Archive for May 2011

Las Cruces company installs 434 solar panels

May 27–LAS CRUCES — F&A Dairy Products on the West Mesa Industrial Park is going green, and it’s not because it’s making blue cheese.

About an acre of land just south of the plant holds 434 solar panels for a 100 kilowatt array that converts the sun’s energy into electricity. The power generated now pays for about 30 percent of F&A’s electric bill for its water system, which takes wastewater, aerates it, and uses it to water crops several miles away.

“The array broke ground in late March of this year and went operational in the first part of May,” said Mellow Honek, design engineer with Las Cruces-based Sunspot Solar Energy Systems, which handled the installation. “This is the first large-scale operational photovoltaic system in Las Cruces.”

Bob Snyder, vice president of New Mexico operations for F&A, said it is too early to judge the impact, but the company is happy with the investment.

“We just turned it on, but so far it looks like it’s working pretty well,” Snyder said. “We’re just dipping our toe in the water.”

Still, F&A Dairy Products plans to increase its solar field from one acre to about four acres.

Honek gave a tour of the array Thursday. He said he could not reveal the cost of the project, but said installation usually runs about $4.50 to $5 per watt for such a commercial job. For a 100 kilowatt array, that would put the price tag in the $450,000 to $500,000 range.

Honek said the positive effect for a business is to decrease, possibly drastically

so, energy expense.

“If we see another business cycle like we’ve just seen, the dairy is going to have significant advantage over its competitors,” he said. “And you can apply that to any industry.”

The panels

The solar panels, or modules as they are called, are approximately 5 { feet by 3 \ feet and are aligned in eight rows. Each panel holds 60 solar cells, which means there are 26,040 solar cells in the array.

Tom Lee of Sunspot Solar said the array produces 700 to 800 kilowatt hours a day.

“Output of this array in one day is what your house requires in a month,” Lee said.

“The solar panels make DC power and connect to an inverter that changes DC into AC,” Honek said.

He said that solar panels actually work better in cooler weather, as long as the sun is shining.

“Solar panels are real interesting creatures; their job is to look at the sun but when they get hot, they do not produce as much electricity,” Honek said. “There are other sunny places in the country, but the advantage here is we’re at elevation. We have lower temperatures; it might be 120 in Phoenix when it’s 100 to 105 degrees here in Las Cruces.”

He said southern New Mexico is good for another reason.

“We’re very fortunate here in New Mexico that the only thing we really have to deal with is dust,” Honek said. “Other parts of country have tree sap and other things that get on a solar panel and create some serious maintenance issues. With dust, all it takes is a nice wind or rain and the solar panels are washed off.”

Renewable energy

City Councilor Nathan Small was on hand for the tour, along with Councilor Dolores Connor and state Rep. Joni Gutierrez. The solar array is a welcome addition to the West Mesa area, Small said. Already in the industrial park is Sapphire Energy’s test facility where the company is working to convert algae into fuel and, in the not-too-distant future, the addition of a SunEdison solar power producing facility.

“I stand here and see Sapphire over there see the solar panels here and see SunEdison coming in and you get the sense that Las Cruces is working hard to try and take advantage of the full economic potential of renewable energy,” Small said.

Brook Stockberger can be reached at (575) 541-5457

 

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Copyright (c) 2011, Las Cruces Sun-News, N.M.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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Milpitas contracts for solar panels on public buildings

by Ian Bauer

City of Milpitas is opting into a solar plan in which many city-owned facilities will be partly powered by the sun within a year.

Milpitas City Council voted 4-0 May 17 to approve and authorize Milpitas City Manager Tom Williams to execute a solar power purchase agreement with San Francisco-based Ecoplexus Inc. a company developing more than 40 solar photovoltaic projects, according to its website.

A power purchase agreement financing model is a “third party” ownership model, which requires a separate, taxable entity (a solar power seller like Ecoplexus) to provide financing, design, construction, installation, operations and maintenance of solar power panels on public agency facilities like those in Milpitas. The public agency enters into a long-term contract to purchase 100 percent of the electricity generated by the photovoltaic solar system.

