NewEnergyNews More: June 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



Your intrepid reporter


    A tip of the NewEnergyNews cap to Phillip Garcia for crucial assistance in the design implementation of this site. Thanks, Phillip.


Pay a visit to the HARRY BOYKOFF page at Basketball Reference, sponsored by NewEnergyNews and Oil In Their Blood.

  • ---------------
  • Wednesday, June 27, 2012


    What Is Holding Back Solar Feed-In-Tariff Programs In The U.S. Market?

    21 June 2012 (Solar Industry)

    “Feed-in tariffs (FITs) have spurred the installation of more than three-quarters of global solar capacity. Germany's FIT - perhaps one of the best-known programs - has led to the development of more than 50,000 MW of solar power and wind power domestically since its inception in 1990…[but] FITs continue to fail to make inroads in the U.S…[which] instead relies on a patchwork of often inconsistent federal and state incentives…

    [“…U.S. CLEAN Programs; Where Are We Now? What Have We Learned?] by John Farrell, senior energy researcher at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), recaps the frustrating path of the U.S.' FIT programs and makes recommendations…FIT programs - generally branded as Clean Local Energy Accessible Now (CLEAN) contracts in the U.S. - currently exist in 14 states. However, installed capacity under all of the programs totals just 132 MW…[and could only reach] 1% or less of each jurisdiction's total electricity scales. In comparison, the cap-less German [FIT] market already has allowed at least 20% electricity…”

    “Another shortcoming of the U.S.' CLEAN programs may be their emphasis on large-scale solar projects. Unlike in Germany, where individuals own 40% of the current renewable energy market, few U.S. programs allow participation by owners of residential PV arrays…The Sacramento Municipal Utility District's (SMUD) program, for instance, leads the U.S. in terms of installed CLEAN capacity, with two-thirds of the country's total, but…[a] single 30 MW array took up half of SMUD's capacity…The ILSR believes that small-scale, locally owned PV projects represent a more effective use…

    “…[T]he German government's ongoing management of its FIT program has not been without controversy. Last year's boom in PV installations, followed by an announcement of drastic FIT rate cuts, resulted in political wrangling and negotiations that have yet to be resolved…[and] the U.S.' electricity market and regulatory environment differ from Germany's…[but] the U.S. can learn…important FIT/CLEAN program management lessons from Germany [especially about price differentiation]…”


    Vestas Signs Maintenance Deal With EDPR

    25 June 2012 (North American Windpower)

    “[World-leading but floundering turbine] maker Vestas has signed its largest-ever service and maintenance renewal agreement with EDPR, under which Vestas will service more than 1,100 wind turbines across 30 wind projects in the U.S. and Europe for up to seven years…[T]he service agreement represents a total capacity of nearly 1.9 GW…”

    “…About 70% of the turbines covered in the agreement are in the U.S., while the remaining wind power plants are in Spain, France, Romania, Portugal and Italy. Vestas says it will use local service teams and six regional performance, diagnostic and surveillance centers to monitor the wind turbines…[Vestas] expects its service business to make up a growing part of income in the future as more wind turbines come off of warranties…”


    FERC: Renewable Energy Integration Rule Eliminates Undue Burdens

    22 June 2012 (Renew Grid)

    “The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has issued a final rule that promotes the more efficient operation of the transmission system amid increasing integration of variable energy resources and benefits electric consumers by ensuring that services are provided at just and reasonable rates.

    “The rule adopts two reforms…[one] requiring transmission providers to offer customers the option of scheduling transmission service at 15-minute intervals…[and the other] requiring generators using variable energy resources to provide transmission owners with certain data to support power production forecasting…”

    “The rule finds that transmission customers are exposed to excessive imbalance service charges because they cannot adjust their service schedules within each operating hour. Intra-hour scheduling gives customers the tool they need to manage that exposure when generation output changes within the hour…The rule allows transmission providers to submit alternative proposals that are consistent with or superior to the 15-minute scheduling reform. Any alternative proposal will need to provide equivalent or greater opportunities for transmission customers to mitigate generator imbalance penalties and for the public utility transmission provider to lower its reserve-related costs.

    “…[P]ower production forecasts help transmission providers manage reserves more efficiently, [but] the forecasts are only as good as the data on which they rely. By requiring new interconnection customers whose generating facilities are variable energy resources to provide meteorological and operational data to transmission providers engaging in power production forecasting, transmission providers will better be able to manage resource variability…FERC will continue to evaluate proposed charges…”

    Tuesday, June 26, 2012


    Department Of The Interior Approves 350 MW Solar Project In Nevada

    22 June 2012 (Solar Industry)

    “U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has approved a 350 MW solar energy project on tribal trust land of the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians in Clark County, Nev…the first-ever utility-scale solar project approved for development on tribal lands…[The approval specifies] construction, operation and maintenance of a low-impact PV facility and associated infrastructure on about 2,000 acres of the tribe's reservation, located 30 miles north of Las Vegas.

