Renewable Energy Update -- April 18, 2012

by Allen Matkins
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Renewable Energy Focus

Clean energy investment stalls on U.S., EU policy uncertainty

Bloomberg - Apr 12

Global investment in clean energy dropped to its lowest since the depths of the financial crisis three years ago as the U.S. and European nations cut support for wind and solar projects, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said. Spending on new wind farms, solar parks and other renewable projects fell to $27 billion in the first quarter, a 28% slump from the last three months of 2011 and a 22% drop from the same quarter a year earlier. That's the lowest quarterly total since the $20 billion recorded in the first three months of 2009.

DOE report says green power grants created up to 75,000 annual jobs

The Hill - Apr 6

A new DOE report finds that a grant program for green electricity projects created under the 2009 stimulus law created as many as 75,000 jobs annually over three years. The stimulus law allowed developers to receive grants to partially cover project costs in lieu of traditional tax credit financing, which had become much less useful during the financial crisis. The program, which expired at the end of 2011, has provided roughly $9 billion in grants covering over 23,000 large wind and solar PV projects, according to the report. The bulk of the jobs have been "indirect" positions in manufacturing and supply chains associated with renewables development, while design, construction and installation of the projects represent a smaller share.

US grabs lead over China in clean energy race

AFP - Apr 11

The U.S. has regained the lead in the clean energy race, investing $48 billion in 2011 to surpass China, which held the world's top spending spot since 2009, the Pew Charitable Trusts annual report on clean energy said. The U.S. surge in private investment was a 42% increase over 2010 and saw it maintain its lead worldwide in both venture capital and research and development cash. However, the U.S. boom was largely driven by expiring tax incentives, highlighting "a persistent phenomenon in which the country fails to deploy into the marketplace the clean energy innovations it creates in the laboratory," it said. China, which fell to second, invested $45.5 billion last year, a 1% increase over 2010, but maintained its global lead in wind energy investment and in solar manufacturing.

Governors urge Congress to extend wind energy incentives

North American Windpower - Apr 9

The National Governors Association sent a letter to congressional leaders in support of extending several key renewable energy incentives, including the production tax credit and the investment tax credit (ITC) for wind power. They also encouraged the implementation of an ITC for the first 3GW of offshore wind energy put into service.

U.S. wind industry adds 6,800MW in 2011

Reuters - Apr 12

The U.S. wind industry installed 6,816MW in 2011, 31% more than in 2010, for a total of 46,916MW installed to date, the AWEA said. Setting the stage for a strong 2012, the association reported that there are more than 8,300MW of wind power under construction across the U.S. The three states with the most wind power installed are Texas with 10,300MW, Iowa with 4,300MW and California with 3,900MW. Kansa leads with the most wind projects under construction with 1,189MW, followed by Texas with 857MW and California with 847MW.

Oregon conservation groups sue to halt wind project that would generate power for California

ONDA - Apr 5

Plans to build an industrial-scale wind facility on Steens Mountain in southeastern Oregon were challenged by the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) and the Audubon Society of Portland. The lawsuit seeks to block what the conservation groups claim is an illegal project by the Department of the Interior that would change an otherwise wild and beautiful landscape. In December, the Secretary of the Interior approved a plan allowing the developer to build up to 70 wind turbines and a high-capacity transmission line on the mountain. Electricity generated by the wind project will be sent to southern California as part of an agreement with SCE. Critics argue that Oregonians should not be asked to sacrifice Steens Mountain to a Washington-based, New York-financed company in order to generate electricity for California.

Environmentalists feeling burned by rush to build solar projects

Los Angeles Times - Apr 6

Small environmental groups are fighting utility-scale solar projects without the support of the nation's big environmental players. Local activists accuse them of acquiescing to the industrialization of the desert because they believe large-scale solar power is essential to slowing climate change. In recent years, foundations have awarded tens of millions of dollars in grants to environmental groups that make renewable energy a top priority. Big environmental organizations say they have agonized over how to approach the issue. They acknowledge that development can have irreversible effects on ecosystems. But they are reluctant to stand in the way of renewable energy projects they regard as a vital response to climate change, which they consider the nation's most serious environmental challenge.

Solar advocates applaud proposed CPUC decision to boost clean energy

California Majority Report - Apr 12

California solar energy advocates praised a proposed decision by the CPUC that, if approved, will likely boost renewable energy use by homeowners, businesses, and commercial uses and lower energy costs for both solar and non-solar energy ratepayers. The proposal, put forward by CPUC chairman Michael Peevey, clarifies the methodology to fairly calculate the cap on Net Energy Metering, a billing arrangement that allows utility customers to offset energy use with their own renewable energy systems. Net metering works like "rollover minutes," with customers receiving credits on their bills for the excess power they generate that is put back on the grid.