“The power purchase agreement is an investment that allows public facilities to install solar panels with minimal or no investment,” Greg Armendariz, Milpitas Public Works director/city engineer, told the council.

Armendariz said the solar installation will involve three types carport, roof-mounted and ground-mounted solar panels on eight sites. The first sites that will receive arrays will be the Milpitas Public Library garage and Gibraltar Water Pump Station.

Armendariz said additional sites for solar panel installation, which could be used to pay down lighting costs and other power needs, include the city’s


Main Sewage Pump Station and corporation yard; Milpitas Sports Center; Barbara Lee Senior Center; Milpitas Community Center; Milpitas Police Department/Public Works Building; and Milpitas Fire Station No. 1.

The solar arrays are expected to offset standard power usage by 73 percent.

Under the plan, Armendariz said the city agrees to purchase electric solar power from the third party (Ecoplexus) at agreed-upon rates for 20 years. He added with little investment on the city’s part, City of Milpitas expected to lower its energy bills for those facilities, potentially saving approximately $3.9 million over a 20-year period.

“This third party of course achieves the benefits of the rebates and the ongoing revenue and so their investors are paid back for that initial investment,” Armendariz said.

In February, the council elected to participate in a nine-agency collaborative, by executing an agreement with County of Santa Clara, as the lead agency, to purchase solar power.

The county and all the participating cities will commit to purchasing electric power, generated from third party solar power panel installations, at competitive fixed pricing over a 20-year period. The county then issued a request for proposals seeking solar power purchase providers and selected the most qualified proposals.

In April, the county, the Town of Los Gatos and Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority approved power purchase agreement contracts under this arrangement.

City of Milpitas submitted 16 facilities as potential solar panel installation sites, which were included under the medium and small installation categories. Two firms Borrego Solar Systems Inc. and Ecoplexus were selected for these categories.

Last December, the council authorized an agreement with Borrego Solar. But Borrego and the city were not able to reach agreement on the solar energy rate and instead Milpitas officials began negotiations with Ecoplexus.

“The results were that we ended up with very favorable terms and conditions with this contract,” Armendariz said.

Contract provisions include solar power purchase rates equal to or less than Pacific Gas & Electric Co. electric rates; the solar power purchase rate increases are capped at 3 percent annually (PG&E rates have averaged annual increases in excess of 6 percent); minimum solar power production is guaranteed at 80 percent of the design production throughout the life of the panels (which assures the city that the system will be properly maintained and operated by Ecoplexus); buy-out provisions allow the city to purchase the system at fair market value after 10 years; the city has the option to purchase additional energy; and assurance that the solar provider shall remove all equipment at the end of the term (either early termination or full term).

Armendariz said the solar panels would lessen the impact of future Pacific Gas & Electric Co. rate increases. He noted that PG&E rates rise on average between 5- to 7-percent annually.

“We anticipate that we’ll probably even see double-digit increases in the future,” he said. “So this mechanism, where we can install solar power, is a hedge against those increasing electrical costs.”

During the council meeting, Mayor Jose Esteves asked staff what the risks are to the city.

Armendariz responded that city staff saw no “downside.”

“How much is the city’s investment?” Esteves asked further.

Armendariz replied there was almost “zero” investment on the city’s part and that $200,000 to $300,000 had already been earmarked under the city’s multi-year capital improvement project plan for solar carports to be built at the Main Sewage Station.

“It’s in our CIP, and we’re planning to do it anyway …,” Armendariz added. “That’s the only investment the city will make and it’s already in our capital improvement plan.”

Others on the council asked why out of the city’s initial 16 projects were there now less than 10 sites set for solar panel installation.

Armendariz said many of the proposed sites including placing solar panels on the city’s three smaller fire stations were found to be infeasible due to a lack of sufficient space to allow for solar panel power generation.

Armendariz said a building like Milpitas City Hall would not accommodate use of solar panels either because the roof top area would not generate enough power to offset “the tremendous energy usage of the building.”

“It’s a four-story building and multi-story buildings are very difficult to have pencil out,” Armendariz said.

