BP Bows Out Of Solar, But Industry Outlook Still Sunny

The solar energy business is growing quickly, but future growth will not include oil giant BP. At the IHS CERAWeek energy conference in Houston, BP's CEO made it clear the company is done with solar. "We have thrown in the towel on solar," Bob Dudley said after delivering a wide-ranging speech Wednesday. "Not that solar energy isn't a viable energy source, but we worked at it for 35 years, and we really never made money," he added. BP, which announced it was winding down its solar business last year, says it is still committed to other renewable resources, such as wind power and biofuels production. But the move away from solar is especially striking considering BP's recent history. In 2000, the company changed its logo to resemble the sun and made a big deal of its "beyond petroleum" campaign. BP's exit from solar has more to do with a changing business than lack of will. "The solar industry BP was involved in 10 years ago has very few similarities to the solar industry today," says Finlay Colville, vice president of the research firm NPD Solarbuzz. Colville says BP was one of the early companies in the solar business. Back then, the market was based on a different model — one more focused on research and development. He says now the business is all about efficient production and low prices, something more suited to the Asian companies taking a lead role in the solar panel-manufacturing business; so BP's exit from solar doesn't mean the industry overall is in trouble.

United States Winning the Clean Energy Race

In recent years, the balance usually tips in China's favor when it comes to trade with the United States. But according to a new study there's at least one sector in which America is starting to have the upper hand: clean energy. The United States exported more clean energy products to China in 2011 than it imported, according to a report released Wednesday by the Pew Charitable Trusts, ultimately amounting to a $1.63 billion trade surplus in solar and wind power equipment among other products. About $8.5 billion worth of clean energy goods and services shuttled between the world's two largest economies in 2011, according to Pew. While that's just a sliver of the half a trillion dollars' worth of goods and services traded between China and the United States, the U.S. surplus in the clean energy sector challenges widely held views that China is becoming the world's foremost supplier.

Solar Power Required On Every New Home — Pioneering Requirement From Lancaster, California

A first-of-its-kind requirement for solar power systems is going to be implemented in Lancaster, California. The requirement is that solar power systems be installed on all new single-family homes within the city. Furthermore, this announcement comes from a Republican mayor. All newly-built single-family homes within Lancaster will be required to feature solar power systems starting on January 1, 2014. This is a rather stunning announcement in itself, but the fact that it comes from a Republican is even more surprising. Mayor Rex Parris is a big solar power advocate, though. You may have heard of him already, as he has previously stated his intention to make Lancaster “the solar energy capital of the world.” The new requirements “will be written into Lancaster’s ‘Residential Zones Update’ on residential solar,” Greentech Media reports. In addition to a variety of new requirements having to do with energy efficiency and green building practices, new single family homes will have to meet minimum solar energy system requirements.

Alta Devices Achieves 30.8% Efficiency Record with New Generation Solar Cell Technology

Alta Devices today disclosed that it has reached 30.8% solar cell efficiency. This new NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) verified record has resulted from the company's first implementation of a new generation "dual junction" solar cell technology which augments the company's "single junction" technology. Higher efficiency directly translates into more electricity generated from smaller surface areas. Therefore, applying Alta's highly efficient, very thin and flexible mobile power technology to consumer devices can extend the battery life of everyday products such as smartphones, tablets, keyboards, mice, remote controls, and more. "We are changing the way solar technology is used," said Chris Norris, president and CEO of Alta Devices. "With our technology, enough energy can be generated from sunlight to effectively power devices in ways not previously possible. We are working with a number of customers who are designing their mobile products to increase battery life; and in some cases, we can provide enough energy to eliminate the need to plug into the electric grid."

Solar M&A Deals in 2012 and Into the Future

The continued accumulation of solar project portfolios drove much of the M&A activity in 2012, as transaction activity was strongest among targets categorized as producers of solar energy and EPC integrators/developers.

Solar Portfolio Continues Dramatic Outperformance - up 86% YTD

As a result, of being in this higher risk environment we have to think defensively and make sure to protect some of these incredible profits.

