 1MW machine to Chinese turbine maker Ningxia Yinxing Energy in 2007, and in 2010 upgraded its 2.4MW model to 2.5MW to meet the requirements of the Chinese market."

    SMART METERS AND THE TEA PARTY

    SDG&E, SoCal Edison Get Smart Meter Opt-Out Orders; Will the Tea Party make trouble for smart meters in Southern California?
    Jeff St. John, March 16, 2012 (Greentech Media)

    "California’s big southern utilities, San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison, haven’t had as much trouble with anti-smart meter activists as has their northern neighbor Pacific Gas & Electric…[but,] for Southern California Edison, its smart meter opponents include several local Tea Party groups…"

    "…The California Public Utility Commission ruled…that SDG&E and SCE [like PG&E] must offer customers an opt-out to smart meters -- but that they can charge up to $75 per person, plus $10 a month, for the privilege…[The ruling was] meant to stave off a growing customer backlash…PG&E has agreed to leave old analog meters…but says it needs to charge extra for the costs of sending meter readers to those homes and other costs, adding up to an estimated $113.4 million over the next two years."


    click to enlarge

    "…[V]ocal critics charge that the radios inside the smart meters create a health risk for entire neighborhoods, despite data that shows the typical smart meter emits far less radiation than do cell phones and other devices permitted by law…CPUC’s proposed decision on SCE’s opt-out notes that initial opposition to smart included several local Tea Party groups…[but] didn’t make clear just what complaints the Tea Party raised. But a quick Google search reveals that… Tea Party complaints mix copious amounts of health risk talk and invasion of privacy concerns…

    "…PG&E has reported only about 4,400 customers choosing to opt out of having a smart meter, or about 0.08 percent of their 5.4 million residential electric customers…[There are] similarly low numbers from Maine, where Central Maine Power is also offering opt-out for a fee. No doubt utilities around the country are keeping their fingers crossed that the numbers will stay low. Perhaps they’d better keep an eye on their local Tea Party websites."

    WORLD PV SOLAR UP 40%

    World Solar Photovoltaic Market Grew to 27.4 Gigawatts in 2011, Up 40% Y/Y; Incentive Cutbacks in Europe, Falling Prices, Create Major Corporate Challenges in 2012
    March 19, 2012 (Solarbuzz)

    "Worldwide solar photovoltaic (PV) market installations reached a record high of 27.4 gigawatts (GW) in 2011, up 40% Y/Y, according to the annual [NPD Solarbuzz] PV market report…

    "Overall market growth in 2011 was boosted by strong second half demand ahead of further deep cuts in solar incentives. This followed a period of over-production in the first half that triggered the sustained price decline through the PV chain that came to characterize 2011. The dominance of Chinese manufacturers in crystalline silicon wafers, cells and modules grew, the share of thin film declined, and demand in Asian markets grew rapidly."


    click to enlarge

    "The PV industry generated $93 billion in global revenues in 2011, up 12% Y/Y…[T]he top five PV markets were Germany, Italy, China, the United States, and France—74% of global demand in 2011. China soared 470% Y/Y, rising from to third place from seventh in 2010…European countries accounted for 18.7 GW, or 68% of world demand in 2011, down from 82% in 2010…Germany, Italy and France collectively accounted for 82% of the European market.

    "Worldwide solar cell production reached 29.5 GW in 2011, up from 23.0 GW a year earlier, with thin film production accounting for 11% of total production. Production from China and Taiwan accounted for 74% of global cell production, up from 63% in the prior year…Over the next five years, factory-gate module prices are projected to drop between 43% and 53% from 2011 levels…"

    Sunday, March 18, 2012

    SOLAR FARMS VS FARMERS

    Solar debate heats up as CA farmland is targeted
    Tracie Cone, March 14, 2012 (San Jose Mercury News)

    "In the debate pitting photovoltaic power stations against agriculture, all eyes have been on Fresno County, where the abundance of sunshine that make it the No. 1 agriculture-producing county in the nation also makes it ideal for solar arrays…This week Fresno County, with 29 projects on 11,000 acres in the pipeline, approved its plan to balance food security with green energy with a decision that falls short of what both sides wanted…

    "…Under the new regulations, authorities will consider the prior agricultural productivity of farmland in deciding whether to issue conditional use permits…but they will not automatically direct development to marginal and retired land lacking adequate water supplies, as farm organizations had wanted…Some on the board of supervisors view solar as the economic wave of the future, providing increased tax revenues and hundreds of construction jobs..."


