U.S. offers loan aid for world's biggest solar plant

The U.S. Department of Energy is offering $2.1 billion in conditional loan guarantees to support what will be the world's biggest solar power plant, the government's largest commitment to date for to solar energy. The aid will support construction of the first two units of Solar Trust of America LLC's 1,000 megawatt solar thermal Blythe Solar Power Project, the DOE said on Monday. Solar Trust of America is a joint venture between German companies Solar Millennium AG and Ferrostaal AG. "For the first time in mankind's history, a solar power facility will be built at a scale and output capacity equal to the very largest coal-fired and nuclear power plants operating in the world today," Solar Trust of America Chief Executive Uwe Schmidt said on a conference call with reporters. The first two units of the project near Blythe, California are capable of producing 484 MW of electricity using solar thermal trough technology. The project will create over 1,000 construction jobs, 80 operations jobs, and will avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those generated by about 123,000 vehicles. Solar Millennium's technology makes electricity by using trough-shaped mirrors to heat a fluid that generates steam that turns a turbine. The Blythe project's total pricetag is estimated at north of $6 billion, with the first phase costing about $2.8 billion. The announcement came a week after the federal program to support clean energy technologies escaped the axe in the final U.S. budget agreement for the current fiscal year.

Ford names Top 25 EV ready cities in the US

From New York City to Seattle, Wash., Ford this week named 25 U.S. cities that are paving the way for an influx of electric vehicles. By the end of 2012 there will be more than 20 plug-in vehicles on the market, said Mike Tinskey, manager of vehicle electrification and infrastructure for Ford. And major metropolitan areas and utility companies are working together to provide an infrastructure for public charging stations. "Over the next 12 months we will see at least 18,000 new charge stations in U.S. cities," Tinskey said. "People will start seeing charge stations in some pretty familiar places," he said. The Ford Focus EV will be available by the end of 2011, and many more electric vehicles makes from other automakers will be available over the next two years. Ford has complied the list to not only recognize which cities are getting EV-ready, but also to encourage other cities to start preparing, Tinskey said. While the list of cities is diverse, it's not surprising that most of the cities flank the coasts while others dot the middle of the map. Honolulu is included, but Tinskey said pretty much the whole island of Oahu is getting EV-ready. The greater San Francisco Bay Area, not surprisingly, is also a larger geographical area that made it to the map. According to Tinskey, it's up to city governments to streamline the permit process for the installation of EV charging stations. And it's up to local utility companies to offer incentives for off-peak charging. "A lot of decisions need to be made, like what the signage should look like, and whether or not local businesses can charge for the electricity, or just for the parking spot," Tinskey said. "It ends up being an equal pull from the city and the local electric company. Then add a company like Ford, and it becomes the three-legged stool."

Google Invests $168 million in BrightSource Energy's Mojave Solar Plant

Google is no stranger to renewable energy investment, but now the Internet behemoth has its eyes set on bigger fish. BrightSource Energy's proposed solar thermal plant in the Mojave Desert will be one of the largest solar energy projects in the United States and will double the solar thermal installed capacity in the U.S. Google has made a $168 million equity investment in the project, along with NRG Energy's $300 million investment and $1.6 billion in loans from the U.S. federal government. The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System will be constructed in California's Mojave Desert. The project will provide 2,600 MW of grid electricity, powering 140,000 homes. The facility uses thermal solar energy as opposed to photovoltaic panels. Thousand's of reflective mirrors will superheat fluids to drive a steam turbine. The Ivanpah plant will recycle the steam back into water to reduce water consumption by 95 percent compared to similar facilities.