Councilwoman Debbie Giordano asked if parks had been considered for solar panels to provide lighting.

Armendariz responded that no parks had been explored due to existing lighting systems that dim at night as well as the problem of placing solar panels that might be blocked by trees.

Construction of this solar panel project is expected to start in September. The work is scheduled to be completed by March 30, 2012.

“We do have to be online by March 30,” Armendariz said. “By next year, we would be fully commissioned and online.”

Councilman Armando Gomez was absent from the meeting.

 

Contact Ian Bauer at ibauer@themilpitaspost.com or 408-262-2454.

 

visit www.themilpitaspost.com

SPG Solar Installs 891 kW PV System For Lakeside Dairy

Lakeside Dairy in Hanford, Calif., has completed a new solar energy system to power its milking barn and other dairy operations and cut its use of conventional energy by 75%. The family-run dairy operation has 7,000 head of cattle and a custom farming business.

Developed, designed and installed by SPG Solar, the 891 kW solar energy system consists of 3,240 Suntech solar modules and two Solaron inverters. It is projected to generate over 1.7 MWh annually, according to SPG Solar.

Rabobank NA, a community bank that provides solar financing to California farms, businesses and public entities, is providing the construction and term financing for the solar project.

The wrong sites for solar

In the name of solar energy, the Obama administration is about to open up millions of acres of desert to development. Such a move is unnecessary.

 

By Erica Rosenberg and Janine Blaeloch

 

May 18, 2011

Is it possible that solar energy — clean, renewable, virtually infinite — could have a downside? As it’s being pursued on our public lands, yes.

 

In the name of greening America, the Obama administration is about to open up as much as 21.5 million acres of mostly undisturbed, fragile desert land for potential industrial-scale solar energy development. That means huge swaths of public land in the West could be developed, degraded and effectively privatized.But such degradation isn’t necessary. We can have solar energy while keeping the desert wild and public lands truly public. The government has lower-impact options, such as putting solar developments on already degraded public and private land. It could also pursue the more efficient and far less damaging tactic of deploying solar panels across vast acreages of rooftops and parking lots.

With renewables at the forefront of the administration’s efforts to address energy dependence and climate change, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar promised in 2008 to “put a bull’s-eye on public lands” for solar development, and he’s keeping his word.

By the end of 2010, the Bureau of Land Management — the Interior Department agency that manages one-10th of America’s land for multiple use — had fast-tracked 14 solar developments across the Southwest, including six in California. As part of streamlining the process, Salazar himself signed off on nine of the projects, thereby foreclosing public appeals.

Given the dizzying pace of permitting, each project was pushed through with little meaningful public review or environmental impact analysis. Each has an average footprint of 4,300 acres; when they’re completed, conversion of the sites — from desert habitat and multiple-use land to single-use industrial zones — will be total.

To fend off litigation and controversy that the expedited process spawned, the Department of the Interior in 2008 also initiated a “programmatic” environmental impact statement, which allows it to establish a broader, systematic plan for solar development on public lands. Groups like ours hoped that the process would take a harder look at which, if any, public lands should be opened for potential solar development, with a clear assessment of projects’ cumulative impacts. Early on, the administration said the programmatic process would look at 676,000 acres of “solar study areas.” The assumption was that acreage would be whittled down as environmental conflicts and other objections were raised.

Instead, the December 2010 draft proposal throws open the gates to an ongoing land rush. The “preferred alternative” keeps 21.5 million acres open for development — 33 times as much acreage as originally advertised.

What’s fueling the demand for land? Battling climate change and a dismal economy with green jobs, the Obama administration is offering generous subsidies for Big Solar development. These subsidies include cash grants of up to 30% of the cost of a project and loan guarantees in the billions, and they accrue to familiar corporate interests: oil companies, utilities and Wall Street firms. For example, $1.37 billion is going to Bright Source — whose investors include BP, Chevron and Morgan Stanley — for three proposed plants in the Mojave Desert. BLM tops it off by offering lease rates based on artificially low land values.

