Renewable Energy Update -- April 3, 2012

by Allen Matkins
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Renewable Energy Focus

New emissions rules limits coal plants, encourages renewable energy

Wall Street Journal - Mar 29

The Obama administration announced long-awaited rules to limit carbon-dioxide emissions from new power plants that will effectively block the construction of new coal-burning plants and make natural gas even more attractive as a fuel for generating electricity. The rules will add more stress to the coal-mining sector while encouraging development of renewable energy. The rules will take months to finalize and might not be finished by November. The rules face serious opposition in Congress, and the legal underpinnings already are being challenged in court.

California postpones cap-and-trade auctions until November

National Geographic - Mar 29

California officials announced plans to postpone the first allowance auction for its cap-and-trade program from Aug. 15 to Nov. 14. The later start date will give the state more time to link its program with that of its Western Climate Initiative partner, Quebec. Forward progress will be challenging because of a lawsuit challenging the cap's use of offsets, or reductions outside the cap. The lawsuit alleges that offsets represent reductions that would have occurred with or without public policies.

DOI announces onshore wind energy guidelines to protect wildlife

U.S. Department of the Interior - Mar 23

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has released guidelines designed to help wind energy project developers avoid and minimize the impacts of land-based wind projects on wildlife and their habitats. According to the DOI, the voluntary guidelines will help shape the siting, design and operation of the nation's growing wind energy economy. The voluntary guidelines are designed to be used for all utility-scale, community-scale and distributed land-based wind energy projects on both private and public lands.

CPUC issues proposed modifications to California feed-in tariff

Solar Server - Mar 23

The CPUC issued proposed modifications to the state's feed-in tariff (FIT) program, based upon legislation passed over the last few years. The CPUC will have final say on the proposal, which implements changes initiated by SB 380, SB 32 and SB 2. These modifications include a new pricing mechanism and an increase in the maximum size of eligible facilities to 3MW. The new pricing mechanism proposed will base a starting price on the weighted average contract price of the highest priced executed contracts resulting from the November 2011 Renewable Auction Mechanism auction. This price will be modified by a monthly price adjustment mechanism based on market responses and by a time-of-delivery adjustment.

California ISO approves transmission plans for grid reliability

California ISO - Mar 26

The California ISO approved the 2011/2012 Transmission Plan, which identified 30 transmission projects needed to maintain grid reliability. While an ISO analysis shows approving additional green transmission could potentially lead to overbuilding and stranded investments, the ISO aims to identify and approve the least costly options that improve grid reliability. The ISO 2011/2012 Transmission Plan is the result of a 15-month process. Project investments approved total $691 million.

Environmentalists sue feds over California solar project

BusinessWeek - Mar 27

Three environmental groups have sued the federal government over its handling of a solar project in the Mojave Desert, saying it will harm the desert tortoise and its habitat. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court by the Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club against the Interior Department. The groups want the Calico solar project moved to another site and out of desert tortoise habitat. They say the proposed project's location will harm some half a dozen sensitive animals and plants.

Gov. Jerry Brown's solar power campaign

Sacramento Bee - Mar 27

Even as other solar projects move forward, the breakdown in a major solar project at Blythe suggests the technological and financial uncertainties of a still-young industry. It is a setback to Gov. Jerry Brown's campaign to create 20,000 new megawatts of renewable electricity by 2020. Observers estimate that the solar industry's failure rate is as high as 40%. Of the projects that succeed, some sputter through ownership and design changes or face delays caused by land-use disputes or environmental concerns. Part or all of the Blythe project may still be developed, though when and by whom is unclear. Nonetheless, Brown's administration is pursuing the installation of PV panels at fairgrounds, prisons and along California highways.

Related News:
Gov. Jerry Brown touts clean energy, sets zero-emission-car target

Biomass-fired power projects on the rise in the U.S., but constraints loom

Marketwire / Industrial Info Resources - Mar 26

According to Industrial Info Resources (subsc. req.), biomass-fired power generation projects are on the rise. In the U.S., utilities, municipalities and independent power producers are developing 90 biomass-fired units totaling more than 4GW of potential power generation. However, several constraints have come together to place a cloud of uncertainty for biomass projects and are limiting biomass development.

