NewEnergyNews More: January 2013

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  • Wednesday, January 23, 2013


    U.S. Wind Power Accounted for 6% of Generation Capacity in 2012

    Louise Downing, January 18, 2013 (Bloomberg BusinessWeek)

    “U.S. wind power accounted for 6 percent of the nation’s total electricity generation capacity after developers rushed to finish projects before expiration of a subsidy, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said...The threat that the U.S. Production Tax Credit would lapse on Dec. 31 prompted developers to complete as many projects as they could last month...

    “…A record 13.2 gigawatts of turbines were installed last year including 5.5 gigawatts in December, the most ever for a single month. Total wind capacity is about 60 gigawatts… The credit has been extended for a year to cover wind farms that start construction in 2013. Previously it only covered projects that started working by the expiration date. Uncertainty about whether the credit would be extended meant developers and investors haven’t built up a backlog of projects for 2013.”

    “Asset financing for U.S. wind farms dropped to $4.3 billion in the second-half from $9.6 billion in the first six months of last year. This has hurt component makers such as Vestas (VWS) AS, Gamesa Corp Tecnologica SA (GAM) and Clipper Windpower Ltd., which is owned by Paltinum Equity LLC.

    “Vestas declined as much as 41 percent in the past year and Gamesa by 39 percent. Equipment prices for wind have dropped by more than 21 percent since 2010, and the performance of turbines has risen. This has resulted in a 21 percent decrease in the overall cost of electricity from wind for a typical U.S. project since 2010…”


    The domestic clean energy economy needs national policies to innovate, manufacture, and compete

    January 17, 2013 (The Pew Charitable Trusts)

    “The global clean energy marketplace is expanding rapidly, but the competitive position of American industry is at risk because of increased competition abroad and uncertain policies at home…

    “… Innovate, Manufacture, Compete: A Clean Energy Action Plan [from the Pew Charitable Trusts], states that revenue in the clean energy sector worldwide could total $1.9 trillion from 2012 to 2018. Yet…[p]rivate investment, manufacturing, and deployment of renewable power have been constrained because of the lack of a long-term, consistent energy policy…”

    “Clean energy markets are large and growing…[R]evenue associated with installation of wind, solar, and other renewable power is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 8 percent, rising from $200 billion in 2012 to $327 billion annually by 2018. In the United States, clean energy installations are projected to reach 126 GW, which would more than double non-hydroelectric generating capacity…

    “Pragmatic federal clean energy policies…[should] Establish a clean energy standard to guide deployment and investment for the long term…Significantly increase investment in energy research and development…Enact a multiyear but time-limited extension of tax credits for clean energy sources…Level the playing field across the energy sector by evaluating barriers to competition…Renew incentives for domestic clean energy manufacturing…Create a strategy to expand markets for clean energy goods and services abroad…”


    Energy Department Announces $12 Million to Bring Cost-Competitive Solar Technologies from Lab to Market

    January 16, 2013 (U.S. Department of Energy)

    “As part of the Energy Department's SunShot Incubator Program...$12 million [will be available] to accelerate solar energy innovation that reduces manufacturing, installation, and permitting costs for American homes, businesses, and utilities. This new funding opportunity expands on previous Solar Incubator rounds to support both hardware efficiency and soft cost reduction goals, while helping companies transition lab-scale ideas to prototype phases or move early-scale projects to commercial launch.

    “The Energy Department's SunShot Incubator Program helps launch startups and new business units…Since 2007, the program has helped launch more than 50 American small [solar] businesses, which have since attracted more than $1.7 billion in follow-on private sector investments…[and] created more than 750 jobs across the U.S. solar energy industry…In 2011, the Department broadened the scope of [the SunShot Incubator] program to include projects that address soft or non-hardware costs such as installation, permitting, interconnection, and inspection, which can amount to up to 40% of the total cost of solar installation…”