Claims of reducing greenhouse gases undergird the project approvals. Yet research shows that carbon storage rates in the Mojave rival or exceed those of some forest and grassland ecosystems, so the harm of carbon released during construction could offset the promised benefits of the utility-scale solar developments.

On top of that, the estimated operational life of each project runs from 30 to 50 years, but environmental impacts to the land will be felt for centuries. Although to some they appear devoid of life, the deserts and their fragile soils are biologically rich, providing habitat for rare and protected plants and animals like the desert tortoise, the fringe-toed lizard and the Joshua tree. Even BLM concedes in its draft analysis that desert ecosystems could take up to 3,000 years to fully recover from the soil and vegetation disturbances associated with the industrial sites.

But such degradation isn’t necessary. We can have solar energy while keeping the desert wild and public lands truly public. The government has lower-impact options, such as putting solar developments on already degraded public and private land. It could also pursue the more efficient and far less damaging tactic of deploying solar panels across vast acreages of rooftops and parking lots.

With renewables at the forefront of the administration’s efforts to address energy dependence and climate change, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar promised in 2008 to “put a bull’s-eye on public lands” for solar development, and he’s keeping his word.

By the end of 2010, the Bureau of Land Management — the Interior Department agency that manages one-10th of America’s land for multiple use — had fast-tracked 14 solar developments across the Southwest, including six in California. As part of streamlining the process, Salazar himself signed off on nine of the projects, thereby foreclosing public appeals.

Given the dizzying pace of permitting, each project was pushed through with little meaningful public review or environmental impact analysis. Each has an average footprint of 4,300 acres; when they’re completed, conversion of the sites — from desert habitat and multiple-use land to single-use industrial zones — will be total.

To fend off litigation and controversy that the expedited process spawned, the Department of the Interior in 2008 also initiated a “programmatic” environmental impact statement, which allows it to establish a broader, systematic plan for solar development on public lands. Groups like ours hoped that the process would take a harder look at which, if any, public lands should be opened for potential solar development, with a clear assessment of projects’ cumulative impacts. Early on, the administration said the programmatic process would look at 676,000 acres of “solar study areas.” The assumption was that acreage would be whittled down as environmental conflicts and other objections were raised.

Instead, the December 2010 draft proposal throws open the gates to an ongoing land rush. The “preferred alternative” keeps 21.5 million acres open for development — 33 times as much acreage as originally advertised.

What’s fueling the demand for land? Battling climate change and a dismal economy with green jobs, the Obama administration is offering generous subsidies for Big Solar development. These subsidies include cash grants of up to 30% of the cost of a project and loan guarantees in the billions, and they accrue to familiar corporate interests: oil companies, utilities and Wall Street firms. For example, $1.37 billion is going to Bright Source — whose investors include BP, Chevron and Morgan Stanley — for three proposed plants in the Mojave Desert. BLM tops it off by offering lease rates based on artificially low land values.

Claims of reducing greenhouse gases undergird the project approvals. Yet research shows that carbon storage rates in the Mojave rival or exceed those of some forest and grassland ecosystems, so the harm of carbon released during construction could offset the promised benefits of the utility-scale solar developments.

On top of that, the estimated operational life of each project runs from 30 to 50 years, but environmental impacts to the land will be felt for centuries. Although to some they appear devoid of life, the deserts and their fragile soils are biologically rich, providing habitat for rare and protected plants and animals like the desert tortoise, the fringe-toed lizard and the Joshua tree. Even BLM concedes in its draft analysis that desert ecosystems could take up to 3,000 years to fully recover from the soil and vegetation disturbances associated with the industrial sites.

Furthermore, construction and operation will both require scarce water, and the solar plants will require thousands of miles of new high-voltage transmission lines through public and private property.

When all of the effects are taken into account, it makes no sense to destroy the desert for large solar projects, and even less sense to turn over precious public land to corporate interests. Given the scale and the environmental impact, this use privatizes the land in a way that other sanctioned uses like grazing and pipelines do not. The Environmental Protection Agency, in reviewing the proposal, urged the Interior Department to consider putting projects on “disturbed, degraded and contaminated sites” rather than “large tracts of undisturbed public lands,” and helpfully identified millions of acres of degraded lands potentially suitable for solar.