    Solar farm and farmland side by side in Germany (click to enlarge)

    "…Environmental obstacles to solar keep popping up in places like California's expansive Mojave Desert. Developers now are eyeing farmland as easier places to build because plowing and planting thwarts endangered species such as kit foxes and kangaroo rats from taking up residence…California laws such as the Williamson Act that protect prime soils from development are being challenged by some local governments that are issuing temporary use permits for the arrays with the idea that the land could be returned to production down the road…The issue is critically important in a county with an annual agricultural production of $5.8 billion and an economy dependent upon packing, shipping and growing hundreds of products… [It is hoped] the new guidelines will be used to protect farming…

    "A joint policy paper issued last year by the law schools at UCLA and UC-Berkeley says that California must balance a secure national food supply and energy production by identifying marginal farmland and guiding solar development to it or risk consequences...The state lost 200,000 acres of irrigated farmland to development between 2006 and 2008, and 1.3 million acres since 1984…Critics of the supervisors' decision point out that the region has 200,000 acres of retired land contaminated with selenium perfectly suited for sun energy…The state farm bureau has a lawsuit pending…A judge is expected to decide next week whether the state farm bureau has the right to sue…"

    GOLDWIND GATHERS GOLD

    Goldwind makes CNY 3 billion bond offering
    Wu Qi, 16 March 2012 (Windpower Monthly)

    "Goldwind is to issue CNY 3 billion yuan ($476 million) corporate bonds in Shenzhen Stock Exchange…This is the first phase of a total of CNY 5 billion bonds that the company's stockholders approved at its 2010 general meeting.

    "The capital raised will be used to supplement working capital of the company and its subordinates and repay CNY 800 million bank loans…Goldwind will have CNY 27.1 billion yuan working capital, compared with CNY 24.9 billion yuan on September 30, 2011."


    Goldwind is one of the biggest and best run wind companies. If it is looking for funding, the others are too. (click to enlarge)

    "…[T] his will to a certain extent alleviate cash flow pressure on the company and ensure smooth progress of production scheduling…In the first three quarters of 2011, Goldwind had CNY 6.843 billion operational cash flow, down 261.48% year-on-year.

    "Goldwind is concerned that along with business expansion, its liabilities and financial costs might continue to expand…[T]he company's operating profits fell 74% in 2011, compared with the previous year, to CNY 697.8 million…[due] to slower growth in the Chinese wind-power industry, and falling turbine market sales prices…"

    BETTER CHEAPER EV BATTERIES BY 2017

    Prices for Lithium Ion Batteries Will Fall by More Than One-Third by 2017, Helping to Drive EV Adoption
    March 12, 2012 (Pike Research)

    "Managing transportation emissions and reducing energy insecurity due to a volatile oil industry are on the top of the agenda of many countries across the world. Electric vehicles (EVs) have a significant role to play in both...EVs will continue to be a niche market through the remainder of this decade…[but] the global automotive industry is beginning to move away from the internal combustion engine and toward electric drivetrains…

    "…For auto manufacturers, the key to this shift will be the continual advancement in the capabilities of the vehicles’ batteries, which will be led by lithium ion (Li-ion) chemistries…The convergence of the automotive industry toward battery power and the engineering of safe, reliable, and economical Li-ion batteries will slowly reshape the automotive industry as it moves toward electrification. According to a recent report from Pike Research, as manufacturing efficiencies improve and access to lithium expands, the installed cost of Li-ion batteries will fall by more than one-third by the end of 2017."


    click to enlarge

    "In terms of revenue, the market for Li-ion batteries for transportation will grow from $2.0 billion annually in 2011 to more than $14.6 billion by 2017, the cleantech market intelligence firm forecasts…

    "…[M]ost plug-in electric vehicles today have a range of between 40 and 100 miles…[but] concerns over range and the availability of charging infrastructure remain among the biggest impediments to the wider adoption of Li-ion batteries. On the supply side, challenges such as achieving higher energy density, better safety, and greater discharge/charge rates linger…[No Li-ion chemistries available today can] claim to be the ideal solution…"

    SOLAR GOES A-LIST

    Big-Name Investment Marks Pivotal New Era For U.S. Solar Projects
    Lori Lovely, 15 March 2012 (Solar Industry)

    "…[A]n influx of investment attached to high-profile names - such as Warren Buffett and Google - is now taking place as the solar sector matures…[I]ncreased level of investment is due…federal tax credit, state solar support programs with set-asides that mandate solar renewable energy credits and more funding support…from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Program and the Clean Energy States Alliance…

    "Google Inc., long known as a global technology leader committed to renewable energy, has invested $915 million in clean energy projects since mid-2010…[It is necessary to know government incentives and a long-term view] to get the [return on investment]…[but with] the market for expected energy demand projected to reach $26 trillion by 2030, solar seems a secure investment… PV panel costs…have decreased 70% in the past 18 months…That type of price decline makes the investment compelling, even with the scheduled expiration of the investment tax credit in 2016…"


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    "…MidAmerican Solar (MidAmerican Energy Holdings' solar business unit), also considers solar power's price reduction to be a key factor in driving new investment…[due in part] to favorable renewable energy policies in Germany and Italy, the largest solar markets, that further fueled a fast-growing European market. (Both countries have since reduced their PV incentives.) Concurrently, the U.S. market doubled. As a result, suppliers ramped up production, and costs of manufacturing solar modules began to drop…

    "…GE continues to expand its clean energy portfolio. In addition to investing $600 million in a 400 MW factory…GE is building a large [23 megawatt] solar farm south of Chicago…[N]ew financing models are also responsible for [GE’s] escalated interest…[and] state-level renewable portfolio standards (RPS) help drive investment activity. Eleven states have added a solar set-aside to their RPS, requiring that solar resources represent a specified percentage…"

    WIND GETS READY FOR NO GOVT SUPPORT

    How The Wind Energy Supply Chain Can Prepare For A Possible Post-PTC Era
    15 March 2012 (North American Windpower)

    "…Barbara Sands, renewable energy expert at PA Consulting Group, [said] if federal renewable energy incentives such as the PTC expire, more than $20 billion (based on approximate capital costs of $2,000/kW in 2012 for installed wind capacity) will be shifted from the federal level to the state level - in other words, from all U.S. taxpayers to just customers in states with renewable portfolio standards.