MORE THAN 3,700 ATTEND PV AMERICA 2011 IN PHILADELPHIA, UP 23% FROM 2009 SHOW

Philadelphia - April 12, 2011 — The second PV America conference and expo which concluded here on April 5 attracted more than 3,700 industry attendees (up 23% from 2009) affirming that the mid-Atlantic region is a national powerhouse in solar energy. More than 200 exhibitors (25% increase from 2009) who occupied about 70,000 gross square feet of space showcased the latest products and technologies driving the growth of the photovoltaic industry. Further evidence of the growth in the region: more than 700 consumers walked the exhibit floor during Public Day. In remarks delivered during the opening day general session, Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) announced that "the region is now the largest market for PV in the United States and in 2010, the area from Washington DC to Boston installed more solar than all of California." He added that "the solar industry experienced a robust 139 percent growth in New Jersey and Pennsylvania had installed enough capacity last year to power 9,000 homes. Finally, he noted "that a recent report by SEIA and GTM Research projects demand for more than 3 gigawatts of new PV in the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast region by 2015, enough solar to power more than half a million homes."

The 2012 Olympic games in London are to be the most sustainable ever, but will miss initial renewable energy goals

The 2012 Olympics are gearing up for glory in London, and will be one of the most sustainable Olympics ever. The Commission for a Sustainable London 2012—the watchdog group monitoring the London Olympics' sustainability initiative—says the games are already on track to reduce its carbon footprint by 50 percent. However, the watchdog group has also officially stated that the initial goal of 20 percent energy from renewable sources is being lessened to only nine percent. The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) abandoned plans for wind turbines in Olympic park after design changes and safety regulations were implemented. Nonetheless, the ODA has claimed it will find other ways to reduce the games' carbon footprint.

G.E. Plans to Build Largest Solar Panel Plant in U.S.

In a move that could shake up the American solar industry, General Electric plans to announce on Thursday that it will build the nation's largest photovoltaic panel factory, with the goal of becoming a major player in the market. "For the past five years, we've been investing extremely heavily in solar," said Victor Abate, vice president for G.E.'s renewable energy business. "Going to scale is the next move." The plant, whose location has not been determined, will employ 400 workers and create 600 related jobs, according to G.E. The factory would annually produce solar panels that would generate 400 megawatts of energy, the company said, and would begin manufacturing thin-film photovoltaic panels made of a material called cadmium telluride in 2013. While less efficient than conventional solar panels, thin-film photovoltaics can be produced at a lower cost and have proven attractive to developers and utilities building large-scale power plants. G.E. has signed agreements to supply solar panels to generate 100 megawatts of electric power to customers, including a deal for panels generating 60 megawatts with NextEra Energy Resources.

Vestas surprises with 7 MW offshore wind turbine

Danish wind turbine maker Vestas unveiled a new giant 7-megawatt offshore turbine on Wednesday and said it expected it to be in serial production in early 2015. Vestas, the world's biggest wind turbine manufacturer by market share, had only been expected to unveil a 6 MW turbine, not the towering 135-meter (443 feet) 7 MW unit, with its rotor diameter of 164 meters. The new turbine, whose rotor will trace a circle bigger than the London Eye ferris wheel and whose 80-meter blade is longer than nine London double-decker buses, is part of a push toward larger and larger units further offshore, where the wind power potential is high and public resistance can be avoided. Chief Executive Ditlev Engel told a news conference in London that the new turbine, designed for North Sea conditions, was the first that Vestas has developed specifically for offshore wind parks and its single largest research and development ever. Wind currently accounts for just 2 percent of the global energy mix, but Vestas expects it to provide 10 percent in 2020, Engel said in a presentation. Most of the growth in offshore wind power capacity to 2025 will be in Europe, he said. President of Vestas Offshore, Anders Soe-Jensen, told the news conference the company expected the offshore wind market to grow by 8.4 percent annually from 2015 to 2025.

SEIA President Rhone Resch Highlights Solar Industry's Tremendous Growth at PV America Conference and Expo

Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association ® (SEIA®) addressed the Opening General Session at the PV America Conference 2011 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia to welcome small business owners, entrepreneurs, global corporate executives and energy leaders from around the country to the only conference focused solely on the fastest growing segment of the solar industry – photovoltaic solar (PV), the technology that converts sunlight to electricity. Mr. Resch's speech highlighted solar PV's tremendous growth in 2010, its potential for 2011 and how the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast region is now the largest market for PV in the United States. In total, 878 megawatts (MW) of PV capacity was installed in 2010, more than doubling 2009 installation totals. Smart federal and state policies, completion of significant utility-scale projects, expansion of new state markets and declining manufacturing and installation costs drove the industry's U.S. expansion.   Click here for the full text of his remarks.

