The controversial government program that funded failed solar company Solyndra, and became a lighting rod in the 2012 presidential election, is officially in the black. According to a report by the Department of Energy, interest payments to the government from projects funded by the Loan Programs Office were $810 million as of September - higher than the $780 million in losses from loans it sustained from startups including Fisker Automotive, Abound Solar and Solyndra, which went bankrupt after receiving large government loans intended to help them bring their advanced green technologies to market. The report's findings are more of a political victory than a financial one. It took the program three years to break even after Solyndra's failure, while during that same time the Standard & Poor's 500 index increased 67 percent. Still, the federal loans program is a success for taxpayers, judging by the numbers in the new report, the DOE said. After Solyndra's 2011 collapse, the program was sharply criticized by Republican lawmakers as a waste of public money and a fountain of cronyism. The outcries mounted as others in the program failed, and the DOE issued no new loans between late 2011 and this year. "Taxpayers are not only benefitting from some of the world's most innovative energy projects... but these projects are making good on their loan repayments," Peter Davidson, executive director of the Loan Programs Office, said in an interview on Wednesday. Davidson took over the loan program in May of 2013.
Climate-conscious Americans have long glanced enviously across the Pacific to China and its ever-growing number of often-gargantuan wind farms. It turns out that they have less to be jealous about than previously thought: The United States has more wind energy powering its grid than any other country in the world, says a report by EDF Renewable Energy, the largest third-party provider of operations and maintenance for wind renewable-energy projects in the country. Though China has more megawatts of wind turbines installed than the U.S—about 90,000 to America's 60,000—the U.S. actually produces more electricity that is delivered to the grid, which in turn reaches more businesses and homes. And while China's wind industry delivered less than 138 billion kilowatt-hours in 2013, the U.S.'s delivered more than 167 billion. That's 20 percent more than China. And the U.S.'s generation has been growing steadily since 2008, when it first overtook Germany to become the world's No. 1 producer.
Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are part of a growing number of tech and other major companies that are entering into long-term “power purchase” agreements (PPAs) with wind farms to ensure a steady stream of power, at a fixed cost, over a period as long as several decades. Most recently, last month Yahoo signed such a deal for wind power in the Great Plains with OwnEnergy, a wind energy developer. Google -- which is already carbon neutral and now trying to power itself with “100 percent renewable energy” -- has the longest history here. It has three PPA deals in the U.S. wind sector (in Iowa, Oklahoma, and Texas), and two more in Sweden. Microsoft, meanwhile, currently has two PPA deals with wind installments located near its data centers in Texas and Illinois. The agreements provide 285 megawatts of power to help drive both Bing searches and also its other online platforms, according to Brian Janous, the company’s director of energy strategy. What these deals have in common is that they involve purchasing clean energy in close proximity to the power hungry data centers that these companies operate -- data centers that in turn drive searches, apps like Gmail and much more. “These are very energy intensive operations that these companies are planning on running for years, and they know they need electricity,” says Emily Williams of the American Wind Energy Association.
Brazil finally entered the solar power sector on Friday, granting contracts for the construction of 31 solar parks as it tries to diversify its sources of generation amid an energy crisis caused by the worst drought in eight decades. Brazil's energy regulator, Aneel, concluded its first exclusive solar power auction on Friday, clinching 20-year energy supply contracts with companies that will invest 4.14 billion reais ($1.67 billion) and start to feed the national grid in 2017. The 31 solar parks, the first large-scale solar projects to be constructed in Brazil, will have a combined installed capacity of 1,048 megawatts (MW). Market expectations were for projected total awards of 500 MW. "This auction is a mark, not only because it signals the entrance of solar power in the Brazilian energy mix, but because it was one of the most competitive to date," said Mauricio Tolmasquim, head of the government's energy research company, EPE. The auction lasted more than eight hours. The final price for solar power came at around 220 reais ($89) per megawatt-hour, against an initial price of 262 reais ($106), an 18 percent discount. "This is one of the lowest prices for solar energy in the world," Tolmasquim said.
Siemens is developing a system of storing thermal energy in rocks with the aim of using it to harness excess power from wind turbines. A spokesperson told Windpower Monthly that the project is in the early stages of development and there is no specific timescale for the construction of a prototype of the system. He said the system would be scaleable for use on site at different projects. The company was unwilling to reveal specific technical details about the process, but said it relied on established technology. The storage of heat in rocks has been used as a method of energy retention for some time. But Siemens' system will transform the stored thermal energy back into electricity rather than use it for heating. This would be done in a "conventional manner" the spokesperson said. The captured heat would be used to create steam to generate electricity through steam turbines.
