Key Issues In the Clean Tech Industry: The Role Of Public Relations

Once of the greatest barriers to the adoption of new clean technologies is the upfront cost, with the resulting sticker shock sending consumers running. Many clean tech firms offer attractive financing packages, but fall down on marketing them effectively, or -- on an even more basic level -- adequately explaining them.

U.S. wind growing again, but business still choppy

The U.S. wind industry is growing again after taking a big step backward last year. Yet turbine makers and wind farm developers are finding few reasons to celebrate as the clean energy source struggles to secure long-term government support while facing stiff competition from cheap natural gas. Once the world's top wind market, the United States ceded that mantle to China last year as a weak economy halted its growth and cut new installations to half of the 10,000 megawatts of capacity built in 2009. Since then, business has picked up, but not for the reasons the industry would like. Energy demand is still tepid due to a gurgling economic recovery, and the low cost of natural gas is keeping power prices low. Pricing in long-term power sales contracts signed by wind developers has fallen 30 percent in the last two years and will fall further this year, according to IHS Emerging Energy Research. Currently, the market is being shepherded by developers who are scrambling to put turbines in the ground ahead of a 2013 expiration of lucrative federal tax credits for wind. Beyond that date, the industry's fortunes are hazy.

U.S. gets World's Largest Wind-Blade Testing Facility

Boston, Massachusetts (USA) saw the opening of the world's largest large-scale wind turbine blade testing facility this week. The Wind Technology Testing Center—in partnership with the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory—can test blades up to 90 meters long, which is expected to be the industry's largest blade size in coming years. Prior to the facility's opening, domestically produced large-scale wind turbine blades had to be shipped outside of the U.S., usually to Europe, to be tested. The largest predecessors in the U.S. to the Wind Technology Testing Center could only support turbine blades no longer than 50 meters. The facility has the capacity to test up to three blades simultaneously. Standard tests measure fatigue through a four-month endurance process. Two-week-long static strength and resonance testing are also commonplace. The Wind Technology Testing Center itself took roughly two years to build at a cost of just under $40 million. $25 million was awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. $13.2 million in additional funds was provided through loans and grants furnished by the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust.

AltEnergyMag.com brings you all the news and information from AWEA WindPower 2011

AWEAWINDPOWER 2011 Conference & Exhibition will be held May 22 — 25, 2011 at the Anaheim Convention Center.  The WINDPOWER Conference & Exhibition is produced by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) to provide a venue for the wind industry to network, do business, and solve problems. Recognized as one of the fastest-growing trade shows in the U.S, WINDPOWER includes Nearly 1,400 exhibiting companies, thousands of qualified wind energy professionals, engaging educational information and unmatched networking opportunities and special events. As a media partner AltEnergyMag.com is hosting a Special AWEA newspage sponsored by KRWind.  We invite all exhibitors and attendees to check out and submit all your Conference news here. Also, stay tuned for our WindPower Conference report which will go online following the show.  

Landis+Gyr at Any Price? Smart Meters' Second Act

Landis+Gyr is said to be on the auction block — and big smart grid suitors have come to bid. Reuters has reported that General Electric was offering $2 billion for the Swiss-based smart metering giant, an offer that was followed by Toshiba's 200 billion yen ($2.48 billion) counter-offer, and entry by strategic bidders including Honeywell and ABB. And while some reports say GE had withdrawn its bid, I've heard that GE is very much still in the running. Landis+Gyr earned about $200 million on about $1.5 billion in annual revenues in the last year, Reuters' anonymous sources report. That puts a $2 billion-plus price firmly in the realm of long-term investment. But strategic buyers could squeeze a lot more value out of L+G by integrating its existing technologies and utility projects into their own lines of business. For example, GE's smart meter business relies on a host of partners for communications and networking, while L+G has its own 900-megahertz communications system, as well as back-end software to manage it all. With L+G, GE could stop just churning out smart meters like widgets, and start supplying a more holistic offering to utilities.

Chevy Volt to be assembled at solar-powered plant

In its first year the Chevrolet Volt has garnered several awards, including 2011 Motor Trend Car of the Year, Green Car Journal's 2011 Green Car of the Year, and Automobile's 2011 Automobile of the Year. And now the electric car with extended range is going to be built in a solar-powered facility. General Motors announced it is building the photovoltaic solar array, the largest in Southeast Michigan, at the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant. Sunlight will help to create the $41,000 Volt. Once it's completed, the 516-kilowatt project built by GM and DTE Energy will generate 54,750 volts. Plus, the 6-acre land tract will generate 15 megawatts of electricity throughout Southeast Michigan. According to GM, the U.S. automaker will save about $15,000 a year over 20 years with the 264,000-square-foot array. DTE is investing $3 million into the project.

