Electricity generation from biomass continues to boom worldwide

The energetic use of solid biomass such as wood will increase to a larger extent than ever before in the years to come. At present, more than 2,200 biomass power plants are operational throughout the world. They have a total capacity of about 32,000 megawatts (MW). In Europe alone, there are more than 1,100 active biomass power plants. Another 130 coal power plants co-incinerate biomass.

Over the past five years, about 150 biomass power plants went operational per year worldwide, each one with an average capacity of 11 MW, which is more than ever before. However, this growth will once more accelerate in the future: by 2016, 165 plants with an average capacity of more than 15 MW will be commissioned per year. Investments in new construction and maintenance of biomass power plants will increase from currently 10 to more than 14 billion euros annually.

The trend for developing biomass follows the trend for developing renewable energies. More and more countries introduce feed-in tariffs for electricity from biomass. The increasing prices for fossil energy sources, the fact that many countries aim at increasing the use of domestic raw materials and the introduction of CO2 certificates for fossil fuels in Europe have over the past years improved the competitiveness of electricity generation from biomass.

180 Solar Panel Manufacturers Could Disappear by 2015

GTM Research says many PV solar panel makers will go under or be acquired soon. The global marketplace is simply over-saturated, the company’s report states, so dramatic changes are coming. The difference in PV supply and demand could be 35 GW a year.

About 88 companies are predicted to shutter PV factories, mainly in the United States, Europe, and Canada. The cost of solar panels and their manufacture has dropped so much it is simply too costly to produce them competitively in certain parts of the world. The number of companies affected by the fast-changing market conditions is huge, and very sad for the demise of their once promising ventures.

“Manufacturing costs for firms in Europe, the U.S. and Japan are currently over 80 cents per watt. The cost for their Chinese competitors is between 58 cents and 68 cents per watt. The writing is on the wall: these companies will either take what they can get via acquisition or they will bow out,” said the report’s author, Shyam Mehta, Senior Analyst at GTM.


Car battery maker A123 files for bankruptcy

Battery maker A123 Systems, a one-time darling of the U.S. electric car industry and recipient of millions in government funding, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Tuesday.

The filing highlights the controversy over federal subsidies for "green energy" companies that has been a part of the 2012 presidential campaign.


A123 has $144 million in debt and missed a $2.7 million interest payment on Oct. 15.

In 2009, A123 received $249 million in federal funding for advanced battery technology manufacturing at two sites in Michigan -- Romulus and Brownstown.

The funding was part of $2.4 billion in stimulus funds designed to jump start advanced vehicle manufacturing in the United States.

AWEA recommends practices for US offshore wind facilities

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) with support from the US Energy Department and National Renewable Energy Laboratory, has developed a set of recommended practices for using existing standards to plan, design, construct and operate offshore wind facilities in compliance with federal and state regulations.

The recommended practices drawn up by AWEA’s Standards Development Board cite four levels of existing standards: international, American National Standards, classification society such as DNV, Germanischer Lloyd and The American Bureau of Shipping standards, and commercial standards and guidelines,

These standards address five critical areas: structural reliability; manufacturing, qualification testing, installation, and construction; safety of equipment; operation and inspection, and decommissioning.

The 63-page Recommended Practices for Design, Deployment, and Operation of Offshore Wind Turbines in the United States was unveiled at AWEA’s offshore windpower conference here.


Obama administration approves giant Wyoming wind farm project

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Tuesday authorized what he described as potentially the largest wind energy project in the United States, if not the world: A Wyoming wind farm with up to 1,000 turbines that would provide electricity to some 1 million homes.

Roadwork and groundwork could begin next year for the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project. After that, turbines could go up over a three-year period within an area covering 350 square miles of the hilly sagebrush country south of Rawlins in south-central Wyoming.

Most of that area is among the 245 million acres nationwide overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management — hence Salazar's role. Salazar highlighted the project as an example of President Barack Obama's "all of the above" strategy for renewable energy development and fossil fuel extraction on BLM and other public lands.