    “Proposed by K Road Moapa Solar LLC, the project will be built in three phases of 100 MW to 150 MW. In addition to PV arrays, major additional project components include a 500 kV transmission line to deliver power to the grid and a 12 kV transmission line to the existing Moapa Travel Plaza after Phase I is complete. About 12 acres of U.S. public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management will be required for the 500 kV transmission line.”

    click to enlarge

    “To minimize and mitigate potential environmental impacts, a Desert Tortoise Translocation Plan, Bird and Bat Conservation Strategy and Weed Management Plan will be implemented, and natural-resources monitoring by qualified biologists will be conducted during all surface disturbing activities.

    “The project will generate lease income for the tribe, create new jobs and employment opportunities for tribal members, and connect the existing tribally owned Travel Plaza to the electrical grid, decreasing the Travel Plaza's dependence on a diesel-powered generator…”


    California energy officials plan for life without San Onofre; As officials make short-term plans to cope while the San Onofre plant is off line, they're also starting to think about the possibility of a nuclear-free future.

    Abby Sewell. June 24, 2012 (LA Times)

    “California energy officials are beginning to plan for the possibility of a long-range future without the [San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS)]…The plant's unexpected, nearly five-month outage has had officials scrambling to replace its power this summer and has become a wild card in already complicated discussions about the state's energy future.

    “That long-range planning process already involves dealing with the possible repercussions of climate change, a mandate to boost the state's use of renewable sources to 33% of the energy supply by 2020 and another mandate to phase out a process known as once-through cooling, which uses ocean water to cool coastal power plants, that will probably take some other plants out of service…”

    click to enlarge

    “…Before the current shutdown at the plant, officials had planned only for a scenario in which one of the reactors would be off line. No one had anticipated a complete shutdown…The plant's 2,200 megawatts of power provide electricity to about 1.4 million homes, but the facility also provides voltage support to the transmission system that allows power to be imported from elsewhere…Plant operator Southern California Edison has not yet submitted a plan to fix the issues…and has said the plant will remain shut down at least through the summer…Officials said that with contingency plans in place for this summer, including temporarily bringing two retired gas-fired units in Huntington Beach back on line, Southern California should not see rolling blackouts under most circumstances. But an extreme heat wave or outage at another power plant or on a major transmission line could strain the system.

    “California ISO officials said they are beginning to plan for the possibility that the plant will still be off line next summer…One of the main solutions cobbled together for this summer, bringing the Huntington Beach units back into service, will not be available next summer because that plant's air emission credits will go to a new plant opening in the City of Industry…That plant should be on line by summer 2013, but it's not as well situated as the Huntington Beach units to make up for the power lost from San Onofre…The ISO is also beginning to look at long-range scenarios in which California would use no nuclear power from either San Onofre or the state's one other nuclear plant, Diablo Canyon…”


    Global Biogas Market to Nearly Double in Size to $33 Billion by 2022

    June 21, 2012 (Pike Research)

    “Although a relatively minor player within the overall bioenergy sector, the market for biogas sits at the confluence of a number of forces, including increasing demand for distributed generation, tightening environmental regulations, and accelerating buildout of infrastructure for natural gas and for vehicles powered by natural gas…

    “A byproduct of anaerobic digestion (AD), a process in which microorganisms break down organic matter in an oxygen-starved environment, biogas is gaining traction as a versatile energy carrier with significant potential to meet growing demand within the power, heat, fuel, and chemical markets. According to a new report from Pike Research, this fast-growing market reached $17.3 billion in global revenue in 2011 and will nearly double by 2022, hitting $33.1 billion in that year…”

    click to enlarge

    “…[German] design-build firms and project developers are seeking to…tap opportunities across Europe, the Americas, and Asia Pacific…among farmers, municipalities, and industrial processors for waste treatment technologies, on the one hand, and widening opportunities for renewable natural gas in transportation and cogeneration applications on the other…

    “Global installed production capacity is now more than 800 billion cubic feet per year, representing nearly 14.5 gigawatts (GW) of installed distributed and grid-scale renewable generation capacity. With at least 11 billion cubic feet per year of production capacity expected to come online worldwide by the end of 2012, renewable natural gas (RNG) is a growing segment within the diverse biogas landscape. While opportunities abound for high-Btu RNG in gas-to-grid injection and vehicle fuel applications, low fossil natural gas prices are expected to restrict market growth in the absence of strong policy incentives.”