Could a long-vacant cigarette factory in North Carolina build the rechargeable battery that will unlock the future of the clean energy economy? The Swiss-based Alevo Group launched the new battery technology on Tuesday. After spending $68.5m (£42.5m) for the factory, the group said it would spend up to $1bn to develop a system that would get rid of waste on the grid and expand the use of wind and solar power. The project, a joint venture with state-owned China-ZK International Energy Investment Co, aims to ship its first GridBank, its patented battery array, to Guangdong Province this year, going into production on a commercial scale in mid-2015. The container-sized arrays store 2MW and would be installed on-site at power plants. Jostein Eikeland, Alevo’s chief executive, said in an interview that the company had an agreement with the Turkish state power authority, and was in discussions with US power companies. “It’s a gamechanger,” he said. “If we can take some of the massive energy that is wasted today by mismanagement of the grid and inject it where it is needed, everybody wins,” said Eikeland. Eikeland said the company would create 2,500 jobs at the factory in Concord over the next three years.
SolarWorld, the largest crystalline silicon solar producer in the Americas for nearly 40 years, announced that in 2015, it would add a solar-panel production line in Hillsboro to bring the panel-assembly factory's capacity up to 530 megawatts (MW), expand advanced cell production capacity by 100 MW and add 200 jobs. "It is no secret that the last several years have been tough for SolarWorld and for U.S. solar manufacturers in general," SolarWorld U.S. President Mukesh Dulani said. "However, thanks to a variety of factors, including our trade cases against China, difficult but necessary financial controls and a fantastic group of employees, we have turned the corner. Today's announcement shows that SolarWorld is not only here to stay, but it also is ready to extend our leadership in the American solar manufacturing industry." Dulani was joined at a morning news conference by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance. Sen. Wyden received a commemorative plaque thanking him for his years of support for SolarWorld and its workers during the cases. He also spoke at a SolarWorld employee forum after the news conference.
Sunrun, the largest dedicated residential solar company in the United States, today announced a partnership with OutBack Power Technologies, Inc. to pilot renewable energy storage-based systems for a select group of Sunrun solar customers. OutBack Power is a designer and manufacturer of power conversion systems incorporating energy storage for off-grid and grid-connected renewable energy applications. As part of the pilot, Sunrun will combine and test OutBack Power's technology consisting of weather-resistant batteries and inverters with home solar systems in both indoor and outdoor environments. "It is now more affordable than ever for consumers to run their homes with clean power, and we strongly believe that the next evolution of solar as a service for our customers is home solar paired with energy storage," said Sunrun's chief operating officer, Paul Winnowski. "With OutBack Power, we will further our commitment to providing customized and affordable home solar that allows customers to be a part of the solution for building a clean, modern grid that provides power when it is needed the most."
Have you ever noticed energy blogs or articles about small wind turbines comparing them directly with big wind technology and solar? I am writing this article to provide a little background on where small wind turbines can be very successful and where they make absolutely no sense. It also explains why the market for “Small Wind” is vastly different from that of “Big Wind.” First of all, “Small Wind” has been defined by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) as any turbines under 100 kW of rated power. As we all know, 100 kW wind turbines aren’t small! Therefore, others have decided to define them as anything up to 10 kW. For the purpose of this article, we use the same definition as AWEA, up to 100 kW. Full Article:
Using batteries to retain energy from rooftop solar systems will be too expensive for at least two years, according to industry executives. That means homeowners who add solar panels to save money on utility bills will continue to lose electricity during blackouts, even after an 80 percent decline in battery costs over the past decade. Residential solar systems typically send power to the grid, not directly to the house, and don’t run the home during a blackout. For batteries to save consumers money, stored energy must be drained daily, said Jamie Evans, who runs the U.S. Eco Solutions unit for Panasonic Corp., which supplies lithium-ion cells for Tesla Motors Inc. “Solar will need storage for grid stability,” Evans said yesterday in an interview at the Solar Power International convention in Las Vegas. “Battery costs need to come down and regulatory structures have to change to really scale up.” As residential solar become more common from California to New York, utility grids will increasingly become stressed without storage to ease supply and demand imbalances, he said. For now, that means battery storage only makes economic sense for large businesses that get hit with extra fees when their power usage exceeds utility expectations.