    "The resulting rise in energy costs will test state and, by extension, regulator support for renewables, and participants across the sector will face a number of complex challenges…Wind developers, equipment manufacturers and utilities will all need to face this issue, but proactive planning can…[keep them] profitable…"


    Can planning prevent it from happening again? (click to enlarge)

    "Wind energy developers, for example, will need to focus on sites and projects that provide the best economics…[U]tilities will need to find a way to recover the high cost of renewables…[P]ressure will be placed on regulators to allow them to recover the higher cost of renewable energy in future rates, thereby passing these costs on to customers…[E]quipment manufacturers…will come under pressure from wind energy developers and wind farm operators to both improve their products’ performance and reduce the cost of their equipment.

    "…[A]ssuming the current projected level of natural-gas prices of about $4.50/MMBtu, the capital cost of wind projects would need to be at least 35% lower for wind generation to be competitive with new natural-gas-fired generation, PA Consulting says…[M]anufacturers will need to decrease fixed capital costs and improve efficiency to become cost-competitive."

    A UTILITY THAT WANTS NEW ENERGY

    Utility Puts Priority On Renewable Energy Projects
    Angela Benewal, 16 March 2012 (Renew Grid)

    "…[ Puget Sound Energy (PSE) has found that many of its customers have] turned wind into an economic opportunity…PSE is no stranger to developing wind farms…

    "…[The 343 megawatt] Lower Snake River wind project is the utility's third project. PSE also developed the Wild Horse Wind and Solar facility, a 149 turbine, 273 MW project in Kittitas County that also features 2,723 photovoltaic solar panels…The utility's 87-turbine, 156 MW Hopkins Ridge wind project is located in Columbia County near the Lower Snake project. In addition to wind and solar, PSE obtains about one-third of its power from hydro…"


    Washington state could get more than half its electricity from wind (click to enlarge)

    "While it is not out of the ordinary for a utility to develop renewable energy projects, PSE has been in the game since the mid-2000s. Fulfilling Washington state's 15% by 2020 renewable portfolio standard (RPS) is the reason the utility chose to develop. When deciding whether to purchase the renewable energy or build a project, the determining factor came down to economics…

    "When the Lower Snake River project begins producing power, PSE will have more than 9% renewable energy. This figure does not include hydro because that resource does not count under the state's RPS…PSE has leases for quite a bit of land in the vicinity of the Lower Snake River project and plans to build a second phase in the future…"

    Wednesday, March 14, 2012

    BIG MONEY IN SMART METERS

    Worldwide Smart Meter Shipments to Surpass 140 Million Units Annually, According to IDC Energy Insights' Worldwide Quarterly Smart Meter Tracker
    March 7, 2012 (IDC Energy Insights)

    "…IDC Energy Insights' Worldwide Quarterly Smart Meter Tracker found that worldwide smart meter shipments in the fourth quarter of 2011 (4Q11) grew 11.8% over the previous quarter (3Q11) and were up 23.8% when compared to the fourth quarter of 2010…[IDC] expects annual smart meter shipments to surpass 140 million units worldwide by 2016, up from 25.4 million in 2011. This represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 32.9% over the 2011 to 2016 forecast period.

    "…[D]eveloping markets [are expected] to drive smart meter growth through 2016…[T]he revival of the Canadian market and an uptick in shipments to Central and Eastern Europe were the primary drivers in the closing quarter of 2011. In 2012, smart meter shipments in Europe will accelerate as country-level planning continues to progress and the pathway towards the European Commission's ‘20-20-20’ targets finally begins to materialize…"


    "Shipments will also ramp up significantly in the Asia/Pacific region as the massive markets in China and India begin to integrate advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). The Japanese market is also gaining momentum with the renewed focus on conservation in the wake of Fukushima, while utilities in Oceana are learning to manage the consumer backlash that emerged from previous deployments.

    "…[T]hrough 2016, activity will shift from North America and Europe to the developing world…Smart meter vendors [will develop] a wide array of solutions to fit…a pronounced difference between AMI in mature markets and upcoming emerging market deployments. Utilities in emerging markets tend to focus more on billing and theft deterrence rather than customer engagement or next-generation smart grid applications…[E]merging markets have displayed a greater degree of price sensitivity…[than] more mature AMI markets."