    Monday, June 25, 2012


    America Leading the World in CO2 Emission Decrease Thanks to Reductions in Coal Use; Grassroots Fight to Move “Beyond Coal” Having Clear Effect

    June 18, 2012 (Sierra Club)

    “Since 2006, the U.S. has seen the largest reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of any country or region…[A]ccording to a recent report from the International Energy Agency (IEA)…U.S. CO2 emissions have fallen by 7.7 percent or 430 million metric tons primarily due to a decrease in coal use. This decrease in carbon emissions is equal to eliminating the annual greenhouse gas emissions from more than 84 million passenger vehicles or more than 53 million homes.”

    click to enlarge

    “While America has long been criticized by the international community for not taking a leadership role in reducing carbon emissions, it’s clear now that the work being done to move the country beyond coal is having a significant effect. Coal was responsible for 33 percent of U.S. electricity [in May 2012], down from 50 percent just 10 years ago…CO2 emissions from the average American are now at the same levels that they were in 1964…[T]hese reductions put America on track to meet and even exceed the goal President Obama set in the Copenhagen Accord of decreasing U.S. CO2 emissions by 17 percent by 2020…”


    Wind Power Electricity: The Bigger the Turbine, The Greener the Electricity?

    Marloes Caduff, Mark A. J. Huijbregts, Hans-Joerg Althaus, Annette Koehler, and Stefanie Hellweg, April 4, 2012 (Environmental Science and Technology)

    “…Wind energy is a fast-growing and promising renewable energy source. The investment costs of wind turbines have decreased over the years, making wind energy economically competitive to conventionally produced electricity…[A] new study quantifies whether the trend toward larger turbines affects the environmental profile of the generated electricity…”

    “Previously published life cycle inventories were combined with an engineering-based scaling approach as well as European wind power statistics. The results showed that the larger the turbine is, the greener the electricity becomes.

    click to enlarge

    “…This effect was caused by pure size effects of the turbine (micro level) as well as learning and experience with the technology over time (macro level)…”

    “…The environmental progress rate was 86%, indicating that for every cumulative production doubling, the global warming potential per kWh was reduced by 14%. The parameters, hub height and rotor diameter were identified as Environmental Key Performance Indicators that can be used to estimate the environmental impacts…”


    BrightSource Buys Palen Solar Plant From Bankrupt Solar Trust Of America

    22 June 2012 (Solar Industry)

    "BrightSource Energy Inc. has placed the winning bid for Solar Trust Of America's 500 MW Palen solar plant, which is under development in Riverside County, Calif."

    click to enlarge

    "Solar Trust of America filed for bankruptcy in April, triggering questions about the fate of its solar projects under development…BrightSource has not yet revealed specific details on construction plans for the Palen plant."

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012


    National labs: Wind energy costs at or heading to all-time lows

    Kerry Bleskan, June 8, 2012 (SNL)

    “Most studies predict the cost of wind energy will continue to fall through at least 2030…[according to The Past and Future Cost of Wind Energy by] a collaboration among workers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, with assistance from European researchers. The crux of the report is that while future trends, drivers and constraints are difficult to predict, the cost of wind-generated electricity will probably continue to decrease in the coming decades.

    “Onshore wind's levelized cost of energy, or LCOE, fell by a factor of more than three between 1980 and 2000…[and then] driven by rising commodity and raw materials prices, increased labor costs, improved manufacturer profitability, and turbine upscaling…[rose] in spite of continued performance improvements…”

    click to enlarge

    “That upward trend appears to have been reversed by improved performance and the return of low turbine prices, the team said…LCOE is at an all-time low in certain wind classes, the researchers said, notably in areas with low- or medium-speed winds…[They have fallen] an estimated 8% between 2007 and 2010…

    “…[I]nto the future, the LCOE of wind energy is expected to continue to fall, at least on a global basis and within fixed wind resource classes…[though how much] is highly uncertain…[ranging] between zero and 40% by 2030. When researchers removed the most extreme estimates on both sides, the range of estimates became a 20% to 30% reduction by 2030, with the more dramatic reductions happening in the earlier years. Among the factors that could lower LCOE in coming years are efficiencies in manufacturing, taller towers, larger rotors, advanced drivetrains, better resource assessments and improved operations and maintenance practices…”


    Food For Thought About Consumers And The Smart Grid

    18 June 2012 (Renew Grid)

    “Although many consumers are not aware of smart grid technology, they do embrace it once they receive more information about it, according to [2012 State of the Consumer Report] from the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC)… People who had heard the term associated the smart grid with the development of new technologies to improve reliability, efficiency, billing accuracy and energy management.

    “Interestingly, no one brought up concerns about privacy, health issues or higher bills. Most respondents said that they would like to see their own electric utilities take a leadership role in implementing smart grid/meter improvements…[With] additional background, participants generally described their overall feelings toward the new technologies as favorable or very favorable…”

    click to enlarge

    “Key positive perceptions varied from person to person and segment to segment, and included improved reliability and outage response, environmental benefits, accuracy of billing, and opportunities for customers to save money by using information for energy management and/or participating in dynamic pricing programs, according to the survey.