A Daunting Expedition Through The Energy Harvesting Countryside - Part 1

I live in the middle of the woods out in the country in Ohio; far enough out where there is no cable service, no gas, no piped-in water, no sewers, cell phones don't work, the grid provides reasonable power most of the time, and the one analog-POTs telephone line works if there is not too much water in the crick.

Battery Backup: Power When it's Needed Most

Many homeowners want security and protection in case the grid goes down, and battery backup systems are a great solution to bring this peace of mind.

A Daunting Expedition Through The Energy Harvesting Countryside.- Part 2

In Part 1 we examined the energy bank, and the loads upon it. Next, we will explore some of the energy harvesting needs and capabilities.

New solar cell technology improves efficiency by 15%

Three months of experimental validation allowed us to refine the technique to the point we could pursue grant funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and submit a provisional patent application.

The Future of Distributed Wind Power

Over the past few years we've seen a real interest from schools, commercial sites, and homeowners. Local and federal governments are also seeing the benefit in on-site energy generation.

Engaging with Consumers

The platform uses unique social media, gamification and other features to drive engagement, uses automatic rebate submissions, vendor marketplaces and other features to make taking action easy, and has functionality to cover the full breadth of utility engagement programs (web portals, out-bound messaging, field staff ops., reporting, etc.).

Taking Global Risks by Storm

Unique, global risks—whether a disastrous tsunami, puzzling regulations or unpredictable foreign travel mishaps—are a formidable reality as the clean tech industry continues to expand. Awareness of these risks and working with partners that can offer proactive guidance and cost-effective risk transfer solutions can help ensure the industry's continued success.

Extended U.S. Tax Credit Blows Fresh Air Into Wind Projects

Wind-farm construction in the U.S. nearly ground to a halt after ending in a frenzy late last year. But the pace of turbine installation is set to pick up substantially later this year, largely thanks to the recently enacted extension of the federal production tax credit, say utility and wind-sector experts. Frank Maisano, an energy specialist at Bracewell & Giuliani, a law firm in Washington, D.C., with renewable-energy clients, says that, with so much uncertainty about extending the credit beyond 2012, many developers rushed to finish projects by year-end. The American Wind Energy Association says wind-turbine contractors brought on line a record 13,124 MW of wind capacity in 2012, including 8,380 MW in the last three months. Tim Maag, vice president and general manager at Mortenson Construction, saw a big drop-off in wind-farm work for the first half of 2013. "Due to the fact that the extension took so long to get passed, most of our customers had put their construction plans on hold, which was expected," he says, adding that work in the third and fourth quarters will be "very robust." Says Maag, "We have responded to numerous RFPs and pricing requests since the beginning of the year." The tax-credit extension approved by Congress and signed by President Obama in January as part of the "fiscal cliff" compromise provides a $22/MWH tax credit for the first 10 years of a wind farm's operation. For the first time, the latest extension applies to all projects under construction by Dec. 31, 2013, even if they are not completed until next year. Under the previous tax credit, a wind farm had to be completed and operational by the end of 2012 to qualify.

Firm Proposes 'Backbone' to Bring Offshore Wind Power to Market

Among the many roadblocks that have prevented offshore wind farms from proliferating off the Atlantic coast is how to get the electricity generated from the Outer Continental Shelf to the mainland. A transmission “backbone” that would run under the ocean floor parallel to the coast is being proposed as a solution to that problem. The Atlantic Wind Connection, which counts Google Inc. among its corporate sponsors, seeks to connect up to 7,000 megawatts of offshore wind power to locations on land between northern New Jersey and southern Virginia. The backbone transmission line would allow many individual wind turbines to connect to it and then deliver that electricity to land through a handful of connections. The alternative would be aboveground individual lines from one or a handful of wind turbines, lines that typically operate at a lower capacity and present more environmental challenges. Earlier this year, Atlantic Wind Connection announced that the first phase of the project would be constructed off the New Jersey coast because of the state’s commitment to developing the industry, not to mention the electricity potential off the state’s southern shores.

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