Renewable energy development is crucial to America’s future. But the Obama administration is moving backward by sacrificing public lands for solar development. With better siting and technological options available, we can have a renewable energy program that reflects 21st century values by not destroying the very environment we hope to protect.

Furthermore, construction and operation will both require scarce water, and the solar plants will require thousands of miles of new high-voltage transmission lines through public and private property.

When all of the effects are taken into account, it makes no sense to destroy the desert for large solar projects, and even less sense to turn over precious public land to corporate interests. Given the scale and the environmental impact, this use privatizes the land in a way that other sanctioned uses like grazing and pipelines do not. The Environmental Protection Agency, in reviewing the proposal, urged the Interior Department to consider putting projects on “disturbed, degraded and contaminated sites” rather than “large tracts of undisturbed public lands,” and helpfully identified millions of acres of degraded lands potentially suitable for solar.

Renewable energy development is crucial to America’s future. But the Obama administration is moving backward by sacrificing public lands for solar development. With better siting and technological options available, we can have a renewable energy program that reflects 21st century values by not destroying the very environment we hope to protect.

Erica Rosenberg is board president and Janine Blaeloch is director of the Western Lands Project, an organization that works to keep public lands public.

Erica Rosenberg is board president and Janine Blaeloch is director of the Western Lands Project, an organization that works to keep public lands public.

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

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What Happens When the Incentives Expire?

By Bruce Hamilton, Director of Energy, Navigant Consulting, Inc.
May 17, 2011   |

Sacramento, CA, USA — Wind projects, along with other renewable energy technologies, have benefitted in a variety of ways from federal incentive programs. The Section 1603 cash grant program, the Department of Energy Section 1705 Loan Guarantee program and the Bonus Depreciation schedule are among the federal programs that are scheduled to expire by the end of 2012. The Production Tax Credit (PTC) and Investment Tax Credit (ITC) are also scheduled to expire for wind projects at the end of 2012. In today’s budget-cutting environment, it’s possible that none of these incentives will be renewed.

The Section 1603 cash grant has been a popular and successful program and is generally credited for keeping the U.S. wind industry healthy during the 2009-2010 recession1. Since the program was initiated in 2009 through the first quarter of 2011, $5.6 billion in cash grants has been awarded for wind projects, representing more than 80 percent of all Section 1603 funding to date.

The DOE Section 1705 loan guarantee program has a current allocation of $2.5 billion that can support up to $30 billion of loan guarantees. As of April 2011, three wind plants have received commitments for loan guarantees totaling $1.5 billion, including $1.3 billion for Caithness’s 845 MW Shepherd’s Flat project.

Under the federal Modified Accelerated Cost-Recovery System (MACRS), wind and other renewable energy properties are classified as five-year property for depreciation purposes. Eligible property placed in service after Sept. 8, 2010 and before Jan. 1, 2012 qualifies for 100 percent first-year bonus depreciation, meaning that 100 percent of the project cost can be expensed in the first year. For 2012, a 50 percent bonus depreciation is still available. After Dec. 31, 2012, the allowable deduction reverts to the original five-year MACRS recovery. The value of the 100 percent bonus is estimated to be 40 percent of the value of the Section 1603 cash grant.

To determine the impact of the pending expiration of these programs, Navigant calculated the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) for a 100 MW wind plant in various time frames with the following project finance structures:

  • Case 1. Circa 2008, using the PTC, equity from the project sponsor (20 percent), and a tax equity partnership flip (80 percent).2
  • Case 2. Circa 2011, using the cash grant (30 percent), equity from the project sponsor (20 percent), a DOE loan guarantee (40 percent) and a private loan (10 percent). 3
  • Case 3. Circa 2013, using the PTC, equity from the project sponsor (20 percent) and a tax equity partnership flip (80 percent), assuming that the PTC will be renewed.4
  • Case 4. Circa 2013, using the project sponsor’s equity (70 percent) and a private loan (30 percent), assuming that the PTC is not renewed.5

Navigant also calculated the range of LCOE prices from natural gas fired power plants during these same time periods.6 The results of the four cases are shown in the graph.