BREAKING NEWS: U.S. Sets Tariffs on Chinese Solar Panels

The Commerce Department issued its final ruling Wednesday in a long-simmering trade dispute with China, imposing tariffs ranging from about 34 percent to nearly 47 percent on solar panels imported from the country.

For most of the Chinese manufacturers, the penalties are somewhat higher than those announced by the Obama administration earlier this year, when the government determined that Chinese companies were benefiting from unfair government subsidies and were selling their products below the cost of production, a practice known as dumping, on the American market. For the biggest panel maker, Suntech, the duties are significantly higher, moving to almost 47 percent from about 33 percent.

The trade case stemmed from a legal filing nearly a year ago by a coalition of manufacturers, led by SolarWorld, a German company with considerable manufacturing in the United States. The coalition contended that Chinese companies, which dominate global sales with a two-thirds market share, were competing unfairly in the American market.

SolarCity Files for IPO of Up to $201.3 Million

Solar panel installer SolarCity Corp filed with U.S. regulators to raise up to $201 million in an initial public offering that could help rekindle investor appetite for cleantech stocks.

Shares of solar panel manufacturers have logged terrible performances in the last two years as plunging panel prices erased profits. But those lower prices have spurred demand for solar systems in the United States, helping companies like San Mateo, California-based SolarCity.

SolarCity has expanded rapidly thanks to a business model that allows residential customers to lease solar panels for their roofs. Rather than paying the large upfront costs required for a solar installation, customers pay a monthly fee.

Companies including Google Inc (GOOG.O) and U.S. Bancorp (USB.N) have provided funds to finance SolarCity’s projects. Those investors are able to collect a 30 percent federal tax credit for solar energy systems.

Two of those funds are being audited by the Internal Revenue Service, SolarCity disclosed in its filing on Friday.

Vestas, Siemens Join 42 Companies to Cut Offshore Wind Costs

Vestas Wind Systems A/S (VWS) and Siemens AG (SIE), the biggest manufacturers of offshore wind turbines, and 42 other companies are participating in an initiative to lower power-generating costs for the technology and promote investments that may reach as much as $630 billion by 2035.

The alliance, called Norstec, will meet today for the first time in London, the U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change said in an e-mailed statement. The number of members has more than doubled since U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron announced the group’s formation in April.

The group is seeking to drive development of offshore wind farms, an industry with the potential to employ as many as 185,000 people in the U.K. by 2020 and spur the laying of 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles) of high voltage transmission cables in Europe’s northern waters by 2022, Norstec said today in a statement e-mailed by DECC.

Denmark Achieves Solar Energy Goal 8 Years Early

Earlier this month, Denmark announced that it had already achieved its 2020 goal for solar energy production. The country previously publicized its national goal to produce 200 megawatts of energy from solar power by the end of this decade. Now, it seems that rapidly growing demand for clean energy and a solar-friendly government has allowed this European country to exceed that goal eight years before the target. Danish experts now predict that if this growth continues, 2020 levels of solar energy production will be 100 times what was first expected.

Have you ever been to Denmark? Few would call it a sunshine-rich country. In fact, it’s probably better known for its gray, cold winters. So what has allowed Denmark’s solar industry to expand so rapidly?


Solar Energy Tax Credit May Be Saved By Washington Gridlock

A stalemate in Washington next year over tax reform could help solar developers by preserving the 30 percent investment tax credit for solar projects until it expires at the end of 2016.

Regardless of who wins the Nov. 6 U.S. presidential election, Congress is expected to target tax loopholes and government subsidies as part of an effort to rein in federal spending and cut the deficit.

But an agreement between Democrats and Republicans is not expected to come easily, and an impasse could keep the ax away form the tax credit.

"It's one of those unusual situations where the gridlock that prevails around Congress could actually work to our benefit," Paul Detering, chief executive of San Francisco-based solar project developer Tioga Energy, told the Renewable Energy Finance Forum conference in San Francisco on Thursday.

Sharp to End Solar Panel Business in U.S., Europe, Kyodo Says

Sharp Corp. plans to end production and sales of solar cells and modules in the U.S. and Europe by March as part of a restructuring, Kyodo News said.