    “Willingness to pay for smart grid benefits varied, but consumers believe the most attractive smart grid benefits are improved reliability and restoration, increased access to renewable energy, availability of better usage information and new pricing options, and reduced greenhouse-gas emissions…”


    DOE Offering Prize Money To The Most Affordable Rooftop Solar Arrays

    Jessica Lillian, 14 June 2012 (Solar Industry)

    “With PV module prices plunging, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has unveiled new strategies for tackling a more stubborn piece of the solar cost equation: the expenses associated with permitting, financing and installing systems…In addition to providing nearly $8 million in new funding to nine U.S. start-ups focusing on cost reduction, the DOE is also launching the ‘America's Most Affordable Rooftop Solar’ competition…[all aimed at making] solar energy cost-competitive with conventional energy by 2020.

    “…[Grants:] Clean Energy Experts LLC - $495,040…Clean Power Finance - $500,000 (first award)…Clean Power Finance - $1 million (second award)…concept3D Inc. - $1,275,791…Distributed Energy Research & Solutions Inc. - $500,000…Genability - $500,000…Simply Civic LLC - $499,510…Solar Mosaic Berkeley - $2 million…Tigo Energy Inc. - $500,000…Urban Glue - $402,050…”

    click to enlarge

    “Previous SunShot Incubator recipients have attracted follow-on investment at a ratio of $30 in private investment for every $1 of government funding, the DOE notes in the funding announcement…

    “R&D will continue to be technology-agnostic…despite the belief among some in the industry that the U.S. may ultimately be globally competitive in manufacturing only thin-film PV products and not crystalline cells and modules.”

    Tuesday, June 19, 2012


    Sluggish Economy Places Financial Pressure On Utilities

    13 June 2012 (Renew Grid)

    “Like many others in the U.S., utilities are very concerned about financial issues and their ramifications, according to Black & Veatch's sixth annual Strategic Directions in the U.S. Electric Utility Industry report…[C]urrent and emerging financial issues will largely be affected by the need to invest in operational technologies and competitive generation resources, as well as environmental and regulatory compliance programs.

    “Strong financial planning continues to be necessary in order to gauge economic risk from factors such as smart grid investments, capital spending programs, the potential for cessation of production tax credits and distributed renewable energy generation…”

    click to enlarge

    “Utility respondents report that cost-cutting measures are in place, and more than two-thirds say these measures are having a detrimental impact on operational effectiveness. In the face of upward cost pressures, it appears that utilities will continue to look inward for additional savings while expanding technology investments. Approximately 75% of respondents indicated that cost-cutting gains must be shared, in part or in whole, with customers...

    “Reflecting the impact of several major government-sponsored initiatives and significant private investment, overall renewable energy generation has doubled over the last five years, while electric load growth has remained flat…[C]ontinued growth in renewable energy generation will be driven by renewable portfolio standards…Growing industry confidence in renewable energy generation - and the ability of these technologies to address a broad array of electric industry concerns…”


    First Wind, Emera Form Wind Energy Investment Company

    18 June 2012 (North American Windpower)

    “…[Boston] wind energy developer First Wind Holdings…and Canadian utility Emera Inc…[will] jointly own and operate wind projects in the northeastern U.S…[through] Northeast Wind Partners, [jointly created] to invest in the projects. First Wind will retain 51% of the new company, and Emera has invested a total of $211 million to acquire the remaining 49%.

    “Emera will also make a $150 million loan to an intermediate subsidiary company of Northeast Wind Partners that will be repaid in five years. Emera will finance this transaction through existing credit facilities.”

    [Because the U.S. Congress has failed to expend wind's production tax credit, there is going to be a lot more wind on this map by the end of next year.]

    “First Wind’s 385 MW portfolio of wind energy projects in the Northeast, including eight operating projects in three states, have been transferred to Northeast Wind Partners. First Wind will serve as the managing partner and will continue to operate the projects…Emera affiliate Emera Energy Services will provide energy management services…

    “…First Wind will exclusively manage the development business and, as such, continue to develop new wind projects in the Northeast…First Wind will have the ability to transfer up to an additional 1.2 GW of new projects into the new joint venture…According to First Wind, the completion of the joint venture could lead to up to $3 billion in future economic investment in the region in the coming years.”


    Solar Survey Reveals Optimism, But Consumer Misperceptions Persist

    18 June 2012 (Solar Industry)

    “Consumers in China, India, Japan and the U.S. believe that solar power has high growth potential, according to the results of the fourth annual solar energy survey from Applied Materials, a study that measures consumers' understanding and awareness of solar energy…[but] many respondents had a mixed understanding of the current cost and adoption rates of solar technology, highlighting what is arguably the greatest challenge to solar energy use - lack of consumer awareness.