The case studies show that wind plants are competitive with gas plants in Cases 1 and 2, which is consistent with the fact that many utilities have installed wind plants well in excess of their Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requirements. In comparing Cases 1 and 2, the combined effect of the cash grant and the DOE loan guarantee cuts the cost of a wind farm nearly in half. In comparing Cases 1 and 3, increased return requirements from tax equity investors are a significant factor in driving wind LCOEs higher. In comparing the wind plant LCOEs of Cases 3 and 4 with their corresponding gas plant LCOEs, wind will not be competitive with gas in 2013, either with or without the PTC. Plenty of wind plants will still be built, but with the current cost structures in place and unless federal incentives are renewed or replaced, post-2012 U.S. wind markets will be driven primarily by RPS requirements rather than competing head-to-head with gas projects.

Bruce Hamilton (left) is Director of Energy at Navigant Consulting, Inc.


Footnotes

1. According to the DOE’s Preliminary Evaluation of the Impact of the Section 1603 Treasury Grant Program on Renewable Energy Deployment in 2009 (Bolinger, Wiser, and Darghouth, April 2010), the grant program may have helped directly motivate as much as 2,400 MW of wind capacity to be built that would not otherwise have come online in 2009.

2. Case 1 assumes a 6% annual return for tax equity investors, which was typical in 2008 when there were plenty of investors compared to the number of quality projects. The wind plant capital cost is assumed to be $2,000/kW for all cases.

3. Case 2 assumes a 2011 cost of debt of 4%/year plus a 2.5% up-front fee. The cost of tax equity is currently 9%/year, plus a 3% premium for projects with debt. Only Case 2 assumes bonus depreciation.

4. Case 3 assumes a 9% annual return for tax equity investors in 2013. If the number of tax equity investors does not significantly increase and new structures do not appear, the cost of tax equity will remain at the elevated 2011 levels.

5. Case 4 assumes that the cost of project debt in 2013 will follow inflation and return to 2008 levels of 6%/year plus a 2.5% up-front fee.

6. Natural gas prices are assumed to be $3.48 to $4.91/MMBtu in 2011 and $4.14 to $5.75/MMBtu in 2013.

NREL and CESA

New Report from NREL and CESA Explores Clean Energy Deployment Lessons Learned by States

Visit http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy11osti/49340.pdf for further information

The new report, “State Support for Clean Energy Deployment: Lessons Learned for Potential Future Policy,” explores the experiences of these states and utilities, which offer lessons relative to allocation of future state and federal funding.

Submitted on 05/16/11, 09:11 AM

Montpelier, VT— Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA) has produced a new report with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) that evaluates lessons learned and best practices of policies that support clean energy deployment. These finance and policy tools are evaluated based on their implementation successes and challenges in different states that have employed a range of approaches to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy over the past decade.

The new report, “State Support for Clean Energy Deployment: Lessons Learned for Potential Future Policy,” explores the experiences of these states and utilities, which offer lessons relative to allocation of future state and federal funding.

“The collective experience of states across the U.S. offers priceless insight into what works and what doesn’t,” says Mark Sinclair, Executive Director of CESA. “There is no silver bullet, one-size-fits-all approach; but there is clear evidence of how to optimize the use and application of each and every clean energy tool available to states.”

The report assesses the spectrum of these tools, from rebates to renewable portfolio standards to Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) and performance incentive programs. Lessons learned from programs about both standard and emerging finance and policy tools could be used to inform the future intelligent application of clean energy funds and policies.

The major, high-level findings of the report include:
• The selection of financial incentives and financing tools needs to be program-specific based on a program’s goals.
• Federal, state, and local policymakers should consider a number of local factors and market conditions to determine the allocation and use of public funds for clean energy deployment.
• Durable and long-term funding enhances clean energy programs because time is needed for programs and clean energy markets to mature and become effective.
• Rigorous evaluation with clear and consistent metrics and performance targets is essential to shape program design, motivate performance, and monitor results.
• Innovative public-supported financing mechanisms for clean energy investments, including feed-in tariffs, loans, and PACE programs, could play a significant role in leveraging available clean energy funding and filling private financing gaps.

