Renewable Energy Focus

Why aren't there more solar plants in the desert?

The Huffington Post - Business - Jul 2

The vast and glittering Ivanpah solar facility in California will soon start sending electrons to the grid, likely by the end of the summer. When all three of its units are operating by the end of the year, its 392-megawatt output will make it the largest concentrating solar power plant in the world, providing enough energy to power 140,000 homes. And it is pretty much smack in the middle of nowhere. The appeal of building solar power plants in deserts like Ivanpah’s Mojave is obvious, especially when the mind-blowing statistics get thrown around, such as: The world’s deserts receive more energy beamed down from the sun in six hours than humankind uses in a year. Or, try this one: Cover around 4 percent of all deserts with solar panels, and you generate enough electricity to power the world. In other words, if we’re looking for energy—and of course, we are—those sandy sunny spots are a good place to start. But statistics are one thing, building a few thousand gigawatts of solar power is quite another. Deserts are dusty, windblown, and remote. So far, only a few hundred megawatts of utility-scale desert solar power have been built. Most projects are in the American Southwest, with a few in the Middle East and north Africa as well. Though progress has been slow and significant technical challenges remain, experts and industry leaders seem to agree that engineering difficulties alone are not holding us back from a big desert solar build-out.

New Mexico auctions 1-gigawatt land lease

Renewable Energy News - Jul 3

New Mexico has launched a public auction for a wind project on state trust land. The proposed 1000-megawatt El Cabo wind farm would be the largest in New Mexico, said State Land Commissioner Ray Powell. “A new and growing source of income for the State Land Office is renewable energy leasing, which is expected to be the largest growth area for our commercial resources division,” said Powell.

New engine plans to tap hot spring for power in California

Think Geo Energy News - Jul 2

Cornerstone Sustainable Energy (“CSE”) has entered into an agreement with Warner Mountain Energy Corporation to begin developing a geothermal energy plant at the Surprise Valley Hot Springs in Cedarville, California. This would be the first installation using the PwrCor engine to generate electricity by using heat from a geothermal resource. Warner Mountain Energy owns or controls approximately 1000 acres at the Surprise Valley Hot Springs. The site has several artesian hot springs free flowing to the surface, delivering an aggregate of approximately 850 gallons per minute at 205°F. CSE will tap the hot spring water to supply heat to its PwrCor engine.

California's invisible solar problem

Renewable Energy World - Jul 1

What if grid operators were unable to track the energy generation from a 2.7-gigawatt solar project – the equivalent of several nuclear plants? Imagine the difficulties they would face. This scenario is unfolding now in California. However this invisible power is not from one solar project; it’s from the combined generation of a rapidly growing number of rooftop arrays that now amount to 2.7 gigawatts. In February, one count calculated around 130,000 solar systems generating power from "behind the meter" within the California ISO. By mid-June it was over 150,000. These systems are mostly net metered, so utilities only receive enough data to credit the owner the sum of their production/consumption on their bill. But as these numbers grow, utilities and grid operators are increasingly concerned about the impacts on planning and operations. “In order for utilities to accurately plan and forecast the impact of distributed PV on their distribution systems, they need production data,” said John ‘Skip’ Dise, product manager at Clean Power Research.

San Francisco to transform city with eco-districts

ArchDaily - Jun 30

San Francisco’s Planning Department is working with California’s sustainability guidelines to structure growth within the city in accordance with the state’s requirements and the city’s goals through the department’s Sustainability Development Program. The program aims to reduce water consumption, reduce waste, and enhance community-scale energy resources. To aid in the fulfillment of these goals, the program is implementing a tool called Eco-Districts – a community of property owners, businesses, and residents within a neighborhood that collaborate to develop and initiate sustainable development projects in their area. Using a set of performance metrics, neighborhoods can shape their projects with custom strategies for their community. The Eco-District is fundamentally a community-driven development that has the potential to achieve the smart growth of sustainable ideas but also build local urban identity and enforce a sense of place among its residents.

Duke Energy joins $42 million equity round for Clean Power Finance

PV Tech News - Jun 28

Duke Energy, the largest electric utility in the United States, was revealed yesterday as the latest equity investor in an online market that finances residential solar. San Francisco-based Clean Power Finance (CPF) manages half a billion dollars of project financing on behalf of third-party solar investors and provides financial services and software to the distributed solar industry with previous investors including Kleiner Perkins Caulfield Byers, Google Ventures, Claremont Creek Ventures, and Morgan Stanley. CPF initially announced $37 million of Series C funding in April with new investors Hennessey Capital and Edison International. Duke Energy joined the round in June, bringing the Series C round to a total of $42 million in equity.

California grid operator asks geothermal to help 'feed the duck'

GreenTech Other Energy News - Jun 28

California’s 33-percent-renewables-by-2020 mandate is becoming a reality, and the state’s electricity system operator wants the geothermal industry to help keep the grid stable as more generation comes from variable resources. By 2020, due largely to solar, a graph of the change caused by variable renewables in the state’s grid ramping up will look like a duck, California Independent System Operator VP Karen Edson told industry leaders at the Geothermal Energy Association National Geothermal Summit. Instead of the present maximum ramp in demand from 19,000 megawatts to 25,000 megawatts, Edson said, the ISO could need the capability to ramp from 11,000 megawatts to 25,000 megawatts by 2020. The biggest needs will come in what Edson called the "shoulder months," when excess wind and hydro create overcapacity and early sunsets cause solar generation to drop off before peak evening demand periods end.

Notable Renewable Energy Projects and Deals

Texas A&M University plans to build world's largest solar institute

PV Tech News - Jul 1

Texas A&M University is planning to build what it claims will be the world’s largest solar research center. The new Center for Solar aims to evaluate, develop, and test renewable energy technologies, focusing on photovoltaic solar technologies. The new center will be home to a 50-megawatt solar field and is expected to cost nearly $600 million, funded by venture capitalists. The center will be at the Texas A&M-Central Texas campus, in Killeen, just north of Austin, covering nearly 800 acres in Bell County. The project is being developed by the university in collaboration with national consultants and financers of renewable energy projects, PPA Partners - who already have projects in California, Arizona, and New Jersey.

MidAmerican completes $1 billion bond offering for 579-megawatt California projects

PV-Magazine - Jul 1

Solar Star Funding, LLC, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., has completed its $1 billion bond offering for its 579-megawatt Solar Star projects in Southern California. The company will use the proceeds from the 5.375% Series A Senior Secured Notes offering for the continued construction of its 579-megawatt Solar Star 1 and Solar Star 2 projects, formerly known as the Antelope Valley Solar Projects. MidAmerican, a division of Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway, acquired the Antelope Valley projects from U.S.-based module manufacturer SunPower Corp. in January for more than $2 billion.

BP project approved in Arizona

Recharge News - Jun 28

The U.S. Interior Department (DOI) has approved use of public lands in northwestern Arizona to site a wind project of up to 500 megawatts proposed by developer BP Wind Energy North America. If fully built out, the project will utilize 243 wind turbines to generate power for as many as 175,000 homes, and create 750 jobs through construction and operations, according to the DOI.