    Tuesday, March 13, 2012

    SENATE REJECTS CRUCIAL SOLAR TAX CREDIT

    U.S. Senate Rejects Amendment To Extend Section 1603 Program
    Jessica Lillian, 13 March 2012 (Solar Industry)

    "An amendment…that would have extended the U.S. Department of Treasury's Section 1603 program and other renewable energy tax incentives failed to receive approval from the U.S. Senate…[The] legislation sought to revive the Section 1603 program and other incentives via an amendment to the Surface Transportation Bill (S.1813), legislation focusing on highway improvements…[The #1812 (Energy Tax Extenders) amendment] needed to receive 60 votes in order to be included in S.1813. However, it received just 49 votes…

    "The 1603 program provided a 30% cash grant in lieu of tax credits to eligible solar projects and proved to be extremely popular among U.S. solar developers until its expiration. The renewal of this program ranks among the top legislative priorities for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and many solar firms."


    click to enlarge

    "However, given that the 1603 program just ended a few months ago, the full effect of its expiration remains to be seen…Further complicating matters are provisions that allow certain solar projects grandfathered in under the safe-harbor deadline of Dec. 31, 2011, to remain eligible for a cash grant…

    "…[The] vote was widely regarded as one of the industry's primary chances for seeing a 1603 extension…[but] other avenues still exist. President Obama's proposed fiscal-year 2013 budget, for instance, provides for an extension of the 1603 program. However, this budget must clear a series of legislative hurdles in order to be implemented as originally written…The solar sector also recorded a small victory…[when an amendment] to repeal all energy tax credits, including the investment tax credit (ITC) for solar energy, and replace them with a lowered corporate tax rate [was defeated]…"

    SENATE REJECTS CRUCIAL WIND TAX CREDIT

    Senate Rejects Measure To Extend Wind Energy Production Tax Credit
    Laura DiMugno, 13 March 2012 (North American Windpower)

    "The U.S. Senate has voted to reject an amendment to S.1813, the Surface Transportation Bill, that would have extended several important renewable energy incentives - including the [urgently needed] production tax credit (PTC) for wind power - for one year…The measure…also called for an extension of the Section 48C advanced energy manufacturing tax credit, which expired in 2010, as well as an extension of the Section 1603 cash-grant program.

    "Although the vote on the measure was even at 49-49, the amendment required 60 votes to pass, and was, therefore, not agreed to…The news comes as a disappointment to the wind industry, which was hoping for a boon in an uncertain economic climate…"


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    [Denise Bode, CEO, American Wind Energy Association:] "…[T]ens of thousands of American jobs are being put in peril…[though] the wind production tax credit enjoys bipartisan…The clock is ticking, and the stakes for a timely extension of the PTC could not be clearer…We stand to lose one of America’s best new sources of American manufacturing jobs. With every day that goes by, layoffs are occurring and further job losses - and even plant closings - will accelerate with each month we near expiration in December.”

    "…[T]he Senate voted on a third amendment to S.1813 that also had the potential to dramatically alter the U.S. energy landscape. The measure…would have extended tax credits for the oil and gas industries, as well as approved the Keystone XL Pipeline and opened up other areas for domestic oil and gas production…[Its sponsor] claimed the measure would [also] lower gas prices - an assertion that has questionable backing…The Senate…[voted it down] 41-57 vote."

    Monday, March 12, 2012

    CONGRESS APPROVES TURBINE TOWER MAKERS FIGHT WITH CHINA

    Senate, House Vote To Continue Wind Tower Trade Proceedings Against China
    9 March 2012 (North American Windpower)

    "Both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives have passed bipartisan legislation that enables countervailing-duty proceedings to continue against allegedly unfair subsidized goods - including wind turbine towers - from China and Vietnam.

    "The legislation overturns a decision made by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) and confirms that the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) has the authority to continue to apply countervailing duties to non-market economies, such as China's."


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    "According to the House Ways and Means Committee, if the CAFC's decision were allowed to stand, the DOC could be forced to end countervailing duties against products from China. In addition, the six ongoing investigations against Chinese and Vietnamese products would be terminated. If this were to happen, the committee says, some duties that already have been collected would have to be refunded.

    "The bill also addresses a finding by the World Trade Organization (WTO) that there may be a ‘double counting’ of Chinese subsidies for countervailing and antidumping on the same good. Under the new legislation, the DOC would be able to adjust anti-dumping duties to address double counting…[T]he legislation was [reportedly] drafted with input and support from the Obama administration [and likely to be signed by the President]…"

    SOLAR O&M PROVIDER GUARANTEES PRODUCTION

    ESA Renewables Initiates Solar Power Production Guarantee Program for O&M Division; New program guarantees specific monthly energy production for solar energy generating systems under an ESA operation and maintenance (O&M) agreement
    8 March 2012 (ESA Renewables)

    "ESA Renewables, (ESA), a leading turnkey solar solutions provider, announced the launch of their Solar Power Production Guarantee. This new program guarantees specific monthly energy production for solar energy generating systems under an ESA operation and maintenance (O&M) agreement. Should the photovoltaic system fail to meet ESA’s annual guaranteed power production levels, ESA will compensate the solar farm owners the difference between guaranteed and actual energy generated…

    "Once an asset manager contracts with ESA for O&M, engineers will visit the solar farm and perform a complete audit and analysis. To make projections for future production levels and guarantee that rate on return, ESA will analyze current and historic data including energy production levels, panel and inverter compatibility, ratios, high efficiencies, tilt of panels and weather variants."