The report is available at http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy11osti/49340.pdf as well as at http://www.cleanenergystates.org/assets/2011-Files/Renewable-Energy-Finance/49340.pdf.

About the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
NREL is the Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for Department of Energy by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC. Visit NREL online at www.nrel.gov.

About Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA)
Clean Energy States Alliance is a national nonprofit organization that works with public funds and state agencies to advance clean energy technologies, projects, and markets. CESA’s member states manage programs that will invest nearly $6 billion in the next ten years to support clean energy. CESA is managed by Clean Energy Group. Visit www.cleanenergystates.org, www.cleanegroup.org.

Solar Powered Buildings: Worth Another Look as Prices Fall

Greetings!

The photovoltaics industry is reducing the cost of solar energy at a breakneck rate. In just the past two years, prices on solar panels have dropped by over 50%. Projects that once seemed unprofitable are now beginning to look attractive from a return on investment perspective. And with solar cell energy conversion efficiency rising with new technology, solar is truly becoming a cost-competitive option, even without government incentives.

What do these game-changing trends in the solar industry mean for your business?

Join Greg Sheppard, Photovolataics Chief Research Officer at IHS iSuppli and Clint Wilder, Senior Editor at Clean Edge for a GreenBiz webcast, ‘Solar Powered Buildings: Worth Another Look as Prices Fall.’ We’ll explore the latest trends in solar power, and what they mean to building owners evaluating their energy options.

In this fast-paced one hour webcast, you’ll understand the latest industry trends, and have an opportunity to get your questions answered. By attending this webcast, you will:

  • Understand if solar is becoming a cost-competitive technology.
  • Learn about the variety of business models available from vendors and installers to reduce or eliminate large up-front costs
  • Discover how Moore’s Law, which has been a critical factor in the price performance evolution of computer hardware, is also applicable to solar panel technology

Seating is limited, so Register Now!

Best regards,
Stephen Cogswell

Biogas 200 Ontario jobs

John Spears Business Reporter

Ontario is placing a $16 million bet on a clean water and energy company that plans to set up its global headquarters in the province.

Anaergia Inc. will set up a head office, research and manufacturing facility to produce biogas equipment, which turns products such as sewage sludge and farm waste into energy.

The province will provide Anaergia a grant of $8.08 million and a loan of the same amount – interest-free for five years – to help finance the $70 million facility.

Anaergia’s chairman and chief executive Andrew Benedek said the company hasn’t yet decided where to locate the new facility.

It will employ about 200 people once it’s up and running, Benedek said in an interview.

Operating mainly under the name UTS Biogas, the company has operations in Germany, where Benedek says its equipment is used in about 1,600 biogas plants.

It also has operations in California, where Benedek lives.

But he’s still a Canadian citizen, who began his career as a chemical engineer at McMaster University.

Benedek founded Zenon Environmental, a water purification firm, that he eventually sold to GE Power and Water.

German green energy policies then drew him across the Atlantic, and U.S. clean energy programs then drew him to California, he said.

He only recently learned about Ontario’s Green Energy Act when he was invited to sit on an energy advisory panel in the province, Benedek said.

He found the province’s renewable energy policies are very similar to those in Germany. One of them is the province’s feed-in tariff program, which offers steady, above-market prices for power produced from renewable sources.

“Like most Canadians who leave Canada, we tend to forget how good it is here,” he said.

Benedek says there’s plenty of research to do in the biogas sector.

“The industry, in my view, is still in its infancy,” he said. “It has not evolved technologically. I really see an opportunity to become far away the leader of the world,” he said.

“What we want to do is bring the cost down so we can afford to compete with other forms of energy.”

Electricity produced from biogas is priced at 10.4 cents to 19.5 cents a kilowatt hour under current feed-in tariff rates, while the wholesale market price hovers around 4 cents a kilowatt hour.