    “Divided into two areas—solar hardware and soft costs—this round of Incubator funding…[offers]…Up to $500,000 to help speed the transition of a proof-of-concept technology to the early-stage functional prototype stage…Up to $1 million to accelerate the transition of an early-stage functional prototype to a full-size prototype that could later be manufactured…Up to $4 million to develop efficient manufacturing processes and equipment to move technology from a full-size prototype to pilot-scale production…

    “…[For] addressing soft cost reduction goals…Up to $500,000 to accelerate the transition of a proof-of-concept business plan or early stage solutions to early customer trials…[and] Up to $2 million to drive full commercialization of innovative technologies that reduce solar deployment soft costs…”

    Tuesday, January 22, 2013


    Obama Inaugural Re-Commits to the Fight for Greentech; “The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.”

    Herman K. Trabish, January 21, 2013 (Greentech Media)

    In a declaration of purpose that rang across the National Mall, President Barack H. Obama, in his second inaugural address, re-committed himself and his administration to the fight against climate change and for the transition to greentech:

    "We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”

    “The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise.

    “That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared."


    First Wind Gambles On PTC Extension - And Wins

    Mark Del Franco, 15 January 2013 (North American Windpower)

    “Faced with the prospect of being saddled with wind energy assets unable to be financed, many wind developers abruptly halted projects that could not be completed in time to qualify for the wind energy production tax credit (PTC), which was slated to expire at the end of last year.

    “However, in looking over its portfolio, Boston-based developer First Wind realized that several of its projects were in the latter stages of development and were too important to merely be put on hold…[though in anticipating the extension that came December 31, it took a risk]…[When] the PTC was extended for one year…the developer's gamble paid off…First Wind expects to begin construction on 500 MW this year and plans to grow its portfolio by 50% in the future…”

    “…The PTC extension allows First Wind the time necessary to begin building projects, such as Oakfield, a 150 MW wind farm in Maine that the developer deemed too important to shelve…Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court recently upheld the building permit, thus allowing First Wind to begin construction on the project this year…[T]he company’s 48 MW Bowers Wind Project [in Maine]…was aided by the PTC extension…

    “The PTC extension means First Wind’s two Maine wind farms will begin construction this year. In addition, the company could break ground on late-stage projects in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah and Hawaii by year-end…[But before] First Wind can begin further development, it must await guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department on what it means to begin construction - not that it will deter First Wind, which spent much of last year toiling behind the scenes…”


    Smart Grid Consumer Survey; Attitudes and Opinions about Smart Meters, Home Energy Management, Demand Response, Time-of-Use Pricing, Smart Appliances, Prepayment, and Renewable Energy

    1Q 2013 (Pike Research/Navigant)

    “Smart grid rollouts are building momentum as utilities across the United States continue to invest in this new infrastructure in an effort to transform their power grids. Pike Research forecasts that there will be more than 53 million smart meters deployed in the United States by the end of 2013. However, even as utilities invest in these new technologies, they struggle to effectively communicate the benefits of smart grid applications and services to end users.”

    “One challenge is that various types of smart grid and smart energy home technologies have different levels of consumer awareness, and different levels of favorability and acceptance. Even as consumers state that they are concerned about their electricity usage, they are not always willing to adopt new products and services that can help them curb their electricity consumption. Awareness is also a challenge: nearly one-third of respondents to this survey were not familiar with smart grids, and one-quarter were not familiar with smart meters…”

    Monday, January 21, 2013


    At a Climate Protest, Science and Religion

    Jada F. Smith, January 15, 2013 (NY Times)

    “Science and religion went hand-in-hand…as leaders from both worlds gathered in front of the White House to protest what they cast as government inaction on climate change…With record-breaking global temperatures in 2012, severe droughts and several storms and hurricanes on the East Coast, some members of the American clergy are saying that human decisions that contribute to the extreme weather associated with climate change can no longer be left in the hands of politicians.