Sharp also plans to sell three manufacturing plants for solar products in Japan’s Nara, Osaka and Toyama prefectures and consolidate production at its Sakai plant, Kyodo reported today, without saying where it got the information.

Sharp wasn’t the source of the report and nothing has been decided, Miyuki Nakayama, a company spokeswoman, said by phone.

Osaka-based Sharp plans to cut more than 10,000 jobs, or about 18 percent of its workforce, and is in talks to sell plants as it tries to return to profit, two people with knowledge of the proposal said yesterday.

The job cuts and sales of television factories in Mexico, China and Malaysia, as well as U.S. solar developer Recurrent Energy LLC, were in the plan Sharp presented to lenders Sept. 24, the people said, declining to be identified because the matter isn’t public.

Brazil Expects $235 Billion in Renewable Energy During Decade

Brazil will see $235 billion of investments in renewable-energy and biofuel projects during the next ten years, Edison Lobao, the country’s mines and energy minister, said today at a United Nations event on sustainable energy in New York.

The nation will install 36 gigawatts of hydroeletric plants, 12 gigawatts of biomass plants and 11 gigawatts of wind farms during that time, according to a transcript of the minister’s speech acquired by Bloomberg News.

U.S. poised to hand over $197 million to another solar panel start-up

A tiny solar company named SoloPower will flip the switch on production at a U.S. factory Thursday, a major step toward allowing it to tap a $197 million government loan guarantee awarded under the same controversial program that supported failed panel maker Solyndra.

SoloPower has initiated a strategy to differentiate it from struggling commodity players in the solar panel industry. Still, there are several similarities between SoloPower and Solyndra - which became a lightning rod in the U.S. Presidential campaign this year after taking in more than $500 million in government loans and then filing for bankruptcy.

Like Solyndra, SoloPower is a Silicon Valley start-up and uses the same non-traditional raw material in its solar panels. And, like its now-defunct peer, SoloPower is one of just four U.S. panel manufacturers to clinch loan guarantees under the Department of Energy's $35 billion program to support emerging clean energy technologies. The DOE payments to SoloPower will come on top of the $56.5 million SoloPower has collected in loans, tax credits and incentives from the state of Oregon and the city of Portland, where its first factory will be located.

First Solar and LDK: Two Solar Power Stocks Headed in Opposite Directions

The past few years have been brutal for solar power stocks. First, the 2008-2009 financial crisis scared away customers and depressed sales. Some solar firms benefited from government stimulus packages during the recession, but their prospects have since dimmed as debt-saddled governments rein in spending—including on subsidies for new solar projects.

Looming in the background is a glut of solar panels that has lasted for more than two years. That has depressed prices and put severe pressure on the profits of many solar power stocks.

This Solar Power Stock’s Downward Spiral Is Continuing

Case in point: LDK Solar (NYSE: LDK), which just reported a net loss of $254.3 million, or $2.00 a share, in the second quarter. That was much wider than the $87.7 million, or $0.62 a share, that the company lost a year earlier. It was also far worse than the $1.42 a share that the Street was expecting. Revenue dropped 53%, to $235.4 million, also missing the consensus estimate of $237.5 million.

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Suntech cuts solar cell production capacity

Suntech Power Holdings Co Ltd, the world's largest solar panel maker, said it temporarily shut a portion of its solar cell production capacity in China, as it grapples with weak selling prices and import duties in the United States.

Suntech's operational solar cell capacity will temporarily be reduced to 1.8 gigawatts (GW) from about 2.4 GW.

The cut at the Wuxi facility is expected to affect about 1,500 employees in China. Most of these employees would be offered positions at other production facilities but some would face severance, Suntech said.

Suntech said it is on track to reduce recurring operating costs by 20 percent in 2012.

The company last month estimated weak margins for the second quarter and cut its full-year shipment outlook.

Another solar equipment manufacturer, China's LDK Solar Co Ltd, reported on Monday a much bigger loss, downgraded its sales forecasts and said it was in talks with potential investors.

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