Anaergia is privately held and doesn’t release financial statements, but Benedek said its annual revenue is about $70 million .

“It’s not a big number, but it’s one of the biggest in this narrow space, and it’s going to be much bigger by the end of this program,” he said.

Module oversupply cheaper prices to come

* Says inventory levels rose in Q1

* Sees stronger demand levels in second half of 2011 (Follows alerts)

May 16 (Reuters) – Green energy company Arise Technologies said production at its German photovoltaic cell plant has been temporarily reduced due to higher inventory levels and tough market conditions.

The company, which makes photovoltaic(PV) cells and operates in Germany and Canada, said PV cell inventories rose in the first quarter as the European solar market experienced weaker-than-expected customer demand.

The industry expects stronger demand levels in the second half of 2011, based on an expected positive announcement regarding Germany’s feed-in tariff reductions, the company said.

Declining subsidies in Europe and oversupply concerns had raised fears that margins in the fast-growing industry could suffer in 2011. [ID:nLDE72N1YV]

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company said it will adjust production volumes as required and maintain targeted inventory levels.

The company in talks with Commerzbank to extend its credit agreement, and according to an agreement with the bank, if Arise failed to meet the conditions, the bank had the right to sell off the company’s German production plant. [ID:nL3E7E11V7]

Arise shares closed at 9 Canadian cents on Monday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Vaishnavi Bala in Bangalore; Editing by Prem Udayabhanu) ((vaishnavi.bala@thomsonreuters.com within U.S. +1 646 223 8780 outside U.S. +91 80 4135 5800 Reuters Messaging:vaishnavi.bala.reuters.com@reuters.net)

Huge Oil Company buys stake in SunPower for 1.4B

By Reuters

French energy company Total has offered to pay up to $1.37 billion for a majority stake in U.S. solar company SunPower, one of the biggest moves ever by an oil and gas giant into the market for renewable energy.

Solar power has been one of the fastest growing energy industries in recent years, but still remains tiny compared with oil, gas and coal because of its higher cost. With Total’s financial heft behind it, San Jose, Calif.-based SunPower said solar energy would become competitive with fossil fuels more quickly.

“It’s a vote of confidence from a much larger company and a vote of confidence for the solar industry as a whole,” Wedbush analyst Christine Hersey said.

Total will launch a tender offer for up to 60 percent of SunPower’s outstanding Class A common shares and 60 percent of its Class B common shares for $23.25 a share.

According to SunPower Chief Executive Officer Tom Werner, Total preferred to keep its stake at 60 percent rather than buy the company outright because it wanted to maintain the Silicon Valley company’s “entrepreneurial pace.”

The price represents a more than 44 percent premium to SunPower’s Class A closing share price of $16.12 yesterday. In the last few years SunPower’s shares have been battered by concerns about stepped-up competition from Chinese rivals, the global financial crisis that squeezed financing for solar energy projects, and uncertainty surrounding support schemes for renewable energy by governments in Europe.

The stock has tumbled dramatically since hitting an all-time high of $164.49 in late 2007.

It was Total that first approached SunPower regarding a deal, Werner said on a conference call with analysts. The oil giant looked at 200 solar companies over 2 years, Werner said. At the same time, SunPower spent the last year weighing options for how it could finance its aggressive expansion plans.

“Total came out as the clear winner,” Werner said.

The rapid emergence of Chinese solar panel makers in the recent years has driven the price of solar power down sharply and stepped up competition in the market. Chinese players have also benefited from billions of dollars in credit guarantees from government banks at a time when traditional financing sources became more difficult to access for their U.S. and European counterparts.

Werner said the Total deal would make SunPower more competitive against that industry backdrop because it will provide SunPower with up to $1 billion of credit support over the next five years–cash that will enable SunPower to speed development of solar power plants and expand manufacturing capacity.

“Our capacity to build projects has increased immediately,” Werner said.

The deal has been approved by the boards of directors of both companies. SunPower will continue to operate with its current management team.

 

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