All new federal vehicles to run on alternative fuels after 2015

President Obama will call for all new federal vehicles - the government owns 600,000 of them - to run on alternative fuels after 2015, according to a preview of a major energy speech he will deliver today at Georgetown University. "We have already doubled the number of hybrid vehicles in the federal fleet," according to a White House fact sheet released this morning. "Today, the President is calling for administrative action directing agencies to ensure that by 2015, all new vehicles they purchase will be alternative-fuel vehicles, including hybrid and electric vehicles." Obama will announce $7,500 tax cuts for consumers who purchase electric vehicles, in pursuit of White House plans to put one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. There will also be grants for communities to purchase electric vehicles and more research and development funding for battery research. The federal fleet burned more than 414 million gallons of fuel in 2010, according to the General Services Administration. The total included about 322 million gallons of gasoline, more than 75 million gallons of diesel, 8.2 gallons each of biodiesel and ethanol.

Renewable Energy Economy: Mergers & Acquisitions Up 66%

Bouncing back from the economic recession, renewable energy mergers and acquisitions are up 66 percent in 2010. The recession that crippled the economy in 2008 saw a decline in the renewable energy market. A lack of confidence in the financial sector made it excessively difficult for renewable energy projects to secure financing. However, the renewable energy economy is bouncing back, showing a boom in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity in 2010. Renewable energy M&A activity spiked to 530 deals being made in 2010. This marks a dramatic increase over the 319 deals the year prior. Noteworthy deals included nuclear power generator Exelon Corp.'s $900 million acquisition of John Deere Renewables. Also, French nuclear energy company Areva SA acquired U.S. solar thermal energy company Ausra for $200 million, marking Areva SA's first move into the solar power market.The recent spike in renewable energy activity is in large part thanks to increased M&A activity in the U.S., which typically lags behind Europe in the renewable energy marketplace. The U.S. comprised 39 percent of renewable energy deals in 2010, in large part thanks to government-driven energy regulations as well as stimulus packages. The U.S. may well take the lead from Europe in renewables if the trend continues. It's not all good news, however, for the renewable energy market. 2010's M&A activity saw a 32 percent decline in overall value of transactions, falling from $48.8 billion to $33.4 billion according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

2022 Qatar World Cup to Feature Solar Power Floating Cloud

Qatar has been selected as the sight of the most coveted international sporting event in the world: the World Cup. In 2022, the tiny Middle Eastern country will play host to the world's most elite athletes, but there's just one problem… temperatures in the summer exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius). To keep both players and fans cool in the stadium, engineers are designing a solar power artificial solar cloud that will provide shade for the matches. Researchers at Qatar University's engineering school are designing a helium-filled airship that will move via four solar powered turbine engines (think helicopter or hovercraft). Saud Abdul Ghani, head of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at Qatar University, says the "artificial cloud will move by remote control, made of 100 percent light carbonic materials, fuelled by four solar power engines and it will fly high to protect direct and indirect sun rays to control temperatures at the open playgrounds." The initial floating cloud for the 2022 World Cup will cost roughly $500,000. However, engineers predict the cloud design will be put into commercial production to be used at beaches, car parking lots and other venues, thus bringing the price down considerably.

