Army Kicks Off $7 Billion Alternative Energy Project

The Army issued a draft request for proposals today to purchase over a 30-year period $7 billion worth of power generated from alternative energy sources, including solar, wind, geothermal and biomass.

Katherine Hammock, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment, announced plans for the project last year to support the service's goal of having installations produce more energy than they consume.

The Army Corps of Engineers' Engineering and Support Center in Huntsville, Ala., which is managing the procurement, said the alternative energy power generation plants will be located on or near federal property.

Hammond said last year that the Army would support their development by leasing land on installations, and the draft RFP backs this up with language that says the service endorses "the procurement of large scale renewable energy generated on or near Army land."

Siemens Blindsided by China Wind Boom Plans ‘Massive' Investment

Siemens AG (SIE), the world’s largest maker of offshore wind turbines, said it underestimated the pace of growth in the Chinese wind market and will ramp up spending to catch up as local competitors increase their lead.

“We’re investing massively in research and development and to make use of economies of scale in production,” Felix Ferlemann, head of Siemens’s wind-power business, said in response to e-mailed questions. “We were somewhat taken by surprise by the strong growth of the Chinese market.”

China led the world in installing wind-power capacity last year. Munich-based Siemens is working to keep pace in the country, where it’s lagging behind suppliers such as Vestas Wind Systems A/S (VWS), while competition puts pressure on prices. Profitability at Siemens’s renewable-energy unit was wiped out last year, calling into question Chief Executive Officer Peter Loescher’s strategy of focusing more on green technologies.

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Aquion Energy Selects Pennsylvania for First Large-Scale Manufacturing Facility

Aquion Energy Inc., a developer and manufacturer of revolutionary sodium ion batteries and energy storage systems, today announced it has chosen Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania as the site for its first full-scale manufacturing facility.

"After considering all of our options, including aggressive offers from a number of other U.S. states, we concluded that southwestern Pennsylvania is the best location for Aquion to establish its first high-volume manufacturing operation"

Starting in 2012, Aquion will be leasing space within a large existing facility in East Huntingdon Township from the Regional Industrial Development Corporation of Southwestern Pennsylvania (RIDC). The build-out of the base facility and factory infrastructure will begin immediately and continue throughout 2012. Initial product manufacturing is scheduled to commence in 2013. As part of a first phase manufacturing commitment at this site, Aquion expects to create over 400 high-tech manufacturing jobs by the end of 2015.

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Congress Deals Major Blow to Wind Power Industry

The wind power industry is predicting massive layoffs and stalled or abandoned projects after a deal to renew a tax credit failed Thursday in Washington.

The move is expected to have major ramifications in states such as Illinois, where 13,892 megawatts of wind projects -- enough to power 3.3 million homes per year -- wait to be connected to the electric grid. Many of those projects will be abandoned or significantly delayed without federal subsidies.

The state is home to more than 150 companies that support the wind industry. At least 67 of those companies make turbines or components for wind farms. Chicago is the U.S. headquarters to more than a dozen major wind companies who wanted to take advantage of powerful Midwestern winds.

US DOE Launches Solar Training

The US Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative is developing two new training programs that will be available through the Solar Instructor Training Network in spring 2012. This nationwide collaboration between community colleges, labor training centers, and nine Regional Training Providers is intended to provide high-quality photovoltaic (PV) occupational skills courses and training for every state in the country.

The PV On-Line Training tool will provide free, web-based training on solar PV inspection and building code practices for code officials across the country. Inspectors will be able to take eight in-depth modules on photovoltaic inspections at their convenience and then attend a free follow-up training the next summer at a nearby partner school. PV On-Line Trainings incorporate a simulated video environment for a “gaming” atmosphere that changes the scenario each time it is opened.

SolarReserve constructs 540-foot solar power tower

Despite that some solar thermal projects — which use the sun’s heat instead of solar panels — are getting replaced with cheaper solar panels, some developers are still moving forward on massive solar thermal plants in the deserts of the U.S. Developer SolarReserve announced on Thursday that it’s finished building the 540-foot solar power tower that will make up the centerpiece of its 110 MW project in Nevada.

The plant is called the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant and SolarReserve says it’ll be “the largest power plant of its kind in the world.” It’ll also use molten salt for energy storage.

U.S. Grid Energy Storage Market is Strong and Poised for Exponential Growth

Industry Forecasts Strong Investments in Energy Storage Markets

Within the U.S., industry analysts forecast that $240 billion will be invested in storage grid applications over the next 10 years. Overall, government support is strong with the Department of Energy (DOE) Smart Grid Demonstration Grants project investing $772 million. Strong investments from the government and venture capitalists, successful demonstration projects, and recent technological advancements have all contributed to strong growth in the storage market.

Market drivers are energy independence and security; smart grid investments; time of use/peak demand rates; increase in renewables and distributed generation; and government policies, incentives and regulations. Though all sectors of the energy storage market show strong potential, from an application perspective distributed generation devices, renewable systems, and ancillary services show the greatest near term growth potential. Global opportunity over the next 10 to 20 years is estimated at upwards of 300 gigawatts (GW) in size, which translates into $200-$600 billion in value.


Alta Devices' most recent solar panel has been verified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) at 23.5% efficiency. This is the highest solar panel efficiency yet achieved and demonstrates Alta's progress toward its objective of developing solar photovoltaic (PV) solutions that are competitive, without subsidies, with fossil fuels.
Today's announcement is Alta's next step toward commercializing its technology. This new panel uses the same technology as the company announced last summer, which achieved record solar cell conversion efficiencies resulting from key technical breakthroughs in harnessing the high efficiency of gallium arsenide (GaAs) in cost-effective ways (see ). Alta chose to focus on GaAs because of its intrinsic efficiency advantages as well as its ability to generate electricity at high temperatures and in low light. This means that Alta's panels have substantially higher energy density than other technologies, generating more kilowatt-hours of energy over the course of a year in real life conditions.