Bloomberg Markets: Santander proves greenest as No. 2 BofA supports solar

Bloomberg - Mar 29

Bank of America's support for solar propelled it to No. 2 behind repeat winner Banco Santander in Bloomberg Markets' second annual lineup of the world's greenest banks, which examines 48 banks with market values of $10 billion or more each. The ranking tallies how much banks are investing and lending to support clean energy and how they are managing their own power consumption and carbon footprints. A $1-billion plan to put solar panels on 160,000 U.S. military-base homes was collapsing in September after a $344-million DOE loan guarantee fell through, but BofA stepped up to finance the effort headed by SolarCity. Also in 2011, BofA provided a $1.4-billion loan to Prologis for solar systems on warehouse roofs. The DOE guaranteed 80% of the loan.

CPUC approves SCE exit from coal-fired power plants as renewables become focus of utilities

Reuters - Mar 23

The CPUC approved SCE's previously announced sale of its interest in the Four Corners coal-fired power plant in New Mexico, ending the company's ownership in coal-fired generation. With California having some of the toughest greenhouse gas and renewable energy requirements in the U.S., the state's utilities are buying more power from wind and solar projects and shedding older fossil-fired units. SCE, which owns a 48% share in the 770MW Units 4 and 5 at Four Corners, agreed to sell its share to Arizona Public Service, which operates the plant.


Notable Renewable Energy Projects and Deals

SDG&E to purchase power from LS Power's $550M Arlington Valley solar power project

Chadbourne & Parke - Mar 23

LS Power has received construction financing for its 127MW Arlington Valley Solar Energy II Project, a crystalline silicon photovoltaic solar project located near Arlington, Ariz. The debt financing of the $550-million solar power project was structured with two tranches -- combining a long term institutional financing led by Prudential Capital Group, with a shorter term bank financing led by Banco Santander. GE Energy Financial Services is participating as an equity partner. The project, to be operational in 2013, will sell its entire output to SDG&E pursuant to a 25-year power sales agreement.

Terra-Gen gets California approval for wind power deals

Bloomberg - Mar 22

Terra-Gen Power received approval to sell wind energy from a project it is developing in the U.S. to a California utility. SCE was approved to buy the output from four additional phases of Terra-Gen's 1,550MW Alta Wind Energy Center in Tehachapi, Calif. Terms were not disclosed. Two phases of Alta, the 168MW seventh and 132MW ninth, are expected to enter operation in January 2013. The 138MW tenth phase and 90MW eleventh are expected to begin shipping power to the utility in January 2015, SCE's VP of alternative and renewable power said. Terra-Gen may complete the latter two phases before that date and sell the power on the spot market, he added. The seven remaining segments, totaling 1,020MW of capacity, were operational at the end of 2011.

Nevada company eyes Geysers geothermal power plant

Marketwire / Ram Power Corp. - Mar 27

Following a competitive bid process, Nevada-based Ram Power Corp. has signed a letter of intent with SNC-Lavalin Constructors for the construction of a 26MW geothermal power plant at Geysers steam field in northern California. SNC would engineer, design and procure parts and equipment for the project's construction and commissioning. In May, Ram Power plans to execute a definitive contract with SNC for the engineering, procurement and construction of the project. Four wells have been drilled and two more are planned near the plant site.

First 50MW of solar power plant in Baja California enabled by cross-board collaboration

SolFocus - Mar 29

California-based SolFocus joined Grupo Musa and Synergy Technologies to announce the launch of a solar power plant in Baja California in Mexico. The project, planned as a 450MW total capacity, will be built in 50MW tranches, with construction on the first tranche starting in late 2012 and being operational before the end of 2013. The power plant, which will use SolFocus CPV equipment, will be owned and operated by SolMex Energy, a new company formed by Grupo Musa and Synergy Technologies for the production of clean solar energy in Mexico.

Work continues in El Monte on Tehachapi renewable energy transmission line

San Gabriel Valley Tribune - Mar 22

Crews have assembled a tower structure near Ramona Boulevard in El Monte. The towers support the new Mira Loma-Vincent transmission line, which is part of SCE's Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project. The project, which is expected to be completed by 2015, includes a series of electrical system upgrades that will provide the capacity to deliver 4,500MW of clean renewable energy from wind and solar generators in Kern County to the Los Angeles basin, according to SCE officials. The project has garnered opposition in some communities, particularly in the Inland Empire. However, the El Monte stretch has not so far seen objections from neighbors.

William R. Devine
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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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