Sunrun Acquires REC Solar's Residential Division, AEE Solar and SnapNrack

Sunrun and Mainstream Energy Corp. today announced that Sunrun has acquired the residential division of REC Solar, AEE Solar and SnapNrack. The companies represent Mainstream Energy's residential solar sales, design and installation; wholesale distribution; and mounting systems and hardware businesses, respectively. In the commercial market, REC Solar will continue as an independent organization under the legal name REC Solar Commercial Corp. The value of the transaction was not disclosed.

"Sunrun pioneered solar service to remove the most significant barriers to going solar. We continue to innovate our business to further drive down costs, increase quality and broaden our reach to consumers so more homeowners have access to affordable home solar," said Lynn Jurich, Chief Executive Officer of Sunrun. "The residential solar market is growing rapidly and this acquisition marks the next step in our multi-channel growth strategy. REC Solar's residential division, AEE Solar and SnapNrack complement our thriving channel business and further enable us to fulfill the enormous market potential for home solar nationwide."

REC Solar is a national leader in solar electric system design and installation, with more than 11,000 customers across seven states. Since becoming Sunrun's first installation partner in 2007, REC Solar has helped thousands of homeowners elect solar energy with Sunrun's solar service, which allows homeowners to pay a low rate for clean energy and fix their electric costs for 20 years.

"REC Solar is the industry leader in customer satisfaction and high quality construction, while AEE Solar and SnapNrack bring capabilities that allow us to make solar energy affordable for more consumers, provide superior systems and service, and lay the foundation to become a major energy company," Jurich said.

What Does $2M Buy? How About 1800 GW Of Wind Power

A new $2 million funding program from the Department of Energy is expected to add – yes, add – yet another 1,800 gigawatts of wind power to the already formidable wind resources of the US. That’s something to keep in mind as the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline review process heats up.
 
The idea behind the new taller wind turbine program is to give the US wind industry an assist in developing taller wind turbines, with hub heights ranging from 120 meters up to 140 meters.
 
That’s a big step up from existing technology, which currently goes to the 80-100 meter range, with the average at about 90 meters.  As for why a taller wind tower, upper level winds tend to be stronger and steadier.
 

With taller wind turbines, the new program is also expected to open up an additional 237,000 square miles of wind-friendly areas for wind power potential, which is about the size of Texas (the image above compares the area change in square kilometers between the hub height of 96 and that of 140).

The areas of the US most likely to benefit from the improved wind technology are mainly located in the Southeast, where alternative energy is starting to find a friendly reception despite pushback by certain legislators from those states.

 

SEIA Announces New Workforce Training Commitment for Solar Industry

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) today announced a new industry commitment to quality solar workforce training, working with the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC).
 
Development of this commitment demonstrates the groups’ efforts to build the foundation of a skilled, knowledgeable workforce trained to safely and effectively perform the tasks solar energy jobs require.
 
The commitment comes on the heels of a new report showing nearly 143,000 Americans are at work throughout the solar value chain at more than 6,100 businesses in the U.S. There has been a 20 percent increase in the workforce since 2012 – or 10 new solar jobs every hour of every workday.
 
“We are proud to join with IREC during this exciting time for the solar industry. We have just come off a record-shattering year, we are looking forward to continued growth in 2014 and solar jobs are growing at 20 percent – 10 times faster than the national average. With all this activity, it is a perfect time to formalize an industry commitment to workforce training. SEIA encourages all its members to sign this important pledge,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA’s president and CEO.
 
"The explosive growth in solar jobs makes quality training more relevant than ever," said Jane Weissman, president and CEO of IREC. "SEIA is driving forward the solar industry's commitment to quality workforce training with this demonstration of individual and collective support. With consumer interest in solar so high, there is no better time to instill confidence that the industry is committed to a highly trained workforce to ensure the safety and effectiveness of their investment.“
 
The market for solar energy in America is booming as the cost of solar technology plummets. Energy efficiency in new construction and retrofits in existing buildings are impacting energy demand while sustainability is becoming part of the fabric of the operations of corporations, municipalities and college campuses. These factors create a fundamental shift in the production and use of solar energy – and the need for a new generation of well-trained workers to build a solar infrastructure.
 