    “Promoting an awareness of climate change and the role of humans as stewards of the earth has become a popular theme among progressive religious congregations. Even the climate skeptics in their ranks, some said, are starting to realize that something strange is going on…[At a] “pray-in” at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church and a subsequent march to the White House...[religious leaders] described environmental activism as an extension of the work [the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.] did to advance civil rights and economic justice…”

    “From the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans to a proposal to lay the proposed Keystone XL pipeline through some American Indian communities, some religious leaders have begun to see the issue of weather extremes, fossil fuel emissions and threats to habitats as a moral one…After prayers and religious readings from Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh leaders and a few American Indian chants…the victims of Hurricane Sandy were [remembered]…

    “…[Leaders said the next step] is to bring even more groups into the fold…[King, one said,] ‘would say that we need to come together because this is our planet, and if we lose this, then all the other issues won’t matter.’…”


    Solar PV Equipment Spending Declines 72% to $3.6 Billion in 2012…Forecast for 2013 is Further Decline to $2.2 Billion; Survival Strategies Essential to Address Prolonged Downturn in PV Investment

    January 17, 2013 (SolarBuzz)

    “Solar photovoltaic (PV) equipment spending (covering c-Si ingot-to-module and thin-film) was $3.6 billion for 2012, a 72% decline from the peak of $12.9 billion in 2011, according to new [NPD Solarbuzz] research…Spending for 2013 is forecast to decline even further to $2.2 billion, levels not seen in the industry since 2006…[due to a] halt to capacity investment by PV manufacturers, as well as a lack of upgrades…

    “…[T]he leading equipment suppliers are forecast to be GT Advanced Technologies, Meyer Burger, Applied Materials, and Apollo Solar…[with] PV-specific revenues in excess of $400 million. Only eight PV equipment suppliers are forecast to have PV-specific revenues during 2012 in excess of $100 million, compared to 23 in 2011.”

    “Just 24 months ago, GT Advanced Technologies, Meyer Burger, Applied Materials, and Centrotherm each reported PV backlogs at or above $1 billion. However, successive quarters with minimal new order intake, coupled with strong de-bookings, have reduced PV equipment backlogs to levels last experienced in 1H’06…[which] are unlikely to be repeated for at least three years…

    “With so much competitive c-Si capacity shipped during 2011 and 2012, the biggest fear for tool suppliers is the emergence of a secondary equipment market across China and Taiwan…[T]his would delay any upturn in equipment spending. However, it also suggests that the PV industry is not conforming to a collective roadmap or experiencing a significant technology-buy cycle…[T]he focus of equipment suppliers has now shifted from gaining market share within the PV industry to deciding how to restructure manufacturing and streamline PV R&D…”


    Electric Vehicle Batteries; Lithium Ion Batteries for Hybrid, Plug-In Hybrid, and Battery Electric Light Duty Vehicles: Market Analysis and Forecasts

    1Q 2013 (Pike Research/Navigant)

    “Global automotive manufacturers are accelerating their efforts to produce more vehicles utilizing electric drivetrains…[because of] newly enacted fuel economy standards, greater confidence in electric powered vehicles, and advances in battery technology…

    “In 2012, Toyota introduced the fifth-generation Prius, powered for the first time with lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries. The shift from nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries to Li-ion represents a major endorsement of this chemistry as well as its ability to perform consistently in an automotive environment.”

    “The immediate future looks to be secure for the Li-ion chemistry, although there are many variants still under development to improve performance and reduce cost…

    “…[L]eading battery cell manufacturers have built new factories utilizing the latest production techniques including greater automation and faster throughput. Pike Research forecasts that the overall market for Li-ion batteries in light duty transportation will grow from $1.6 billion in 2012 to almost $22 billion in 2020.”

    Wednesday, January 9, 2013


    Apple's wind turbine technology uses heat, not rotational energy to generate electricity

    Mikey Campbell, December 27, 2012 (Apple Insider)

    “In a rare non-computing related patent filing…Apple proposes a wind turbine that generates electricity from converting heat energy rather than rotational energy created by the rotation of the unit's blades…[A]n application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the "On-demand generation of electricity from stored wind energy," [described] an invention wholly dedicated to solving problems of variability associated with the alternative energy production method.