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    "Upon completion of the audit, ESA will make any necessary system upgrades and install their renewable energy Monitoring System. The company will then chart projected production levels and execute a guarantee with the facility owners to meet these expectations. Should a system fail to reach projected levels, for any reason, ESA will compensate the renewable energy plant owners the variance between the two numbers based on a set cost per kilowatt hour (kWh)…

    "ESA’s proprietary monitoring and control system is used to manage O&M services…[It allows any renewable energy] plant owners and operators access to simplified, centralized, reliable and secure historical and real-time data from the power plant. Effective monitoring reduces PV system downtime, increases performance and allows operators to make informed decisions as to O&M servicing. ESA’s monitoring solution also automatically alerts system managers of events to allow for quick response…"

    DEMAND RESPONSE, NEW ENERGY AND POWER MARKETS

    Demand Response and Renewables Integration Will Drive the Growth of Short-Term Power Markets
    March 8, 2012 (Pike Research)

    "Due to the prohibitive cost of storing electricity on a major scale, short-term power markets are relied on to balance generation and load on a 24/7 basis. These markets typically take the form of a day-ahead market that provides a preliminary forecast of the next day’s power generation and consumption, and a real-time market, which is used to balance the actual generation to load…

    "…Due to advancing technology and declining prices for renewable energy, particularly wind and solar, demand response (DR) and renewables integration are both growing into significant factors in the short-term markets. Demand response acts as a counterbalance against price volatility in the short-term power markets, while the integration of renewables means that weather fluctuations will increasingly affect the short-term price of power. According to a recent report from Pike Research, these two forces will lead to accelerating growth in short-term power markets over the next several years."


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    "Trading services will grow from $283 million in 2011 to as much as $333 million in 2016 under an economic recovery scenario, the cleantech market research firm forecasts. Under a slower growth model, trading services will reach $317 million in 2016…

    "Data management and forecasting can help to make more effective trades and to help limit exposure to sudden price fluctuations. Once transacted, there are complex rules associated with settlements of trades. Vendors that offer these types of services are expected to see strong growth in the coming years…[A]s the markets develop…Pike Research expects there to be new entrants in the playing field when credit becomes available and price volatility offers opportunities…"

    MORE SOLAR PARITY

    Cost of Going Solar Is Dropping Fast, State Study Finds; The price of solar energy systems dropped by 36 percent in North Carolina between 2006 and 2011, in a trend that is likely occuring across the U.S.
    Maria Gallucci, March 9, 2012 (Inside Climate News)

    "The cost of solar power in North Carolina is falling steeply…providing the first real evidence of a trend that is likely occurring in other states that are harnessing the power of the sun…The price of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems dropped by 36 percent in North Carolina between 2006 and 2011, from $8.50 to $5.44 per watt…[while] fossil fuel costs jumped three percent on average in the state every year of the past decade…

    "The Feb. 29
    report by the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) is the first attempt to calculate both ‘dollars per watt’ and the ‘levelized cost of energy,’ or LCOE, for solar energy in a single state. The dollars-per-watt metric, used above, measures initial installation and hardware costs only. [The national average for solar was $6.20 per watt in 2010, according to the most recent available data]…"

    click to enlarge

    "The LCOE is a more complex and newer metric that assesses all costs of a solar system across its lifetime, including the cost of generating electricity and other factors like maintenance. It can be compared easily to other electricity sources…Using the LCOE, the report finds that solar will be cost competitive with retail electricity prices in North Carolina by 2020, without federal or state subsidies. Large-scale solar systems are already cost competitive when subsidies are factored in.

    "The biggest factor in North Carolina's falling solar prices is global market forces…particularly the glut in solar panels and their components, like polysilicon…Between 2008 and 2010, the cost of solar panels worldwide fell by about 40 percent, according to industry figures. In 2011, prices dropped again by 50 percent from 2010, as the supply of panels far outstripped demand, due in a large part to a state-subsidized solar manufacturing boom in China…The findings in North Carolina give solar advocates a solid basis to draw conclusions about the entire industry…"

    NEW TRANSMISSION MEANS NEW WIND, NEW JOBS

    Clean Line Energy Signs Agreement With Conductor Manufacturer; Transmission Line Project Will Lead To Increased Demand For Wind Products Manufactured In Illinois
    March 6, 2012 (Clean Line Energy Partners)

    "Clean Line Energy Partners LLC announced an agreement…designating Southwire as the preferred supplier for the overhead transmission cable for the Rock Island Clean Line…[T]he cable will be produced from Southwire’s facility in Flora, Illinois…The Rock Island Clean Line transmission line project will consist of an approximate 500-mile overhead, high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission line that will deliver 3,500 megawatts of renewable power from Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota to communities and businesses in Illinois and other states to the east. The line will end near Morris, Illinois where it will interconnect with the PJM system…

