Siemens wins world's biggest onshore wind power order

Siemens won an order to supply 448 wind turbines with a total capacity of 1,050 megawatts (MW) to U.S.-based MidAmerican Energy, which the German engineering group said was the largest single order for onshore wind power ever awarded.

The wind turbines, with a nominal rating of 2.3 MW each and a rotor diameter of 108 metres, are to be installed in five different projects in Iowa, Siemens said in a statement on Monday.

Siemens said it would also be responsible for service and maintenance of the wind turbines.

Siemens did not provide any financial details of the transaction.

By a rule of thumb, one megawatt of onshore wind capacity sells for 1 million euros ($1.37 million).

SunPower Testing Batteries to Store Solar Power

SunPower Corp. (SPWR), the second-largest U.S. solar-panel maker, is testing power-storage systems in three countries to complement its residential systems, its chief executive officer said.

The company is evaluating batteries in Germany, Australia and California and expects to have a product to sell to customers within the next couple of years, Chief Executive Officer Tom Wernersaid today in an interview at Bloomberg’s New York headquarters.

Adding batteries to residential solar systems would let people power their homes at night with electricity generated during the day, decreasing demand for energy from the grid and creating a threat to utilities’ revenue, Werner said. California will require utilities to use storage by 2020 and Germany introduced incentives in May to promote wider use of the technology.

“In the near term, we’re driven by policy,” he said. “In the long-term it’s economics.”

The company, based in San Jose, California, gets at least 25 percent of its revenue from photovoltaic panels that end up on consumers’ rooftops.

SolarCity Corp. (SCTY), which provides rooftop solar systems, began offering lithium-ion battery storage units made by Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA) last week.

U.S. Solar Industry Records Second Largest Quarter Ever

GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association® (SEIA®) today released U.S. Solar Market Insight: 3rd Quarter 2013, the definitive analysis of solar power markets in the U.S., with strategic state-specific data for 28 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. 

The U.S. installed 930 megawatts (MW) of photovoltaics (PV) in Q3 2013, up 20 percent over Q2 2013 and 35 percent over Q3 2012. This represents the second largest quarter in the history of the U.S. solar market and the largest quarter ever for residential PV installations. Even more importantly, 2013 is likely to be the first time in more than 15 years that the U.S. installs more solar capacity than world leader Germany, according to GTM Research forecasts. 

"Without a doubt, 2013 will go down as a record-shattering year for the U.S. solar industry," said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO. "We've now joined Germany, China and Japan as worldwide leaders when it comes to the installation of new solar capacity. This unprecedented growth is helping to create thousands of American jobs, save money for U.S. consumers, and reduce pollution nationwide. When it comes to preparing for America's future, clean, dependable and affordable solar energy has become the ‘Little Engine That Could,' defying expectations and powering economic growth – and, frankly, we're just scratching the surface of our industry's enormous potential." 

Invest in solar power for just $25

In the last few years peer to peer lending and crowdfunding have blossomed. While it's great to crowdfund the latest cool product that lets you cut down on using plastic or turns your regular bike into e-bike, it's infinitely cooler tocrowdfund the shift to renewable energy.

Mosaic calls itself an online marketplace for solar. Basically the company provides debt financing to solar projects and lets individual and institutional investors buy shares in a project until it is funded. When projects are complete, the company sells power to a solar customer via a long-term contract, and shares returns of approximately 4.4 - 6.36% with its investors. Investment capital is paid back along with the interest over a 5 - 10 year period.

Now Mosaic wants to take that concept to larger number of potential investors with a new incentive - the company will give new investors $25 once they make their first investment (minimum investments are $25).

Once a new user sets up a Mosaic account and finds a qualified project to invest in, Mosaic will add $25 to the amount invested.

SolarCity, Using Tesla Batteries, Aims to Bring Solar Power to the Masses

SolarCity—a company that’s grown quickly by installing solar panels for free and charging customers for the solar power—announced a new business that will extend that model to providing batteries for free, too. SolarCity is a rare success story for investors in clean technology, and its business model has sped the adoption of solar panels.

The batteries could help businesses lower their utility bills by reducing the amount of power they draw from the grid. They could also help address solar power’s intermittency, which could prevent it from becoming a significant source of electricity. The batteries are being supplied by Tesla Motors, whose CEO, Elon Musk, is SolarCity’s chairman.

Other solar companies have failed in recent years. But SolarCity’s business model has helped it grow quickly. It had a successful IPO a year ago, and its stock price has risen from its IPO price of $8 to over $50 today.

CEO Lyndon Rive says that eight years from now, the company might not be able to continue selling solar panel systems unless it packages them with batteries, because of the strain on the grid that solar power can cause. “It could be that, without storage, you won’t be able to connect solar systems to the grid,” he says.

Hitachi Develops All-in-One Container-Type Energy Storage System

Hitachi, Ltd. announced that it has developed an all-in one, container-type energy storage system as a core energy product for ensuring the stable use of distributed renewable energy such as wind and solar power, while maintaining the power supply-demand balance. This energy storage system fuses Hitachi's electricity grid control technologies built up in the Hitachi Group and Hitachi Chemical Co., Ltd.'s battery-related expertise and will be offered as a packaged system. 