This years show takes place October 20 - 23, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Over 15,000 + visitors are expected in attendance to learn about the latest technology innovations, financing models, business best practices and policy and incentive programs that are contributing to the growth of the solar industry. With over 600 exhibitors from 100 countries on display showcasing the entire system of solar technology and advances in solar cell and module technology, balance of system components, solar heating and cooling and energy storage. This year Solar Power International will offer 100 sessions, eight tracks, Master Speakers, 25-minute QuickTalks, and some of the best education in the industry Whether you’re an attendee or an exhibitor, an installer or manufacturer. As a media partner AltEnergyMag.com is covering Solar Power International 2014 and bringing industry news and exciting new products to our eMagazine to help our readers make sense of this massive event. Make sure to check out our special SPI 2014 Newspage for Exhibitor news. Click here to check out our SPI 2014 Tradeshow report to see what exciting new products we found at this years show.
The largest military contractor in the United States is developing a nuclear fusion reactor that is small enough to fit on the back of a truck but has the ability to produce the energy required to power a warship. Lockheed Martin said in a statement released on Wednesday this week that its secretive Skunk Works division — the unit responsible for the U-2 spy plane and F-117 stealth jet — has already applied for several patents related to the high-tech reactor it has in the works, and expects it to be deployed during the next decade if interested industry and government partners sign on to help starting soon. “Our compact fusion concept combines several alternative magnetic confinement approaches, taking the best parts of each, and offers a 90 percent size reduction over previous concepts,” Tom McGuire, the compact fusion lead for the Skunk Works’ Revolutionary Technology Programs, said in a statement. “The smaller size will allow us to design, build and test the CFR in less than a year.”
With less than one week before the largest North America solar trade show, SPI, kicks off in Las Vegas, visitors are being advised to expect to spend their day on their feet. With the two South Halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center being consumed by the exhibition, organizers say that attendees can expect to take many more than 10,000 steps a day. Unique booth designs and companies going “all out” are to be expected at SPI this year, according to organizers with Hanwha Q CELLS taking out the largest booth space. 25% of the exhibitors are from outside of the U.S., with 23 countries being represented. Chinese, Germany and Spanish country pavilions will also occupy large sections of the trade show floor. Of the U.S. exhibitors, Californian companies represent the largest group, making up 31%. The state is followed by Texas, Colorado and Ohio – with each of these states comprising 5% of the total number of exhibitors.
SolarCity, the nation's largest residential solar installer and financier, is coupling Tesla's battery-based energy storage hardware with its rooftop solar systems. Peter Rive, the co-founder and CTO of SolarCity, spoke at last week's Energy Storage North America conference and said that the standard offering from SolarCity could eventually include storage. Rive added that the combination of solar and storage "won't look that much different for the customer," but that "the benefit to the customer will be that you will have a little backup power." Defecting from the grid? A recent RMI blog post contends that "continued rapid declines in the cost of solar and the start of the same trend for storage mean that grid parity may come much sooner than previously thought -- and well within the 30-year planned economic life of typical utility investments." When asked about this report on the economics of consumers defecting from the grid, Rive had this to say: "I hope it doesn't happen. I don't think it makes sense for someone to remove themselves from the grid. If you think about the load on a circuit as opposed to an individual home, an average home on a circuit is maybe 3 kilowatts peak. But you may find that any given home will go up to 10 kilowatts at any given time. That means the battery would have to be sized to 10 kilowatts."
A proposed “tower power” solar power plant near Joshua Tree National Park that drew heavy opposition from environmental groups has been scrapped. An application to state regulators for the Palen solar power project, a joint venture by Oakland-based BrightSource and the Spanish solar power giant Abengoa Solar, was withdrawn recently. Two 750-foot towers were originally proposed for a nearly 2,000-acre east Riverside County project that would have been near Joshua Tree National Park and the Pacific Flyway, a path migrating birds travel that often includes a rest in the Salton Sea. David Lamfrom, California Desert programs manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, said the project had the potential to be more damaging to wildlife than the 450-foot Ivanpah towers. State regulators recently ordered the project scaled back from two towers to one. “After carefully reviewing the proposed decision recommending approval of one tower, as well as other aspects of the development, we determined it would be in the best interest of all parties to bring forward a project that would better meet the needs of the market and energy consumers,” Joe Desmond, senior vice president of marketing and government affairs at BrightSource, said in a statement.
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