    "…[The Southwire] facility expects to produce cable over a 12 to 14 month period of time…Clean Line’s potential future supply order from Southwire could be worth $70 million or more…In addition to an estimated $1.7 billion in direct costs for the Rock Island Clean Line HVDC itself, the Rock Island Clean Line will make possible approximately $7 billion worth of investments in new wind energy projects, which today cannot be constructed due to the lack of transmission…"


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    "…[As a result of the new wind farms] Southwire could realize additional benefits of $30 million or more in additional sales by producing and selling cables that are used within the turbine, placed down the tower and buried underground for the power collections systems…

    "…[Construction of the Rock Island Clean Line could begin as early as 2014 and may continue over the next few years…[It] will create hundreds of direct construction jobs… [and completion] should also lead to increased employment for…wind energy manufacturing companies…[The line] will…deliver enough energy to power more than 1.4 million Midwest homes. Clean Line estimates that property taxes on the transmission lines will generate millions of dollars annually in Illinois and will be distributed to counties where the line is routed…"

    FEDS FUND ADVANCED EV CHARGING

    Eaton Awarded DOE Grant To Increase Efficiency Of EV Charging
    9 March 2012 (Renew Grid)

    "Eaton Corp. has received a $1.84 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for the development and demonstration of more efficient commercial electric-vehicle (EV) chargers. The project will promote smart charging technology that better manages the efficiency, availability and reliability of power, especially during peak times and at popular charging locations…"

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    "Eaton's grant is part of a larger federal research and development program to help reduce the current costs of EV chargers by 50% over the next three years and to support the adoption and deployment of EVs…"

    CHINA’S NEWEST SUN PLAN

    China releases 2011-2015 plan for solar photovoltaic industry
    1 March 2012 (World of Photovoltaics)

    "China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has released the 12th Five-Year Plan for the solar photovoltaic industry (2011-2015)…[T]he solar photovoltaic industry is expected to enjoy a stable and fast growth…[R]equirements on installed capacity [for products like polysilicon and solar batteries were] set by the [renewable energy resources] development plan…

    "…By 2015, leading producers of polysilicon are proposed to achieve a capacity of 50,000 tonnes, and major producers 10.000 tonnes. Leading producers of solar battery are expected to achieve a capacity of 5 GW, and major producers 1 GW…[The plan’s goal is to have] 1 photovoltaic company realizing sales revenue of over 100 billion yuan annually, 3-5 photovoltaic companies having annual revenue of more than 50 billion yuan and 3-4 producers of specialized photovoltaic equipments achieving an annual revenue of 1 billion yuan."


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    "The plan also points out that the main theme of the industry is to reduce the cost. By 2015, the cost of photovoltaic module should be lowered to 7,000 yuan/KW and the cost of photovoltaic power generation is expected to fall to 0.8 yuan/KWH.

    "…[Goals were also set for PV industry technology advances in the 2011-2015 period including increasing the] recycling ratio of silicon tetrachloride, hydrogen chloride and hydrogen in the polysilicon production…[to] at least rise to 98.5 per cent, 99 per cent and 99 per cent respectively…[and the] efficiency of industrialization…to 21 per cent for monocrystalline cells, 19 per cent for monocrystalline silicon cells, 12 per cent for amorphous silicon thin film cells…"

    Saturday, March 10, 2012

    TEXAS GETS 22% WIND, A NEW RECORD

    Texas sets wind power records with new grid analysis
    March 9, 2012 (Reuters)

    "Texas set new records for wind-power output…using a new transmission analysis tool that allows more wind to flow on power lines from west Texas to power-consuming cities hundreds of miles away…The amount of electricity produced from wind on [Wednesday night, March 7] set a record at 7,599 megawatts, up 196 MW from the previous day, which eked past a 7,400-MW record set last October, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said…

    "…[E]lectricity was being produced by more than 77 percent of the 9,838 MW of ERCOT's installed wind capacity, well above the average 30 to 40 percent of nameplate electric capacity that wind farms typically produce…[and ERCOT had just begun using] a new tool…to calculate day-ahead and real-time limits on power lines from west Texas to the Dallas-Fort Worth area…[and analyze] real-time conditions every 30 minutes…"


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    "With more than 9,800 MW, Texas leads the nation in carbon-free electric capacity from wind turbines. More than 7,500 MW are located in west Texas, where the wind generally blows the strongest during the evening hours and in the spring and fall months when power demand is low…Recent wind-farm additions, now totaling nearly 2,100 MW, or 21 percent, have been built closer to the Texas coast…where wind patterns differ from west Texas…About 13 percent of the record 7,599 MW produced March 7 came from the coastal wind farms…

    "At the time of the latest record, wind generation accounted for 22 percent of the power demand of 34,318 MW…Wind farms expanded rapidly in Texas until 2009 when production began to overwhelm the existing transmission capacity…Texas is building more than 2,300 miles (3,700 km) of high-voltage transmission in a $6.5 billion plan to expand the grid by late 2013 to accommodate wind-farm growth of up to 18,500 MW…Current wind-farm construction has slowed…[but developers] are studying the addition of 18,000 MW…down from 34,000 MW of wind last fall."