In the beginning of 2014, Hitachi plans to begin a demonstration test of this energy storage system in North America. Plans call for Hitachi to reflect the results of this testing in a commercial product after verifying the commercial viability and performance of the system in the electricity trading market, or the so-called ancillary market*2 connected with maintaining the electricity supply-demand balance. Furthermore, Hitachi will examine whether to promote the system, to be named "CrystEna" (Crystal+Energy), as one of its solution businesses for expanding the transmission & distribution business in the global market. 

EU Nations Approve Pact With China on Solar-Panel Trade

European Union countries approved an agreement with China to curb imports of Chinese solar panels, ending the EU’s biggest commercial dispute of its kind.

EU governments endorsed an accord struck by their trade chief and China in July that sets a minimum price and a volume limit on European imports of Chinese solar panels until the end of 2015. Chinese manufacturers that take part will be spared EU tariffs meant to counter alleged below-cost sales, a practice known as dumping, and subsidies.

The verdict seeks to balance demands by European producers such as Solarworld AG (SWV)for trade protection and opposition by China, some EU governments and Europe’s importers to levies on the renewable-energy technology. The two-year duration of the measures is less than half as long as the normal five-year period for EU anti-dumping and anti-subsidy protection.

European solar-panel manufacturers suffered “material injury” as a result of dumping by Chinese exporters and trade-distorting government aid to them, while trade protection must also take account of “the cost for other economic operators,” the 28-nation bloc said today in Brussels. The decision wraps up two inquiries begun more than a year ago and will take effect after being published in the EU’s Official Journal by Dec. 6.

The US has 43 nuclear power plants' worth of solar energy in the pipeline

The boom in solar energy in the US  in recent years? You haven’t seen anything yet. The pipeline of photovoltaic projects has grown 7% over the past 12 months andnow stands at 2,400 solar installations that would generate 43,000 megawatts(MW), according to a report released today by market research firm NPD Solarbuzz. If all these projects are built, their peak electricity output would be equivalent to that of 43 big nuclear power plants, and enough to keep the lights on in six million American homes.

Only 8.5% of the pipeline is currently being installed, with most of it still in the planning stages. Some projects will inevitably get canceled or fail to raise financing.

But there’s reason to believe that a good chunk of these solar power plants and rooftop installations will get built over the next two years. That’s because a crucial US tax break for renewable energy projects is set to fall from 30% to 10% at the end of 2016. So there will be a rush to get projects online. In 2012, for instance, wind developers installed a record 13,131 MW as a key tax credit was set to expire, accounting for 42% of all new US electricity capacity that year.  (The US Congress subsequently renewed the tax break for another year.)

SolarCity Completes Industry's First Securitization of Distributed Solar Energy

SolarCity Corp. today announced that it has completed what is reported to be the first securitization of distributed solar energy assets.  SolarCity completed a private placement in the amount of $54,425,000 with an interest rate of 4.80% and a scheduled maturity date of December 2026.

"This transaction is a breakthrough and will pave the way for others, but its greater significance is the validation of the quality of SolarCity's assets," said Bob Kelly, SolarCity's chief financial officer. "SolarCity lowers what is typically the highest operating cost for households and gives them long-term control over that cost.  Customers highly value those attributes, and that's why these assets perform so well."

SolarCity's pool of solar contracts received an investment grade rating of BBB+ from Standard & Poor's. The rating reflects the predictability and quality of the cash flows and the minimal operation and production risk of solar assets. Distributed solar is one of the first new asset classes to achieve an investment grade rating in the asset back securities markets in the past several years.

GE Promises More Wind Power Without New Turbines

GE this fall began pushing a new bit of software wizardry that it says will boost wind farm performance. Looks like E.On is biting.

GE said that the Germany-based energy giant would install PowerUp, described as a “customized software-enabled platform that increases a wind farm’s output by up to 5 percent,” at five wind farms. This adds up to 469 GE 1.5-77 wind turbines that E.On uses (through its Climate & Renewables division).

GE is suggesting that this is the equivalent of building as many as 19 new turbines of that size, but it’s going to have to prove that’s the case in order to make money off implementing PowerUp for E.On. That’s because this is an “outcomes-based” deal: The companies will measure the impact of PowerUp, and GE will get only a percentage of the gains the technology brings.

“The outcomes-based approach aligns well with our goals of providing cleaner, better energy at a more affordable price,” Steve Trenholm, chairman, E.ON North America, said in a statement. “Investment in wind energy has led to technological advancements like PowerUp that continue to make renewables more and more competitive with traditional forms of energy.”

Obama admin. not prosecuting wind farms for bird deaths

The Obama administration is giving wind power producers a pass by not going after them for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of federally protected birds and bats.

But the feds have gone after fossil fuel and other companies that have killed these animals.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service currently has 18 open investigations into bird and bat deaths due to wind power operations, according to a service spokeswoman, with 14 of these cases involving the death of at least one golden eagle — which are federally protected under three different laws. Seven of these cases have been referred to the U.S. Justice Department for “potential prosecution.”