U.S. gives green light to offshore wind farms

Lighting Maryland homes with power from giant turbines off Ocean City moved closer to reality Thursday as federal officials announced they are ready to go forward with leasing vast areas along the Mid-Atlantic coast for wind farms. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said at a news conference at Baltimore's Inner Harbor that his staff found that no significant impact to the environment, shipping or other activities would result from letting developers start studies and plans for harnessing ocean winds from New Jersey to Virginia. Salazar, who had pledged more than a year ago to streamline the regulatory process for putting turbines offshore, said his Bureau of Ocean Energy Management would start soliciting bids for leasing up to 80,000 acres off Maryland. Eight companies or partnerships had expressed interest in 2010. "This is not going to be something that's going to be waiting around for multiple years," Salazar said. "We'll have those leases issued by the end of 2012."

Micro-hybrids to Grow to 39 Million Vehicles in 2017, Creating a $6.9 Billion Battery Market

Micro-hybrids will grow nearly eight-fold to 39 million vehicles in 2017 and create a $6.9 billion market for energy storage devices as the fuel-saving alternative technology finds ready adoption, driven by stricter emission standards, according to a Lux Research report titled, "Every Last Drop: Micro- And Mild Hybrids Drive a Huge Market for Fuel-Efficient Vehicles." "Micro-hybrids and, to a lesser extent, mild hybrids, provide a cost-effective solution to fuel savings to bridge the gap to more disruptive technologies like alternative fuels, plug-in vehicles, and fuel cell vehicles."
Micro-hybrids, which use a small battery to provide varying degrees of efficiency-boosting features, will dominate the automotive market, gaining 42% of the overall light-duty vehicle market. Simultaneously, the mild hybrids — superior to micro-hybrids but not as efficient as pure hybrids — will rise from near-zero to 1.5 million vehicles in 2017, accounting for 1.6% of the auto market.

U.S. Wind-Turbine Installations Rose 31% in 2011, AWEA Says

Developers installed wind turbines with capacity of 6,810 megawatts in the U.S. last year, 31 percent more than in 2010, as they rushed to qualify for a federal-tax grant that expired last month, according to an industry group. Fourth-quarter installations reached 3,444 megawatts, topping the first three quarters combined, led by California, Illinois and Ohio, the fastest-growing state, the American Wind Energy Association said today in a report. New wind farms with capacity of more than 8,300 megawatts are under construction now. Developers will try to complete them before another federal incentive expires Dec. 31. The Washington-based trade group is pressing Congress to extend the Production Tax Credit of 2.2 cents a kilowatt-hour for wind power to prevent manufacturers from firing workers by 2013.

Energy plays key role in Obama's State of the Union

For the third year in a row energy played a central role in President Obama's State of the Union address, with the president leaning hard this year on the twin themes of increased domestic oil and gas production and the need to invest more in renewable sources. "Right now, American oil production is the highest that it's been in eight years," said Obama. "Not only that -- last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past sixteen years." Obama has indeed presided over a boom in domestic energy production since taking office. From 2008 to 2011 U.S. crude oil production has jumped 14%, going from 5.1 million barrels per day at the start of 2008 to nearly 5.8 million barrels per day currently, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Natural gas production is up by about 10% over the same period.

PUC rejects SDG&E's proposed ‘network use fee' for solar customers

A plan by San Diego Gas & Electric to charge a “network use fee” to users of solar energy was stalled Wednesday at the California Public Utilities Commission. At a presentation to a committee in November, SDG&E presented the charge as a fairness issue, since solar customers are hooked to the grid but not paying for the upkeep of wires and other infrastructure. The plan, part of a wider proposal to restructure its rates, met fierce criticism from area politicians and green energy proponents. The California Center for Sustainable Energy estimated the average single-family home customer with solar would have to pay $350 under the plan, and school districts would have be charged $8,100 for each elementary school with rooftop panels. SDG&E argued that customers would still be saving money with the solar option.


US to Probe Imports of China, Vietnam Wind Towers

The U.S. Commerce Department said on Thursday it was launching an investigation that could lead to steep import duties on more than $100 million worth of wind energy towers from China and Vietnam. The decision adds to the friction in clean energy trade between the world's two largest economies. The Commerce Department is already investigating charges that Chinese solar panel manufacturers engage in unfair trade practices and will issue a preliminary decision on duties next month. The Wind Tower Trade Coalition, a group of U.S. producers, had previously said it was asking for anti-dumping duties of 64 percent on imports from China and 59 percent from Vietnam. But in its announcement, the department said China was alleged to undercut U.S. wind tower prices by 213.54 percent and Vietnam by 140.54 to 143.29 percent.

US Replaces China as Top Clean Energy Investor

The United States has regained its place as the world's number one investor in clean energy, reclaiming the top spot from China, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. In 2011, U.S. total investment in clean energy surged to $55.9 billion, up 33 percent from 2010; China saw investment rise just 1 percent to $47.4 billion over the same time period. This is the first time that the U.S. - and not China - has held the number one spot since 2008. Bloomberg attributes the increase in U.S.investment in large part to support initiatives such as the federal loan guarantee program and a Treasury grant program which have now expired. The country's principal remaining support measure for renewable energy, the Production Tax Credit, is currently also scheduled to fall away at the end of 2012 unless it is extended. As a result, Bloomberg suggests that there may be a rush to get projects completed in 2012, followed by a slump in investment in 2013, if the credit does, in fact, expire. Vestas, the world's largest maker of wind turbines in terms of revenue, warned that 1,600 U.S. jobs were at risk if clean energy tax credits were not extended past the end of this year.

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