    “The application, filed for in June 2011, notes that most contemporary wind turbines convert kinetic energy from wind into mechanical energy, or in some cases electricity…[W]ind energy is…converted into rotational energy through a drive shaft, which then powers machinery or, more recently, electric generators…[To mitigate wind’s variability] the filing proposes a system that converts rotational energy from the turbine into heat, which is then stored in a ‘low-heat-capacity’ fluid. From storage, heat can be selectively transferred to a ‘working fluid’ that is used to generate electricity during lulls in wind activity.”

    “In some embodiments, heat is generated from the friction created between blades connected to the rotor shaft and the low-heat-capacity fluid, such as mercury, ethanol or an inert gas, in which they are immersed. Thermal energy is stored in an insulated vessel. A thermally insulating component like a radiator or conductive rod can be used to selectively transfer heat from the low-heat-capacity fluid…[to boil water to create steam] which rotates a turbine connected to an electric generator.

    “According to the patent application, the ‘on-demand’ electric generation system can reduce costs associated with natural variations in wind supply. Further, the method can be used as a replacement for current conventional energy storage methods such as batteries…Whether Apple plans to deploy such a wind turbine system is unclear, but [it] is investing heavily in alternative energy sources…”


    Quarterly PV Demand Cycles Set to Become Less Turbulent

    Micheal Barker, January 2, 2013 (SolarBuzz)

    “As solar PV incentive policies continue to be reduced and installed system prices decline, strong cyclic changes in quarterly demand will start to [disappear]…In a policy-driven environment, policy adjustments often cause large surges in quarterly demand as c customers and developers rush to secure incentives before they are reduced.

    “…[T]his can lead to a dramatic surge in end-market demand with the final calendar year quarter often becoming the ‘make or break’ quarter for annual shipment targets…[T]he PV industry has followed this trend for the past few years…[I]f year-end demand does not meet expected levels…[manufacturers’ inventory can be] surplus to demand at year end…[while] installers and developers try and delay new purchases until current inventories are depleted or prices have become more attractive.”

    “In 2012, demand was more evenly distributed across the four quarters than seen in previous years…[and] there is every possibility that these demand trends will be repeated in 2013 also…However, the shift to more stable quarterly demand is largely a global phenomenon. At the country level, demand phasing can still vary dramatically. For example, Q4’11 demand in Germany accounted for 45% of annual demand in 2011; in China, Q4’12 demand made up almost 60% of China’s 2012 annual total.

    “As PV demand sees increasingly global contributions - and is driven more by project economics than by government policies - quarterly demand will resemble the phasing seen in 2012. This more stable demand profile will assist in stabilizing manufacturing production levels, with a gradual shipment increase each quarter accounting for the overall annual PV demand growth…[T]his would definitely represent a strong shift from the boom-and-bust patterns…[and be] a step in the right direction ahead of supply-demand rationalization…”


    Electric Motorcycles and Scooters; Market Drivers and Barriers, Government Policies, Technology Issues, Key Industry Players, and Global Demand Forecasts

    4Q 2012 (Pike Research/Navigant)

    “Sales of e-scooters and e-motorcycles have shown slow but consistent growth over the last few years, resulting in sales volumes in many regions that are high enough to be attractive to new competitors, but not large enough for breakaway market leaders or profitability yet…

    “…The one exception is in China, where e-scooters and e-motorcycles represent a much more mature market, selling in the millions of units for several years. In 2012, the Chinese market accounted for 81% of the global e-scooter and e-motorcycle market.”