Sun Sets On Solar Power In Germany; Industry Slashes 50% Of Jobs In Two Years

Germany’s solar power industry shed a staggering 5,000 jobs over the past two years, reducing the size of the industry by more than half, according to new data released on Tuesday by the Federal Office for Statistics.
 
A prolonged supply glut induced by cheap Chinese solar imports has resulted in a scourge of bankruptcies at several of Germany’s erstwhile elite solar manufacturers, including Q-Cells, Conergy and Solon.
 
In 2012, the solar industry employed more than 10,000 workers in Germany. More than half of those jobs have vanished over the past 24 months, according to figures from the Federal Office for Statistics.
 
The solar jobs data was shared with reporters from Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which stated that less than 5,000 Germans are currently employed by the solar power industry – the lowest employed level in nearly half a decade.
 
Similar data was not available for other sectors of the renewable energy industry, but some signs of distress have surfaced in sectors outside of solar.
 
In 2013, Germany’s offshore wind power manufacturers cut more than 2,000 jobs, according to the Industrial Union of Metalworkers, the Germany’s largest metalworkers’ union.

China says U.S. should stop new dumping probe on solar products

China's commerce ministry called on the United States on Sunday to stop anti-dumping investigations into imports of solar power products from China, expressing "serious concern" and vowing to defend its producers.
 
U.S. trade officials on Thursday opened investigations into imports of certain solar power products from China and Taiwan, a move that could have a major impact on the nation's fast-growing solar market.
 
The U.S. Department of Commerce said it initiated antidumping duty and countervailing duty investigations, which will assess whether the products are being sold in the United States below their fair value, or if their manufacturers receive inappropriate levels of foreign government subsidies.
 
"The Chinese side expresses serious concern," the commerce ministry said in a statement on its website. "China urges the United States again to carefully handle the current ... investigations, be prudent in taking measures and terminate the investigation proceedings."
 
China will assess the impact on its solar industry and "resolutely defend" itself through various mechanisms, the ministry said.

How Do You Recycle a Solar Panel?

There's a paradox in the growing global appetite for greener energy. As sales of solar panels and wind turbines increase, so too does the scale of an often-overlooked problem now being stored for future generations. What happens to all the "green" infrastructure when it reaches the end of its life?

When early-generation green technology is replaced, much of it now finds its way into landfill or incinerators. This is not only a blow to waste-reduction efforts, adding hundreds of thousands of tons of rubbish to the global tally every year, but also is also a colossal missed opportunity. Solar panels comprise metals and glass, which, if they were separated and captured, could be reused in the manufacture of other products.

It is possible, through innovative technologies still being developed, to recycle more than 90 percent of a solar panel. But, given the volatility in the value of the resulting raw materials, this is a high-risk sector to develop, and research and development is lacking. Basic recycling schemes do exist, but often focus on two valuable components -- the glass and aluminum frame, for instance -- and discard the rest, including silver, silicon and tin, because it is not yet cost-effective to recycle them.

Bosch to pay SolarWorld up to 130m for Arnstadt operations

Bosch is set to pay SolarWorld some €130m in order to acquire the majority of its German solar operations.

The firm will continue to employ the majority of the personnel in Arnstadt, in the german state of Thuringia, the Wall Street Journal reported citing people familiar with the agreement.

Expected to close next month, the deal was agreed in late November but the balance due to SolarWorld will be due later, and could be under €130m if operations in Arnstadt take a turn for the better.

In exchange, SolarWorld will be unable to use the Arnstadt assets as debt collateral for several years – a move by Bosch that will prevent the operations in Arnstadt from falling into the hands of SolarWorld’s creditors.

SolarWorld is currently highly indebted and is planning a financial restructuring in February, with plans to offer investors new shares in place of 55 per cent of the company’s liabilities.

Areva, Gamesa Form Offshore Wind Power Business

French energy engineering firm Areva and Spain's Gamesa Corporación Tecnológica Monday said they were joining forces to create an offshore wind power business, embracing the consolidation wave of an industry plagued by massive costs.
 