    DROUGHT AND CLIMATE CHANGE

    Climate change made the drought worse, scientists say
    Colin McDonald, March 5, 2012 (San Antonio Express-News)

    "Several scientists at NASA and the state climatologist say the record-setting heat and drought of last summer in Texas was made worse by climate change…[T]hat conclusion adds another layer of uncertainty for water planners.

    "Some water utilities across the state are still struggling to meet demand because of the drought, which set the record for a single year. But many more are not ready for a repeat of the drought of the 1950s, which lasted seven years and is considered the worst long-term one on record. Adding climate change on top of that will make planning more difficult, as high temperatures mean more evaporation and less water going into rivers, reservoirs and aquifers."


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    "…The San Antonio Water System, Edwards Aquifer Authority and the state use [the 1950s drought] to model what is considered the worst-case scenario and then plan accordingly…[but studies show more severe droughts have occurred…Last summer is held up as evidence that climate change is already making droughts more extreme] by state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon and [climate scientist James Hansen of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University's Earth Institute]…Both scientists agree that the year would have been hot and dry no matter what, but that climate change made it worse…

    "Across the Panhandle, reservoirs went dry as increased temperatures accelerated evaporation, and rains have not been enough to refill them…And that was just from a one-year drought…The 2012 State Water Plan projects losses of $11.9 billion if a drought similar to the 1950s were to occur and projects in the plan are not funded. The estimated cost rises to $115.7 billion annually by 2060, with more than 1 million jobs lost…[T]he Legislature has not funded the $53 billion plan, which covers only a quarter of the state's [50 year] needs…"

    Wednesday, March 7, 2012

    THE POINTLESSNESS OF OIL SHALE

    Everything You Need to Know About Oil Shale; Comprehensive New Oil Shale Report Unveiled as BLM Prepares for Public Meetings in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming
    March 7, 2012 (Western Resource Advocates)

    Oil Shale 2050: Data, Definitions & What You Need to Know About Oil Shale in the West [from Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is a] new analysis of oil shale in the Western United States [and] comes just one week ahead of public meetings planned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to discuss a new federal policy on oil shale development…"

    [David Abelson, analysis lead author/Oil Shale Policy Advisor, WRA:] “We looked at this issue inside and out, and based on extensive research, we can’t find a good reason why commercial oil shale development should be pursued in the West…I sometimes wonder why this is even a discussion. Oil shale would foul our air and water, soak up enormous amounts of water, and disrupt local economies. And nobody has been able to come up with a viable commercial process to produce it anyway.”

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    "...[The report links] water demands and regulatory frameworks with potential oil shale development, examining the history of oil shale and key data points…[and is an ideal guidebook for the BLM ] public meetings in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming next week to discuss proposed federal guidelines for oil shale research and development…[It] follows a late February announcement by Chevron, in which the company decided to stop working on oil shale research in order to redeploy resources towards fuel sources for which extraction technologies already exist."

    [Rob Dubuc, Staff Attorney/Oil Shale Expert, WRA Utah:] “Chevron’s announcement is another in a long line of examples proving that nobody knows how to develop oil shale on a commercial scale…Oil and gas companies are abandoning oil shale research independently, yet the State of Utah is still preparing to turn over public resources for speculative development. That’s like building a factory before you know how to make the widget. It doesn’t make sense.”

    BIG WIND GOES ONLINE IN OHIO

    Iberdrola completes Ohio's biggest wind project
    John McKenna, 6 March 2012 (Windpower Monthly)

    "Construction has finished on Iberdrola’s 304MW Blue Creek wind farm in Ohio.
    Blue Creek is situated in six townships in Van Wert and Paulding Counties, Ohio and features 152 Gamesa G90 2MW turbines. The project [almost triples] Ohio's current [102 MW] capacity.

    "The project has a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with FirstEnergy Solutions covering 100MW of its generating capacity."


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    "Iberdrola has also started work this month on the 189MW Manzana wind power project, located near the town of Rosamond in California.

    "This project has secured two PPAs, one with the San Diego Gas & Electric company, which will receive the power generated by 100MW over the next 20 years, and another with the City of Santa Clara’s Silicon Valley Power, which will receive the energy produced by 50MW over the same period…"

    FIRST SOLAR IN TROUBLE AGAIN

    First Solar Under Investigation By The SEC For Topaz Disclosures
    Jessica Lillian, 6 March 2012 (Solar Industry)

    "The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) began an investigation into First Solar Inc. last fall, a new SEC filing from First Solar reveals. The probe focuses on potential violations…in connection with disclosures on Sept. 21, 2011, relating to the failure of the Topaz Solar Farm project to meet the statutory deadline to receive a federal loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)…

    "The Topaz solar plant, a 550 MW project under development in San Luis Obispo County, Calif., received a conditional commitment for a DOE loan guarantee on June 30, 2011. However, on Sept. 22, the company announced that there would be ‘insufficient time to process all requirements’ before the loan-guarantee program's Sept. 30 deadline."