    “The significantly lower operating cost and falling prices of e-motorcycles and e-scooters have grown interest from fleet customers like delivery companies, police and security forces, and even taxi services in some regions…

    “As these products provide more robust features, including longer range capability and higher speeds, demand for e-motorcycles and e-scooters will accelerate even more quickly. Pike Research forecasts that annual sales of e-motorcycles and e-scooters will reach 18.6 million by 2018…”

    Tuesday, January 8, 2013


    MidAmerican Solar Acquires World's Largest Solar Development from SunPower; Antelope Valley Solar Projects Will Generate 579 Megawatts for Southern California Edison

    January 2, 2013 (PR Newswire via MidAmerican Renewables)

    “…SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ: SPWR) announced [Warrern Buffett-owned Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary] MidAmerican Solar's acquisition from SunPower of the 579-megawatt Antelope Valley Solar Projects (AVSP), two co-located projects in Kern and Los Angeles Counties in Calif. Together, the two combined projects will form the largest permitted solar photovoltaic power development in the world and will create an estimated 650 jobs during construction…

    “…[AVSP] will provide renewable energy to Southern California Edison (SCE) under two long-term power purchase contracts approved by the California Public Utilities Commission…SunPower developed the co-located Antelope Valley Solar Projects over the last four years. At the 3,230-acre site, SunPower will install the SunPower®Oasis® Power Plant product [high-efficiency SunPower solar panels and SunPower® T0 Trackers], fully integrated, modular solar technology that is engineered to rapidly deploy utility-scale solar projects while minimizing land use…”

    “…SunPower will be the engineering, procurement and construction [EPC] contractor and will operate and maintain the facility via a multiyear services agreement…Construction of the solar project is scheduled to begin in first quarter 2013, with the plants expected to be complete by year-end 2015…AVSP has secured final conditional use permits and has completed full environmental review pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act…

    “MidAmerican Solar's projects also include the 550-megawatt Topaz Solar Farms in San Luis Obispo County, Calif., and a 49 percent ownership interest in the 290-megawatt Agua Caliente solar project in Yuma County, Ariz…SunPower has more than 1,000 megawatts of solar power plants operating worldwide, including the first 130 megawatts of the 250-megawatt California Valley Solar Ranch, which is under construction in San Luis Obispo County, Calif…”


    Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp. Announces Acquisition of 109.5 MW Shady Oaks Wind Power Facility

    January 2, 2013 (Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp.)

    “Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp. ("APUC") (TSX: AQN)…has acquired a 109.5 MW contracted wind powered generating station ("Shady Oaks") from Goldwind International SO Limited ("Goldwind") for total consideration to all stakeholders of approximately US$148.9 million.

    “The Shady Oaks wind power facility is located in Northern Illinois…and reached commercial operation in June 2012. Total annual energy production is expected to be 364 GW-hrs per year. The Shady Oaks wind facility has entered into a 20 year inflation indexed power purchase agreement with the largest electric utility in the state of Illinois, Commonwealth Edison (BBB flat stable: Moody's, S&P)…”

    “The facility is comprised of 68 Goldwind GW82 1.5MW and 3 Goldwind GW100 2.5MW permanent magnet direct-drive wind turbines; these turbines are well suited for the wind regime, and offer significant technological advantages providing proven reliability, enhanced energy production efficiency and lower long term maintenance costs.

    “Through its affiliate, Goldwind has assumed all operations, maintenance, and capital repair responsibilities for the Shady Oaks wind facility pursuant to a 20 year fixed price agreement…”


    Military Microgrids; Stationary Base, Forward Operating Base, and Mobile Smart Grid Networks for Renewables Integration, Demand Response, and Mission-Critical Security

    4Q 2012 (Pike Research/Navigant)

    “The United States Department of Defense’s (DOD) interest in improving energy security through microgrid technology stems from its heavy reliance upon all forms of fossil fuels, often imported from regions of the world hostile to U.S. interests. Microgrids can shrink the amount of fossil fuels consumed to create electricity by networking generators as a system to maximize efficiency…

    “They can also be used to help integrate renewable energy resources (such as wind and solar) at the local distribution grid level. Simultaneously, microgrids enable military bases – both stationary and forward operating bases – to sustain operations, no matter what is happening on the larger utility grid or in the theater of war.”