US Solar Energy Industry Experiences Record-Breaking Growth in 2010

The U.S. solar energy industry had a banner year in 2010 with the industry's total market value growing 67 percent from $3.6 billion in 2009 to $6.0 billion in 2010, according to the U.S. Solar Market InsightTM: Year-in-Review 2010 released today by the Solar Energy Industries Association® (SEIA®) and GTM Research. Solar was a bright spot in the U.S. economy last year as the fastest growing energy sector, contrasting overall U.S. GDP growth of less than 3 percent. In total, 878 megawatts (MW) of photovoltaic (PV) capacity and 78 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) were installed in the U.S. in 2010, enough to power roughly 200,000 homes. In addition, more than 65,000 homes and businesses added solar water heating (SWH) or solar pool heating (SPH) systems. The U.S. PV market made the most significant strides in 2010, more than doubling installation totals from 2009 according to the latest U.S. Solar Market InsightTM report. This expansion was driven by the Federal section 1603 Treasury program, completion of significant utility-scale projects, expansion of new state markets and declining technology costs. The section 1603 Treasury program helped fourth-quarter installations surge to a record 359 MW and was critical in allowing the solar industry to employ more than 93,000 Americans in 2010. Originally set to expire at the end of 2010, the 1603 Treasury program was ultimately extended through 2011. In addition, market diversification was a distinguishing characteristic of U.S. solar energy development in 2010. Sixteen states each installed more than 10 MW of PV in 2010, up from only four in 2007. The top 10 states for PV installation in 2010 were: California, New Jersey, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Florida, North Carolina and Texas.

How Japan's Crisis Could Affect Cleantech

Japan's massive earthquake, tsunami, and now nuclear disaster, is starting to shine a spotlight on just how important the country is in terms of clean energy technology, from solar to electric cars. In these early days, two initial assessments have emerged. The supply of materials and parts for solar and EVs could face serious interruptions in the short term. At the same time, the focus on Japan's partially melting nuclear reactors could also bolster solar and other renewable energy development as policymakers and investors reconsider their support of nuclear power. Japan is both a large producer and user of solar energy equipment. The country accounted for more than a fifth of the world's chip production in 2010, according to IHS iSuppli, and many of the same Japanese firms that make chips and electronic gadgets also make solar energy equipment. While factories for making the final products may not suffer serious long-term damage, they might find it difficult to get raw materials and parts in the near term, the market research firm said.

Will Japan's nuclear crisis affect U.S. energy debate?

Americans' concerns over nuclear power have spiked in the wake of Japan's ongoing nuclear crisis, but how the events will affect the long-term discussion over sources of energy is still unclear. In a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted with 1,004 adults last week, about 70 percent of American's said that they are now more concerned with a nuclear disaster occurring in the U.S. In that same poll, 47 percent of respondents said they oppose construction of nuclear power plants in the U.S, compared to 44 percent who favor it. A survey done before the Japanese earthquake and tsunami found that 57 percent either strongly or somewhat supported "the use of nuclear energy as one of the ways to provide electricity for the U.S.," with 38 percent strongly or somewhat opposed. Support for nuclear energy peaked last year, with 62 percent voicing support. Overall, support has been over 50 percent for most of the last decade and is higher now than it was a decade ago. In its analysis, Gallup said that short-term worries over nuclear disasters may not affect Americans' support for nuclear energy over the long term. Still, a look at the media coverage and discussion during the crisis shows that the incidents have served as an unhappy reminder of the risks of nuclear energy, which will likely cause regulatory reviews of nuclear safety at a number of U.S. plants. The nuclear crisis also appears to have rekindled people's awareness of radiation and the sources of the country's energy, all of which have trade-offs.

Rooftop Wind Turbine Idea

There’s a lot of reasons why most homes in America do not have their own wind turbines — high costs, permitting issues, and just plain aesthetics. But there’s a wave of entrepreneurs trying to change that, including James Post, who has developed the SmartWind RidgeBlaster and submitted the concept to GE’s Ecomagination challenge. Watch the video (complete with music that would make the Techno Viking proud) below for a comprehensive description of the idea. It’s a wind turbine that stretches horizontally across the ridge of a gable roof, and has a diameter of 22 inches. The wind is meant to sweep up the roof through the turbines and the design is supposed to be able to utilize wind at any angle. According to GE’s materials on the concept, the customer would pay around $4,000 for a 1.8 kW, plus the cost of a 3 kW grid-tied inverter.  

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