The two groups will have an equal share of the joint venture which still has no name, Areva renewables division's head Louis-Francois Durret said during a conference call.
 
The move highlights the hurdles faced by the burgeoning offshore wind power industry, as massive research and development costs have hampered growth even though governments around Europe and elsewhere are eager to boost the green part of their energy mix. The costs have triggered consolidations; this latest tie-up follows the creation of a joint venture between Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Denmark's Vestas Wind Systems last autumn.

Renewable Energy at $254 Billion? Let's Make It a Clean Trillion

Billionaire bankers gathered at the United Nations yesterday to call for more investment in renewable energy -- $1 trillion a year, to be exact.
 
It won’t be easy. Global investment in renewable energy fell 12 percent in 2013 to $254 billion, according to data released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), casting a shadow over the notion of a “clean trillion.”
 
Last year was the second decline in renewable investments since 2011’s record-high $318 billion. Investors and climate-policy advocates including hedge-fund billionaire Tom Steyer and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin called for changes to financial markets that would boost investment. Financing must double by 2020 and double again to $1 trillion by 2030 in order to avoid global warming of more than 2 degrees Celsius, reports Ceres, the host of yesterday's conference.
 
These top-line numbers are fuzzy and paint a picture that’s perhaps more bleak than reality. First, the price of solar energy continues to tumble, so more renewable energy is being generated with fewer dollars invested. Second, while BNEF’s clean-energy tally is the most comprehensive for renewable energy, it’s not all-encompassing; it doesn’t include most energy-efficiency measures, fuel-efficiency gains or expanded public transportation.

After a building boom, solar energy's prospects now aren't as sunny

Five years after the Obama administration's renewable energy initiative touched off a building boom of large-scale solar power plants across the desert Southwest, the pace of development has slowed to a crawl, with a number of companies going out of business and major projects canceled for lack of financing.

Of the 365 federal solar applications since 2009, just 20 plants are on track to be built. Only three large-scale solar facilities have gone online, two in California and one in Nevada. The first auction of public land for solar developers, an event once highly anticipated by federal planners, failed to draw a single bid last fall.

Several factors are responsible, industry analysts say. The tight economy has made financing difficult to obtain, and the federal government has not said whether it will continue to offer tax credits of the size that brought a rush of interest in large-scale solar five years ago.

"I would say we are in an assessment period," said Amit Ronen, director of the George Washington University Solar Institute. "Nobody's going to break ground on any big new solar projects right now — utilities want to see how farms coming online this year fit into the grid, and developers are waiting for more certainty about state policies and federal tax credits."

Full Article:

 

New Battery Innovation Promising For Cheap Renewable Energy Storage

Harvard University researchers have invented an new kind of “flow battery” that could be used on large-scales, such as within electricity grids, to store intermittent renewable energy from sources such as wind and solar. The research describing the new “metal free organic-inorganic aqueous flow battery”, was published in the journal Nature on 9 January.

To create the battery, the Harvard researchers say they have been working with a previously overlooked group of organic compounds called quinones. These can be used to make inexpensive batteries that can charge and discharge renewable energy more quickly than current batteries are able to.

The researchers maintain that their new battery can work as well as existing batteries with chemistries based on metals, which are far more expensive to make. The new battery does not use a precious metal catalyst, it’s underlying chemistry is metal-free; instead, it uses the naturally abundant quinones.

Quinones are water-soluble compounds that store energy in plants and animals. They are found in all green vegetables, and the molecule the researchers used is almost identical to the one in rhubarb. Because quinones are naturally abundant and water-soluble, large, inexpensive tanks could be set up to store electricity, rather than using the traditional, and more expensive solid-state batteries.

New York Governor Announces $1 Billion For Solar Energy

New York governor Andrew Cuomo delivered his State of the State address on Wednesday and announced an even greater commitment to clean energy, including $1 billion in new funding for solar energy projects.

Launched in 2012, Cuomo’s NY-Sun Initiative has already been a tremendous success, with almost 300 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaic capacity installed or under development, more than was installed in the entire decade prior to the program.