DOE Wrapping Up Renewable-Energy Project Loan Guarantee Program

The U.S. Department of Energy said Tuesday that it has stopped accepting applications for loan guarantees to help finance new solar, wind or other renewable energy facilities and suggested there would be winners and losers among companies that have applications pending. The loan guarantee program for renewable energy generation projects, called "Section 1705," after the portion of the 2009 Recovery Act that supports it, expires Sept. 30 and only projects that can start construction and close their loan guarantees by that date will be considered for a guarantee, Jonathan Silver, the head of the agency's loan programs office, wrote in a blog post on the DOE web site. The agency has issued roughly $1.6 billion in loan guarantees for 19 renewable energy projects to date. Loan guarantees for roughly $800 million in remaining funds will be issued to companies that have already applied, whose applications are "farthest along in the process," and whose projects are most likely to meet the Sept. 30 construction deadline, Silver wrote. "Not all these projects will succeed by September 30th," he wrote. The DOE placed another group of applications "on hold" after determining that the projects were unlikely to meet the Sept. 30 deadline, Silver wrote. He added that if the program received more funding in the future, those applications could be revived. The DOE notified companies on Tuesday whether their applications would proceed or not, Silver wrote.

SB X 1-2 and California's New Energy Future

This law, called the California Renewable Energy Resources Act, obligates all California electricity providers to obtain at least 33% of their energy from renewable resources by the year 2020. This requirement constitutes the most aggressive renewable portfolio standard in the country.

Mechanical ventilation and heat recovery System with integral heat pump

This article explains: some background to our bungalow design, why we had the original mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system installed; why we chose the latest system and our experience with both systems.

International Wind Energy Development: World Market Update 2010

This year's World Market Updated includes a full chapter dedicated to Direct-Drive WTG versus Gearbox-Equipped WTG. The increased use of the direct-drive turbines across the wind market is impacting the wind industry. The World Market Update 2010 identifies and compares the pros and cons of both the direct-drive and gearbox-equipped concepts, as well as the implications of using permanent magnets on a large scale.

Echo Captures More Untapped Solar Energy

This is an interesting use of existing technologies combined to build a viable solution.

Suppliers Converging on Electricity Distribution Automation Opportunity

Short description of recent trade show visits, highlighting increased supplier and customer awareness of distribution automation as stepping-stone to renewables integration and development of smart grid

U.N.: Renewables could be 80 percent of energy by 2050

Renewable sources such as solar, wind and hydropower could fulfill almost 80 percent of the world's energy demand by 2050 with the right policies, according to a U.N. report which won backing from governments on Monday. The 26-page study, by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), broadly matched a draft written by scientists. It was approved by government delegates at talks in Abu Dhabi. Environmental groups hailed the report as a guide to the shift from fossil fuels to combat climate change, a process set to cost trillions of dollars. But they said some draft findings were watered down, partly due to opposition by oil exporters. "Close to 80 percent of the world energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies," the IPCC said. The report said moves to cleaner energies including geothermal or ocean energy would help cut greenhouse gas emissions, which it blamed for global warming including floods, droughts, heat waves and rising sea levels.

Solar Technology Continues To Dominate Investment In Q1

U.S. venture capital investment in cleantech companies increased by 54% to $1.14 billion in the first quarter of this year (Q1'11), from $743.3 million in the first quarter of 2010 (Q1'10). This increase occurred despite a 13% decrease in deals year-on-year from 79 to 69, according to an Ernst & Young LLP analysis based on data from Dow Jones VentureSource. The top 10 deals in Q1'11 totaled $683.1 million, 60% of the total raised for the quarter, and two deals accounted for 18% of the total dollars raised. "The U.S. cleantech market experienced continuing momentum - both from a venture capital perspective and among the larger investment community," says Jay Spencer, Ernst & Young LLP's Americas cleantech director. "The second generation of solar companies and larger, later-stage rounds dominated VC investor interest in Q1." The energy/electricity generation segment, led by strong solar investments, raised $450.3 million through 16 deals in Q1'11. The solar sub-segment accounted for 32% of the total dollars raised for the quarter with $362.7 million, a 162% gain from Q1'10.

First Solar: European Market Is A Mess, Q1 Sales Flat

Changes in solar incentives in key markets such as Germany and Italy are making life difficult for major players such as First Solar, which reported a flat first-quarter revenue and lower earnings on Tuesday afternoon. "With a lot of pending changes, the market started out really slow in 2011," said Rob Gillette, First Solar's CEO, during a conference call with analysts. "We expect the European industry demand to go through a period of adjustment in the second and third quarter." Manufactures saw solar panel prices falling faster than expected, Gillette said, and the lower selling prices were partly responsible for the company's financial results. Europe is the largest solar market, a result of a type of incentive policy that requires utilities to buy solar electricity at government-set, premium prices. The prices are supposed to fall over time as the market grows and production costs drop, but political leaders in Europe in recent years have taken to making extra cuts to curb explosive growth and minimize the impact on consumers, who help to pay for these incentives through their electric bills.

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