    “Last year at this time, industry data suggested that by 2020, 98% of the world's population would have achieved grid parity, or solar energy power that is cost-competitive with traditional energy prices, but data now suggest this milestone will be achieved by the end of 2012…Fifty-five percent of all respondents recognize this shift and believe solar energy is less expensive than traditional energy sources, such as coal. Respondents in India were most likely (68%) to believe solar power was less expensive…[but] respondents in Japan were most likely (51%) to believe solar power was more expensive…”

    click to enlarge

    “Nearly half (46%) of all respondents believe the growth of the solar market would create jobs. The U.S. is most optimistic in this regard, with nearly six in 10 consumers (58%) expressing this view…China and India are nearly equal in second place…at 49% and 48%, respectively. Consumers in Japan are the most cautious…Twenty-five percent of people surveyed internationally think that solar will reduce the number of jobs.

    “Nearly six in 10 (58%) consumers in China believe that the projected rate of solar energy adoption to 15 GW by 2015 is too slow…[W]hen respondents in India were asked about the government's Ministry of New and Renewable Energy's goal of increasing the contribution of renewable energy to 6% of India's total energy mix by 2022, more than half (51%) voiced concern that the rate of adoption was too slow…Survey respondents were most likely to believe the U.S. (26%) followed by Japan (22%) had installed the greatest number of solar panels, while only 17% correctly identified Germany as the leader in solar installations…”

    Monday, June 18, 2012


    Good Solar News: US Solar Continues to Surge in 2012; The bad news is that domestic manufacturing woes continue.

    Eric Wesoff, June 12, 2012 (Greentech Media)

    “The U.S. had a blistering amount of solar installations in the first quarter of 2012 with an impressive 506 megawatts -- a record for typically slow first quaters and second only to the 780 megawatts installed in the previous quarter…according to the [U.S. Solar Market Insight: 1st Quarter 2012 report] from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research…

    “…[T]he U.S. is still a solar growth market led by strength in the commercial sector in Q1…Utility-scale will continue to drive U.S. solar growth, and 2012 has the makings of yet another banner year with an increased forecast for 2012 of 3.2 gigawatts. The U.S. market grew 109 percent from 2010 to 2011 and will grow another 75 percent from 2011 to 2012…”

    click to enlarge

    “…The cumulative total of solar photovoltaics across America is 4,427 megawatts…Adding CSP to that figure brings the total to 4,943 megawatts…A total of 1.1 gigawatts (AC) of CSP are now under construction…Blended module prices for Q1 2012 were down to $0.94 per watt, a staggering 47 percent lower than Q1 2011 levels of $1.78 per watt…

    “…New Jersey edged out California in Q1 for the lead in solar installations with 174 megawatts…[T]hings look a bit murkier for [2013]…An expired 1603 tax grant, impacts of an import tariff on solar cells imported from China, and a ‘trough’ in California and New Jersey loom large…”


    U.S. Renewable Energy Production Increased By 300% Over Last Decade

    15 June 2012 (North American Windpower)

    “U.S. production of renewable energy has increased by more than 300% in the past decade, but the nation still lags far behind Europe and Indonesia and is only slightly ahead of Mexico in the percentage of electricity it gets from renewable sources, according to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

    “European countries, led by Germany, get more of their electricity from wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable energy sources than any other region in the world, NRDC's global renewable energy scorecard [Delivering On Renewable Energy Around The World: How Do Key Countries Stack Up?] shows.”

    click to enlarge

    “The U.S. got about 2.7% of its electricity from renewables in 2011, making it No. 7 among G-20 member countries. Moreover, some smaller, non-G-20 countries - such as Spain, New Zealand and Iceland - get more than 15% of their energy from renewable sources.

    “Favorable governmental policies and strong private-sector investments have helped to increase the availability of renewable energy in the U.S. and elsewhere…”


    Smart Grid Storage Project Launches In Pennsylvania

    15 June 2012 (Renew Grid)

    “East Penn Manufacturing Co. Inc. and its subsidiary Ecoult have…[launched a] U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) smart grid storage demonstration project… powered by East Penn's Deka UltraBattery technology [that provides] 3 MW of continuous frequency-regulation services to PJM Interconnection. The new system will also be used for peak demand management services by the local utility, Met-Ed.

    “The Deka UltraBattery uses lead-acid technology that operates in continuous partial state of charge use. It enables an optimal balance of an energy-storing lead-acid battery with the quick charge acceptance, power discharge and longevity of a capacitor…”

    click to enlarge

    “The PJM demonstration project has been implemented in both a building and a containerized format to demonstrate the modularity and mobility of the storage solutions…It connects to the grid from inside the East Penn Manufacturing site in Lyon Station, Pa.