    "The SEC investigation was initiated to determine whether a disclosure breach caused the news of the loan-guarantee's failure to be released early. A Jefferies & Co. analyst wrote in an investor note on Sept. 21 - one day before First Solar's announcement - that he did not expect the loan guarantee to be finalized in time…based on media reports that the project had a potential buyer.

    "First Solar responded to the potential disclosure violation by conducting an internal investigation and replacing its vice president of investor relations…[I]n November, the SEC announced it would forge ahead with its own investigation…[and a] separate investigation into the Topaz disclosure issue has been launched
    on behalf of First Solar's shareholders…by an unnamed law firm…First Solar's share price has dropped precipitously in recent years - from more than $300 in 2008 and more than $190 in 2009 to under $30 on March 2, 2012…"

    Monday, March 5, 2012

    STATE OF THE SMART GRID

    The GridWise Alliance reports on the state of smart grid
    February 23, 2012 (SmartGrid Consumer Collaborative)

    Realizing the Value of an Optimized Electric Grid [explores the current state of the nation’s power grid…[details] the real-world benefits of a modernized electric system and] is aimed at federal and state regulators. Findings showcase the ways in which grid initiatives are already leading to improvements in electric reliability, energy savings, customer engagement, and more…"

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    "The report is underpinned by case studies…[Success stories include a 20 percent reduction in energy consumption resulting from Pacific Gas & Electric’s energy efficiency program; a 47 percent reduction in the average duration of power interruptions for Southern California Edison customers; and a 9 percent reduction in overall energy consumption following Oklahoma Gas and Electric’s (OG&E) implementation of demand response…[It also] reminds of the challenges that persist, including technology readiness; market readiness and risks; realization of potential benefits; impacts of financial support; and customer engagement…"

    UNSUBSIDIZED NEW ENERGY, A THIRD OF NEW POWER TO 2035 -- EIA

    EIA: Even If PTC Expires, Wind Energy Generation Will Double By 2035
    2 March 2012 (North American Windpower)

    "Wind power and biomass dominate projected increases in U.S. renewable energy generation, excluding hydropower, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration's (EIA) Annual Energy Outlook 2012 Early Release Reference case.

    "In the EIA's outlook, increased generation from non-hydro renewable energy resources in the electric power sector accounts for 33% of the overall growth in electricity generation from 2010 to 2035. The non-hydro renewable energy share of the total generation in the projection increases from 4% in 2010 to 9% in 2035."


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    "The reference case assumes implementation of current laws and regulations as specified, including the scheduled expiration of some tax credits at the end of this year. Wind generation nearly doubles between 2010 and 2035, but the growth slows following the expiration of the production tax credit (PTC).

    "…[A] key uncertainty in the projections for non-hydro renewables is whether states will strictly enforce their renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requirements, particularly if the current federal tax credits that make RPS compliance less costly for consumers are not extended…[Even without RPSs, renewable technologies will grow] as they become increasingly competitive with other electricity generation…"

    GERMAN SUN PLAYER SOLD TO INDIA

    PV Manufacturer Solon Receives Takeover Offer From Microsol
    2 March 2012 (Solar Industry)

    "Struggling Germany-based PV module manufacturer Solon SE, which filed for insolvency last December, has received a binding offer from Microsol. Microsol, a solar company based in India, plans to buy Solon's operational business…Microsol has promised to keep 433 of 471 employees, as well keep Solon's operations in Berlin…"

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    "…[Microsol] plans to take over the research and development department as well as the central responsibilities for the other companies, such as procurement and sales and marketing. In addition, Microsol will acquire the company's Berlin production plant, and Italian and U.S. subsidiaries…Solon Nord GmbH, however, will be eliminated. A separate buyer is still being sought for French Solon subsidiary Solon SAS…"

    FEDS PUT $180 MIL INTO OCEAN WIND

    DOE Pumps $180 Million Into U.S. Offshore Wind Energy Development
    2 March 2012 (North American Windpower)

    "The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)…will award $180 million to fund offshore wind energy research and development initiatives, including up to four [new demonstration] offshore wind projects…[T]he DOE will make these funds available over six years, subject to congressional appropriations, including an initial commitment of $20 million in fiscal year 2012.

    "…[T]his latest research and demonstration initiative [will focus] on innovative technologies that…[could] achieve large cost reductions over existing offshore wind technologies…[and] address key challenges associated with installing utility-scale offshore wind turbines, connecting offshore turbines to the power grid, and navigating new permitting and approval processes."


    DOE wants to change this. (click to enlarge)

    "…[T]he DOE will continue to work with partners across the federal government to implement a comprehensive offshore wind energy strategy, conduct resource assessments, and streamline siting and permitting…[T]his support will help lower the cost and expedite the deployment of U.S.-made offshore wind energy technologies designed for U.S. coastal conditions, as well as provide opportunities to test these innovations in real offshore environments…

    "The DOE funds may be used to cover up to 80% of a project’s design costs and 50% of the hardware and installation costs. Letters of intent are due on March 30, and applications are due on May 31…"