A spokesman with the Justice Department, however, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that there “have been no prosecutions to date under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and/or the Bald and Gold Eagle Protection Act related to the deaths of migratory birds, including eagles, at wind facilities.”

The Obama administration’s support for wind energy development and inaction against wind producers that allegedly break these laws has sparked the ire of House Republicans. Earlier this month, Republicans on the Committee on Natural Resources sent letters to the administration slamming them for not providing documentation related to bird deaths from wind farms.

Utilities Spend Big In Arizona Solar Energy Fight As Final Decision Looms

Utility commissioners in Arizona will decide the fate of rooftop solar incentives this week, in what has become the biggest fight over renewable energy policy in the country. A two-day hearing on the issue at the Arizona Corporation Commission began Wednesday.

The Arizona Public Service, the state's largest utility, is asking the commission to change the current policy, which allows homes and businesses with their own solar power systems to sell any excess energy they generate back to the grid. That policy, known as net metering, was first put in place in 2009. The utility argues that customers with rooftop solar aren't paying their fair share to maintain the grid, and has proposed policy changes that would increase prices for those with solar systems. But local solar advocates have accused the utility of trying to kill the state's burgeoning solar industry, and have launched a counter-campaign.

As The Huffington Post has previously reported, the fight got interesting when the utility revealed that it had been secretly funding anti-solar ads produced by a national conservative group. After a commissioner asked the company and other groups involved in the net metering debate to disclose how much money they were spending on the issue, APS disclosed that it had spent $3.7 million on PR work. The solar lobby disclosed that it was spending nearly half a million dollars on fighting the proposed changes.

After Fukushima, Japan Finds Beauty in Solar Power

It looks like some idealistic architecture student’s vision for the future of sustainable energy production. In fact, it's a photo of a real-life solar plant that went into operation on Nov. 1 in Japan.

The Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plant, built by the electronics manufacturer Kyocera, boasts postcard views of Kagoshima Bay and Sakurajima volcano. It’s also Japan’s largest, with a capacity of 70 megawatts. That’s enough to power some 22,000 Japanese homes. The $280 million project is part of a national effort to invest in clean, renewable energy as the country continues to grapple with the fallout of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The country’s new feed-in tariffs have made it one of the world’s fastest-growing solar markets.

This sort of sprawling solar-panel farm is hardly the most efficient form of power generation in terms of either cost or the amount of land required. Still, it makes more sense when you consider that Japan has been dealing with soaring energy prices in the wake of a disaster that threw into question its entire nuclear-power program into question. While solar is clearly more expensive than nuclear power, the Washington Post noted in June:  Most consumers think that sacrifice is worthwhile, and they say nuclear power has hidden cleanup and compensation costs that emerge only after an accident. Fossil fuels, meanwhile, release harmful greenhouse gases and must be imported from Australia, Russia, Indonesia and the Middle East.

In other words, this gorgeous solar plant is what happens when a country comes face-to-face with the full societal costs of more traditional power sources.


Fukushima Floating Offshore Wind Turbine Starts Generating

A development to harness the power of the wind about 20 kilometers (12 miles) off the coast of Fukushima, site of the March 2011 nuclear disaster, began generating power on an operational basis today.

The project, funded by the government and led by Marubeni Corp. ), is a symbol of Japan’s ambition to commercialize the unproven technology of floating offshore wind power and its plan to turn quake-ravaged Fukushima into a clean energy hub.

“Fukushima is making a stride toward the future step by step,” Yuhei Sato, governor of Fukushima, said today at a ceremony in Fukushima marking the project’s initiation. “Floating offshore wind is a symbol of such a future.”

The 11-member group’s project so far consists of a 2-megawatt turbine from Hitachi Ltd. )nicknamed “Fukushima Mirai.” A floating substation, the first of its kind, has also been set up and bears the name “Fukushima Kizuna.” Mirai means future, while kizuna translates as ties.

The group is planning to install two more turbines by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. with 7 megawatts of capacity each. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has said the floating offshore capacity may be expanded to 1,000 megawatts.

Microinverters and DC Power Optimizers Will Reach Nearly $2 Billion in Annual Revenue by 2020, Forecasts Navigant Research

Microinverters and DC optimizers, commonly referred to as module-level power electronics (MLPEs), increase the energy harvested by solar PV modules and reduce the levelized cost of electricity by converting or conditioning power at the module level. As a result, microinverters and DC optimizers are two of the most disruptive technologies in the solar PV sector today. Click to tweet: According to a new report from Navigant Research, revenue from microinverters and DC optimizers will grow from $308 million in 2013 to more than $1.9 billion in 2020. 

"The module-level power electronics sector has grown from a niche market to mainstream, especially in the United States, where there is fierce competition in major solar PV markets like California," says Dexter Gauntlett, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. "What's more, a growing number of solar PV module manufacturers are now integrating microinverters and DC optimizers at their own production plants. At the same time, large power electronics companies and incumbent manufacturers are making strategic partnerships and acquisitions to take advantage of rapid growth in this market segment." 

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