    “Ecoult engineered and implemented the energy-storage system, and developed the platform for the UltraBattery energy resource that controls both the batteries and the power conversion system. The DOE supported the project with $2.2 million of funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009…”

    Wednesday, June 13, 2012


    Utilities Look To Mitigate Renewable Integration Challenges

    Angela Beniwal, 11 June 2012 (Renew Grid)

    “The amount of [variable renewable energies like wind and solar] on the grid is increasing globally and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future…Smart grid technologies can go a long way in alleviating integration issues. Up until recently, investment in this type of technology - including high-voltage, direct-current transmission, flexible alternating current transmission, phasor measurement units, and wind and solar forecasting - has focused on wholesale transmission……[But] the worldwide power system is moving… to a distributed generation (DG) system…

    “Smart grid technologies currently represent revenues of over $3.8 billion, according to a recent Pike Research study. Out of this, microgrids dominate, with more than $3 billion in economic activity, or 81%...[Microgrids in Pike's study refer to remote systems that operate as a backup in areas such as Alaska or developing countries…By 2018, microgrids are still expected to represent a large share of smart grid integration technology, but demand response (DR) will increase…”

    click to enlarge

    “…[California utilities] are quickly learning how to properly handle variable resources, especially at the distribution level…California has…set a goal of [33 percent renewables and] 12 GW of distributed generation by 2020…[C]hallenges remain…[S]olar photovoltaic power causes operational concerns related to maintenance and voltage regulation. Most PV inverters cannot adequately regulate voltage…and as a result, there tends to be higher voltages on the distribution system…SDG&E is conducting technical studies and demonstration projects to determine the effects of additional renewable distributed energy generation (RDEG). Field measurements indicate significant impacts to system performance on distribution circuits with high levels of conventional DG…[The] smart grid plan is expected to address the impact of RDEG intermittency, as will better forecasting…

    “Renewable energy companies are stepping up to the plate with technology that addresses integration issues. For example, Siemens' 3.6 MW SWT wind turbine provides frequency regulation, over and under frequency and ramp control…Petra Solar's smart energy solution includes automated ramp-rate management that reduces voltage disturbances through [gradual ramping and a] controlled return to full power…”


    Whoa, Canada! U.S. Wind Energy Companies Look To The North

    Mark Del Franco, 12 June 2012 (North American Windpower)

    “The uncertainty surrounding the extension of the production tax credit (PTC) for wind power in the U.S. has led some developers and suppliers to seek opportunities in the Canadian wind energy market. …EDP Renewables North aggressively exploring opportunities to either acquire Canadian wind projects or partner in them…[Pattern Energy, RES Americas and Invenergy have expanded into the Canadian market over the past few years]…

    “…[According to the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), interest from the U.S. in the Canadian market has never been higher…[illustrating] the importance of stable policy…Ontario and Quebec - the leading provinces for wind energy in Canada - have each reaffirmed their commitment to wind energy with long-term policy agendas.”

    click to enlarge

    “Ontario's Long Term Energy Plan, which was announced in 2010, envisions 10.7 GW of non-hydro renewable energy capacity by 2018. Of that amount, 7.5 GW is expected to be wind energy…[and] that plan is in addition to the province's Green Energy Act of 2009, which includes North America's first feed-in tariff…[Quebec] set an energy target of 4 GW of wind energy by 2015, which includes a goal of building 100 MW of wind energy for every 1 GW of new hydropower. A request for proposals to procure the target's remaining 700 MW is expected…later this year.

    “Canada’s 5.4 GW of installed wind power capacity pales in comparison to the U.S.’ 48.611 GW. However, with similar or higher levels of growth expected over the next four years, Canada's wind energy industry is on pace to surpass 10 GW of installed capacity by 2015…Even without the interest from U.S. entities, CanWEA expects 1.5 GW of wind energy capacity to be installed this year, which would be an annual record…”


    GE, Fraunhofer Building Solar Electronics Lifetime Prediction Tool

    11 June 2012 (Solar Industry)

    “GE has partnered with the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM to develop a new method to forecast the remaining life time of solar power electronics, such as insulated gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs). The first prototype of this measurement system will be presented in Berlin in September.

    “Constant load fluctuations burden the power electronics of solar inverters in PV plants, which increases the risk of sudden plant failure. Up to now, it was almost impossible to safely predict the service life of power semiconductors…Condition Monitoring für Leistungselektronik in der Fotovoltaik (CoMoLeFo) or Condition Monitoring for Power Electronics in Photovoltaics, has focused on the identification and detection of relevant aging mechanisms of insulated gate bipolar transistor power modules.”

    click to enlarge

    “IGBTs are switch elements designed for high-power levels and constitute the central component of modern inverters. Mathematical algorithms and measuring data are now able to make precise assessments concerning the condition of semiconductors during operation. This enables a forecast of the remaining life time of an IGBT and, therefore, conditions-based maintenance…

    “CoMoLeFo is based on two complementary processes: One process indirectly determines the chip temperature by measuring relevant electrical parameters of the IGBT during operation. The other process monitors the parameter shift due to aging. In this way, the remaining life time of the IGBTs can be determined by a software-based remote diagnostic system.”