    “According to the Secretary of Defense, over 40 DOD military bases either have currently operating microgrids, planned microgrids, or have conducted studies or demonstrations of microgrid technologies…

    “DOD also has 600 forward operating bases (FOBs) and is investigating the deployment of even smaller mobile, tactical microgrids in Afghanistan and other engagement hot spots. Pike Research forecasts that, in an average scenario, the total capacity of U.S. military microgrids for stationary bases will reach 54.8 megawatts by 2018…”

    Friday, January 4, 2013


    Renewables are Winning, Nukes are Dead and Coal is Crashing

    Kathleen Rogers and Danny Kennedy, December 14, 2013 (EcoWatch)

    “…[A] n enormous shift has begun in the ways in which the U.S. and the world will power itself with clean energy…All new electricity capacity built in the U.S. in September was renewable…[T]here was no new fossil fuel capacity added to our grid in September 2012, and 443 megawatts of wind and solar were installed…

    “…Clean tech companies are growing faster than the fossil fuel industries as employers…More people are now getting work in clean energy and related clean technology business than oil, gas and coal…[The solar industry] is 119,000 strong in 5,600 companies in all 50 states…[U.S. coal mining employs] about 80,000 and [is] declining. The solar industry grew at a rate of about 13 percent for the last year, while reducing costs 19 percent and growing…The broader economy barely grew in the same period in terms of new job creation…”

    “…Nuclear power post-Fukushima is all but dead, and coal is crashing. U.S. coal supply declined by 100 million tons in 2012. In terms of coal fired electricity, it was 52 percent of the mix in 2000; last year, it was 42 percent—and this year, some reports have it at less than 33 percent…That is a sea change.

    “…[The] new, cheap gas that the frackers are creating…won’t last because, regardless of the hype, a finite fuel under increasing demand will go up in price. So, gas is creating the space and understanding that we don’t need to be dependent on coal, that we can shift the mix and keep the lights on. And in time, the “no-fuel” solutions will come to dominate…Nine out of 10 Americans want more solar in the mix…[and, because more clean energy jobs are in red states than blue, elected] officials will follow…”


    Where the Shale Gas Revolution Came From: Government’s Role in the Development of Hydraulic Fracturing in Shale

    Alex Trembath, Jesse Jenkins, Ted Nordhaus, and Michael Shellenberger, May 2012 (Breakthrough Institute)

    “…In summary, federal investments and involvement in the development of shale gas extraction technologies spanned three decades and were comprised of:

    “• The Eastern Gas Shales Project, a series of public-private shale drilling demonstration projects in the 1970s…• Collaboration with the Gas Research Institute (GRI), an industry research consortia that received partial funding and R&D oversight from the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC)…”

    “• Early shale fracturing and directional drilling technologies developed by the Energy Research & Development Administration (later the Department of Energy), the Bureau of Mines, and the Morgantown Energy Research Center (later the National Energy Technology Laboratory)…• The Section 29 production tax credit for unconventional gas, in effect from 1980-2002…

    “• Public subsidization and cost-sharing for demonstration projects, including the first successful multifracture horizontal drilling play in Wayne County, West Virginia in 1986, and Mitchell Energy’s first horizontal well in the Texas Barnett shale in 1991…• Three-dimensional microseismic imaging, a geologic mapping technology developed for applications in coal mines by Sandia National Laboratories…”


    Stationary Fuel Cells; Fuel Cells for Combined Heat and Power, Prime Power, and Backup Power/UPS Applications: Global Market Analysis and Forecasts

    4Q 2012 (Pike Research/Navigant)

    “The stationary fuel cell industry is growing in terms of megawatts and systems shipped. At the same time, it is going through a deep restructuring, with a number of companies exiting the space and a handful of new entrants appearing…

    “The most notable shift from 2011 to 2012 has been a meaningful set of developments in government policy that will directly influence the future of the fuel cell industry.”

    “The uninterruptible power supply (UPS) application segment is marked by collaboration, limited market expansion, and new fuel options. In the combined heat and power (CHP) segment, the key development has been a comprehensive, and painful, restructuring, while for prime power it has been the demand for systems with islanding capability…

    “…Pike Research estimates that these trends, along with external factors such as concern about power grid stability in the wake of natural disasters, will drive a significant uptick in the rate of fuel cell adoption that could reach 4.5 gigawatts (GW) by 2017…”