DOE announces up to $15M to research biomass-based supplements for traditional fuels

DOE - Apr 6

The DOE announced up to $15 million in available funds to demonstrate biomass-based oil supplements that can be blended with petroleum, helping the U.S. to reduce foreign oil use, diversify the nation’s energy portfolio, and create jobs for American workers. The Department expects to fully fund between five to ten projects in fiscal year 2012 to produce bio-oil prototypes that can be tested in oil refineries and used to develop comprehensive technical and economic analyses of how bio-oils could work. The prototype bio-oils will be produced from a range of feedstocks that could include algae, corn and wheat stovers, dedicated energy crops or wood residues. Domestic industry, universities and laboratories are all eligible to apply.

Geothermal projects less vulnerable to subsidy cuts

Bloomberg - Apr 5

Geothermal energy projects are less vulnerable than wind farms to the pending loss of federal subsidies because they take longer to complete, according to Karl Gawell, the executive director of the Geothermal Energy Association. About 100MW of geothermal capacity will be added in 2012, and "steady growth" probably will continue because the industry is less volatile than wind, Gawell said. A tax credit for wind farms will expire at the end of this year, and development of new wind farms may grind to a halt. A similar credit for geothermal projects will expire at the end of 2013, but Gawell does not expect his industry to be affected in the same way.

Grand County hydroproject proposed once again

Deseret News - Apr 6

Sonoma-based Utah Independent Power has resurrected its proposal for a pumped-storage hydroelectric project outside Moab that would draw water from the Colorado River. Frank Mazzone, president of the company, has submitted a preliminary permit application for the 800MW to the FERC, which is accepting public comment on the proposal through May 22. A spokesman with FERC said the proposal is in the very early stages, and after a review of the comments, the agency will decide if there is enough merit in the project for the utility company to do further investigation. Mazzone's proposal focuses on Long Canyon and entails the construction of two dams to store water and generate power for storage.

Power-line project near Lake Elsinore facing possible dismissal

North County Times - Apr 5

A proposal to string a power line through the Cleveland National Forest west of Lake Elsinore should be quashed, a state official is recommending to the CPUC. Administrative Law Judge Angela Minkin issued a tentative ruling calling for the dismissal of Nevada Hydro Co.'s application to construct a 500kV transmission line stretching about 30 miles from an area north of Lake Elsinore to Orange County's border with north San Diego County. Minkin contends that "despite over 18 months of work (by the commission's staff), the application is not complete and does not conform to our requirements. We cannot continue to expend Commission ... resources on (it)." The public can comment on the proposed dismissal through the first week of May, after which the commission could make a decision on the recommendation.

SCE smart meter opt-out mulled by regulators

Desert Sun - Apr 7

The CPUC recently issued a proposal for an opt-out plan allowing SCE customers with analog or other non-wireless digital meters to keep them and customers who have already had smart meters installed to request reinstallation of whatever kind of meter they had previously. The proposed cost to customers for an opt-out would be an initial up-front fee of $75, plus an extra monthly fee of $10. People on the utility's CARE program for low-income customers would pay $10 up front and an extra $5 per month for the opt-out. The commission could vote to approve the plan at its next meeting on April 19. Officials said the smart meters would allow utilities to collect more detailed, hourly information on power usage, better monitor power outages and help customers be more energy-efficient, but some customers have questioned their benefits.

Notable Renewable Energy Projects and Deals

BrightSource cancels IPO

Wall Street Journal - Apr 12

Citing poor market conditions, California solar-power developer BrightSource Energy said it was withdrawing its IPO. BrightSource had hoped to raise as much as $182.5 million. But an apparent lack of demand among investors -- amid uncertainty about the U.S. government's renewable-energy policy and the health of the global economy -- dashed those hopes. The company said it would withdraw its registration with the SEC.

Solar Trust to sell four solar power-generating facilities in open auction

The Deal Pipeline (subsc. req.) - Apr 12

Solar Trust of America is looking to sell its four solar power-generating facilities in an open auction. Chief Judge Kevin Gross of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware in Wilmington is scheduled to consider the company's proposed bidding procedures for the sale on April 20. The debtor's largest asset includes the rights to develop solar power facilities near Blythe, Calif., which have an expected generating capacity of up to 1,000MW. Also for sale are Solar Trust's 500MW facilities near Desert Center, Calif., and Amargosa Valley, Nev., as well as another project near Ridgecrest, Calif., that is still in early development stages.

Cogenra Solar, Kendall-Jackson winery unveil nation's largest rooftop solar cogeneration array

Business Wire / Kendall-Jackson - Apr 5

Cogenra Solar unveiled the nation's largest rooftop solar cogeneration system to date at Kendall-Jackson's Kittyhawk winery in Windsor, Calif. Expanding on Kendall-Jackson's existing energy and water conservation projects, 241kW hybrid solar PV and thermal array is expected to save approximately $30,000 in annual energy costs. The system supplies solar hot water and electricity to power the winery's tank and bottle washing operations.

Silverado Power announces three solar energy contracts with SCE

Business Wire / Silverado Power - Apr 10

Silverado Power signed 20-year PPAs with SCE for three solar energy projects in Victorville, Calif. The projects in Victorville are currently going through the permitting process and environmental review procedures. They are estimated to come online by the end of 2013 and will have a total generating capacity of 6MW, with each project generating 2MW.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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