Now with another major financial boost, Cuomo aims to install 3,000 (MW) of solar across New York. “That’s enough solar to power 465,000 New York homes, cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2.3 million tons annually — the equivalent of taking almost 435,000 cars off the road — and create more than 13,000 new solar jobs,” according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

In addition to the ten-year financial boost for NY-Sun, Cuomo announced a new program entitled K-Solar, which will incentivize the deployment of solar energy by using the state’s 5,000 schools as “demonstration hubs” to increase the number of solar energy projects in their surrounding communities.

Yingli Sees Return to Profit as Solar-Panel Demand Gains

Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. (YGE), the world’s biggest solar-panel maker, expects to post its first quarterly profit in three years as early as next quarter as demand climbs and cost controls show results.

The Chinese company “will see a gradual rise each quarter” after reporting a “small loss” or breaking even in the first three months of the year, Chief Financial Officer Wang Yiyu said today by telephone.

The forecast indicates increasing optimism that solar-panel makers are recovering from a plunge in prices caused by surplus manufacturing capacity. Trina Solar Ltd. and JinkoSolar Holding Co. (JKS) already have returned to profit. Canadian Solar Inc. (CSIQ), the best-performing stock among peers in the past year, posted its first quarterly net income in more than two years in November.

Yingli’s American depositary receipts increased 8.4 percent to $7.08 at the close in New York, the highest since Oct. 24.

Yingli has surged more than 40 percent this year after agreeing to form a venture with China’s Datong Coal Mine Group to develop solar plants in Shanxi province.

Wind power was Spain's top source of electricity in 2013

Remarkable new figures from Spain's grid operator have revealed that greenhouse gas emissions from the country's power sector are likely to have fallen 23.1% last year, as power generation from wind farms and hydroelectric plants soared.

Red Eléctrica de España (REE) released a preliminary report on the country's power system late last month, revealing that for "the first time ever, [wind power] contributed most to the annual electricity demand coverage". According to the figures, wind turbines met 21.1% of electricity demand on the Spanish peninsular, narrowly beating the region's fleet of nuclear reactors, which provided 21% of power.

In total, wind farms are estimated to have generated 53,926 gigawatt hours of electricity, up 12% on 2012, while high levels of rainfall meant hydroelectric power output was 16% higher than the historical average, climbing to 32,205GWh.

"Throughout 2013, the all-time highs of wind power production were exceeded," the report stated. "On 6 February, wind power recorded a new maximum of instantaneous power with 17,056MW at 3:49 pm (2.5 per cent up on the previous record registered in April 2012), and that same day the all-time maximum for hourly energy was also exceeded reaching 16,918MWh. Similarly, in January, February, March and November wind power generation was the technology that made the largest contribution towards the total energy production of the system."

An increase in wind power capacity of 173MW coupled with an increase in solar PV capacity of 140MW and solar thermal capacity of 300MW meant that by the end of the year renewables represented 49.1% of total installed power capacity on the Spanish peninsula.

Major solar energy plan for Minnesota wins support over gas

In an unprecedented decision, a Minnesota judge this week held that utility supplier Xcel Energy should invest in the solar energy developer Geronimo Energy rather than in natural gas generators because that choice is the better economical and environmental deal for the state.

Judge Eric Lipman's ruling must be approved by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, which initially ordered the proceeding to force energy companies to compete on price. The commission is expected to issue its final ruling in March.

Lipman said in the 50-page ruling, issued Tuesday, that the Geronimo project "will have numerous socioeconomic benefits, minimal impacts on the environment and best supports Minnesota's efforts to reduce greenhouse gases." 

The decision, if approved, would help Xcel fulfill its requirement to attain 1.5 percent of its power from the sun by 2020 under a new state energy law.

Geronimo Vice President Betsy Engelking said the decision marks a turning point for the solar industry because it is the first time that unsubsidized solar energy has gone head-to-head with natural gas resources and been selected as the best option.

"The judge decided that it was the best option for economic and environment reasons," Engelking told Al Jazeera. "Economically, the judge found that it was the lowest cost option offered."

If the decision stands, Geronimo plans to build roughly 20 solar arrays at a cost of $250 million.

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