    Tuesday, June 12, 2012


    JPMorgan, Wells Fargo, GE and MetLife to Fund Oklahoma Wind Farm

    Andrew Herndon, June 6, 2012 (Bloomberg BusinessWeek)

    “…JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) (JPM), the largest U.S. bank, Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) (WFC), Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. and General Electric Co. (GE) (GE)’s GE Capital unit will [provide $220 million in tax-equity financing for an Oklahoma wind farm] in the fourth quarter, Enel SpA (ENEL), the project developer, said…

    “The 235-megawatt Chisholm View wind farm is expected to begin producing power by the end of the year. It will use 140 GE wind turbines and sell its output to Southern Co.’s Alabama Power utility for 20 years.”

    click to enlarge

    “The deal lets the investors receive a share of the tax benefits associated with Chisholm View…That includes the production tax credit, which provides 2.2 cents a kilowatt-hour for power produced by wind…The tax credit is scheduled to expire Dec. 31, though projects that enter operation before then will remain eligible.

    “A different GE unit agreed April 2 to purchase a 51 percent stake in the project. Rome-based Enel will own the remaining 49 percent…”


    First Solar and Intermolecular Announce Joint Program to Accelerate Solar PV Roadmap; Collaboration Will Leverage Intermolecular's High Productivity Combinatorial Platform Towards Achieving Higher CdTe Solar Panel Efficiencies

    June 11, 2012 (GlobeNewswire via MarketWatch)

    “First Solar, Inc…and Intermolecular, Inc.. announced a collaboration and licensing agreement aimed at accelerating the efficiency roadmap for First Solar's cadmium-telluride (CdTe) photovoltaic (PV) technology. First Solar is the world's largest thin film PV solar module manufacturer and the leader in thin film PV utility-scale solar power plants.

    “…First Solar will leverage Intermolecular's High Productivity Combinatorial (HPC) platform in the development of its advanced, CdTe-based, thin film PV manufacturing technology…[through] new opportunities in certain critical materials and processes that may significantly influence the conversion efficiency of CdTe technology. Technical work is to be performed jointly at Intermolecular's San Jose, Calif., facility and in First Solar's research and development labs…”

    click to enlarge

    “First Solar set a new world record for CdTe PV solar module efficiency in January 2012, achieving 14.4 percent total area efficiency. In July 2011, the company set a world record for CdTe PV cell efficiency at 17.3 percent. Both records were confirmed by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL)…

    “Intermolecular's mission is to improve R&D efficiency in the semiconductor and clean-energy industries through collaborations that use its HPC platform, which allows R&D experimentation to be performed at speeds up to 100 times faster than traditional methods…”


    UPDATED: New Legislation Could Unlock Billions Of Dollars In Wind Energy Investment

    Laura DiMugno, 7 June 2012 (North American Windpower)

    “…According to the [Levelinbg the Playing Field; The Case for Master Limited Partnerships by SMU’s Maguire Energy Institute], federal tax-code restrictions currently limit investment in renewable energy infrastructure by $5 billion to $6 billion while, at the same time, prohibiting thousands of jobs from being created.

    “If the federal production tax credit for wind energy is not renewed beyond the end of this year, up to $15 billion in private investment could disappear. Absent support for renewables at the federal level, the market will have to find other ways to keep the industry afloat and the capital flowing…One way to secure that investment could be through master limited partnerships (MLPs), in which regular investors are allowed to purchase shares in publicly traded partnerships just like stock shares. MLPs have been a key investment tool in the oil and gas industries since the 1980s, but they are not currently available to renewables such as wind power.”

    click to enlarge

    “MLPs have been quite successful in the energy sector, and as a result, their use has increased dramatically over the past couple of decades. According to the report, in 1996, there were just 12 MLPs, with a market capitalization of about $8 billion. By 2011, those numbers had grown to 75 MLPs representing over $270 billion in market capitalization…Eighty percent of MLPs are in the energy sector, according to the report, but renewables are currently excluded [and it would take congressional action to modify the current tax structure to make this new opportunity available to them].

    “The study’s authors used financial modeling to expand the MLP structure to include renewable energy, and the results were astounding: Opening up MLPs to renewables could lead to an additional $3.2 billion to $5.6 billion in investment between now and 2021…MLPs are a strong fit for renewable energy investments because power purchase agreements for wind and solar projects are generally long-term contracts that offer cash flow stability…MLPs could also encourage utilities to invest in renewables, because MLPs currently trade higher than traditional utility stocks...”

    Monday, June 11, 2012


    EarthTalk: Wind power and bird strikes

    June 9, 2012 (The Norwalk Hour)

    “…Bird collisions have been one of the primary negatives of the recent growth in wind power across the United States and beyond…[In response,] the [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USFWS] released new federal guidelines in March 2012 for land-based wind developers trying to avoid or minimize impacts to birds and their habitats. The guidelines are voluntary at this point, but U.S. wind developers interested in a smoother ride through various permitting processes and the blessing of environmental groups…are doing their best to make their designs and implementations comply.

    “The federal government’s 22-member Wind Turbine Guidelines Advisory Committee, which included experts from the National Audubon Society, Nature Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife, Massachusetts Audubon and Bat Conservation International, developed the guidelines. Committee members report they are optimistic that the new guidelines provide a path to better protection for birds and their habitats.”

    click to enlarge

    click to enlarge

    [David Yarnold, President, National Audubon Society:] “The guidelines steer wind turbines away from vital habitat…and toward land already marked by development…They give the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service a place at the table for siting decisions; they help protect sites with high potential risk for birds; and they minimize habitat fragmentation…[and] provide a roadmap to better bird protections across each of America’s four great flyways.”

    “…Wind developers that cooperate with the guidelines will avoid dividing important habitats like forests and grasslands, thus maintaining their suitability for wildlife…[T]he American Bird Conservancy would like to take the voluntary out of the guidelines and instead require wind developers to comply. The group recently filed a petition with the U.S. Department of the Interior calling for mandatory rules…and rewarding responsible wind energy development…”


    Utilities Can Reap Big Rewards From Sustainable Practices

    29 May 2012 (Renew Grid)

    “Good sustainability policies and practices, including energy efficiency and demand side management, could be worth billions of dollars to utility investors, according to [The Value of Sustainability] from Target Rock Advisors LLC…Comparative analysis of the 10-year total returns for the 49 utilities included in Target Rock's 2012 sustainability rankings and indexes, along with several what-if’ scenario tests, suggest that the value of sustainability could be worth between $20 billion and $25 billion…

    “The $20 billion to $25 billion range represents 8% to 10% of the total starting market capitalization of the utilities covered by the Target Rock indexes and an additional 1% of relatively low-risk compound annual return over 10 years. With the three major utility indexes (S&P Utilities, Dow Jones Utility Average and Philadelphia Utility Index) posting an average compound annual growth rate of 3.6% over that period, another 1% is quite material, and the numbers could be larger going forward, according to Target Rock…”

    click to enlarge

    “In addition, while the $20 billion to $25 billion estimate is a relevant indicator of shareholder value, these figures understate the true economic value of sustainability, because market capitalization metrics do not capture socioeconomic benefits created by utilities but accrued to others and society as a whole. These benefits include reductions in pollution and water use all along the consumption and carbon chain, as well as contributions to local economic health and development.

    “It is impossible to say just how much causality is implicit in the relationship between strong sustainability practices and higher market returns - and there are certainly other factors in play - but Target Rock Advisors believes there is enough of a connection to use these relative performance baselines as a reasonable foundation for a "what-if" analysis in estimating the value of overall sustainability in the U.S. utility sector…”


    DOE: U.S.' Clean Energy Future Cannot Depend On China's Rare Earths

    Laura DiMugno, 1 June 2012 (North American Windpower)

    “The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has launched a major effort to ensure the U.S. has a reliable supply of rare-earth materials, which are used in a number of clean energy applications, including permanent magnet direct-drive wind turbines…[The Critical Materials Hub] will invest up to $120 million over five years to not only ensure access to these materials, but also develop alternatives that reduce the amount of rare earths needed.

    “China provides 94% of the world's rare earths, including neodymium and dysprosium, which are used in the magnets for direct-drive wind turbine motors…With trade tensions with China rising - and China increasing its export taxes on rare earths - U.S. wind turbine manufacturers must face the possibility of relying solely on California-based Molycorp Inc., North America's only rare-earth supplier.”

    click to enlarge

    “Some companies in the wind energy supply chain are already preparing for this reality. Last September, permanent-magnet generator manufacturer Boulder Wind Power engaged Molycorp to be its preferred supplier of rare earths and/or alloys for wind turbine generators…According to a recent report, 25% of the world’s rare-earth supply will come from China by 2015, as demand for the neodymium and dysprosium necessary for the manufacture of magnets for wind turbines will climb at a pace of 7% to 9% per year through 2015.

    “To avoid dependence on China, the new initiative will focus on tackling the challenges across the entire rare-earth spectrum, including mineral processing, manufacturing, efficiency, substitution and recycling…[T]o encourage competition, the DOE will use the $120 million allotted to the new initiative to award grants to businesses, universities, national laboratories and nonprofits to develop proposals to address the key conflicts associated with maintaining adequate supplies of rare earths…”