Renewable Energy Update -- March 5, 2012

by Allen Matkins
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SunPower loan delayed due to DOE's new financial requirements

Fox Business / Dow Jones - Mar 1

SunPower expects the first payment by the end of March on a federal loan for a California solar farm, after a delay following new government financial requirements, CEO Tom Werner said. The DOE in September issued a $1.237-billion loan guarantee for the 250MW solar farm in San Luis Obispo, Calif., which SunPower is building after selling the project to NRG Energy. SunPower started construction in September, but payment on the project's government loan was held up after the department increased its financial requirements for SunPower. French oil giant Total stepped in to pledge $600 million in financial backing for SunPower, to comply with the government's new requirements.

First Solar gets needed permit for California project, extends funding deadline with Exelon

Reuters - Feb 23

First Solar said changes to a construction permit for a California solar project had been approved, potentially clearing the way for initial funding of a $646-million loan from the DOE. The DOE had approved the loan guarantee in September to support the 230MW Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One project in northern Los Angeles County. Earlier in February, the company said that the DOE has not released loan funds because of a delay in receiving a construction permit. The company also said that if the funds did not come in by Feb. 24, it would have to buy the project back from Exelon Corp. Both companies have agreed to extend their deadline for initial funding of the loan to April 6.

Borrego Solar completes 3.4MW solar power installation at Edwards Air Force Base

Borrego Solar - Feb 28

Borrego Solar Systems announced the completion of a 3.4MW solar power installation at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California. The installation is comprised of three ground-mounted, single-axis tracking solar farms. The system was financed via Borrego Solar's in-house PPA, under which the company financed, designed and installed the system at no upfront cost to Edwards Air Force Base. Borrego Solar will sell energy back to Edwards Air Force Base at an economical and fixed rate, offsetting an average of 6% of the energy consumption across the three facilities.

Yingli Solar, GRID Alternatives to provide solar energy to low-income families in California, Colorado

PR Newswire / GRID Alternatives - Feb 28

Yingli Green Energy Americas, a solar energy company, has renewed its strategic partnership throughout 2012 with the Oakland-based nonprofit solar installer, GRID Alternatives. The agreement builds on a 1MW partnership launched in 2011 that brought clean power to over 400 low-income homeowners across California, saving them an estimated $11 million over the systems' lifetimes. As an Official Solar Module Provider for GRID Alternatives, Yingli Americas will be supplying another 1MW of solar energy in 2012 through a combination of donated and fair-market priced modules. The installations will help families in California and Colorado.

GE, Mitsubishi Heavy get split wind-patent ruling

Wall Street Journal - Feb 29

General Electric and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries scored a split ruling in a closely watched patent dispute in the estimated $12 billion U.S. market for wind-energy gear. In a victory for Mitsubishi Heavy, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., upheld an earlier decision by the U.S. International Trade Commission ruling the Japanese company did not infringe upon a GE patent for technology used in variable-speed wind turbines. But it also reversed an ITC decision involving another GE patent for turbine technology that was favorable to Mitsubishi Heavy and remanded it for more review.

California assemblyman's biogas bill means clean air, renewable energy, jobs

California Newswire - Feb 23

Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) introduced AB 1900, a bill that would change California’s laws pertaining to biogas. Under current law, biogas producers in California are banned from selling their fuel. Because of the state's ban, many utilities purchase biogas from non-California sources. AB 1900 would set up a system within the state to foster local industry and local jobs. The bill would also allow California producers of biogas to sell it to utilities in the state, as long as it is demonstrably clean and safe. Furthermore, it would prevent utilities from having to raise rates by allowing them to make good on their existing contracts to buy biogas, regardless of the source. The bill will also comply with the state's tough renewable laws and remove inconsistencies in state policy.

EnergySource announces grid synchronization at geothermal plant in Salton Sea

Business Wire / Energy Source - Mar 1

EnergySource announced the successful electrical grid synchronization of its newly completed Hudson Ranch I geothermal power plant. Hudson Ranch I is generating at its designed 49.9MW capacity in the Salton Sea field, in Imperial County, Calif. The plant is completing its start-up testing and initial delivery of power to the grid, with commercial operation expected later in March. Hudson Ranch I will sell all of its energy, capacity and environmental attributes to Salt River Project, a municipal power and irrigation district in Tempe, Ariz., for a term of 30 years. Construction of the $400-million plant began in May 2010.

SCE to purchase transmission rights

Southern California Edison - Feb 24

Southern California Edison is conducting a request for offers of transmission to bring a portion of the energy from the Caithness Shepards Flat Wind Project to California. SCE is procuring the transaction to manage the output from the Caithness wind facility, for which SCE is the contracted off-taker pursuant to a 20-year PPA.

Bonneville Power Administration gives green light to transmission grid upgrades

Bonneville Power Administration - Feb 24

Proposed upgrades to the Pacific Direct Current Intertie, an electrical superhighway between the Northwest and Southern California, are intended to increase its capacity from 3,100MW to 3,220MW, avoid outages and strengthen it against weather and other threats. The Intertie delivers renewable Northwest hydropower and increasing amounts of wind energy to California, while carrying electricity north to meet winter demand in the Northwest. The improvements, estimated to cost approximately $428 million, would modernize equipment. The upgrades will begin in 2015.

Tehachapi conversations continue in Chino Hills

Contra Costa Times - Feb 23

Chino Hills officials met for a special closed-session meeting to discuss the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project. The purpose of the meeting is for the city manager and attorney to update council members on discussions regarding the installation of 500kV power towers. Both "have been to San Francisco talking to Southern California Edison on an alternate dispute resolution," said Mayor Art Bennett. "At some point in time both sides will come together and come up with an amicable resolution to what's going on and take that to the California Public Utilities Commission to get their blessing on it."

SDG&E's clean energy portfolio jumps 9% in 2011

PR Newswire / SDG&E - Mar 1

SDG&E reported to the CPUC that 20.8% of the energy delivered to retail customers in 2011 was provided by renewable energy sources, a 9% increase over the utility's 2010 results. Of the overall 20.8% in retail renewable sales, geothermal, biomass, biogas and solar projects accounted for almost 40% of the power, while about 60% can be attributed to wind power. In 2011, SDG&E signed 17 new power contracts with mostly solar and wind energy sources, representing 1,482MW. The utility is on track to meet the state's mandate that 33% of its retail sales be produced from renewable energy projects by 2020.

SCPPA seeking renewable energy projects

North American Windpower - Mar 1

The Southern California Public Power Authority has issued a request for proposals for renewable energy projects. The authority is seeking projects that can deliver 2,000 GWh per year in 2014, as well as an additional combination of projects able to deliver another 3,000 GWh per year beginning in 2017. The deadline for proposals is Nov. 30.


Notable Renewable Energy Projects and Deals

enXco closes financing on Shiloh III Wind Project in California

enXco - Feb 29

enXco closed on the project financing for the Shiloh III Wind Project with equity partner Santander through its U.S. subsidiary Sovereign Bank. The deal, structured as a single investor lease, raises enXco's successful project financing in North America to nearly $4 billion over the last 10 years. Shiloh III, located in Solano County, Calif., consists of fifty 2.05MW turbines. The project began operation in December 2011, delivering the electricity to PG&E under a 20-year PPA.

MidAmerican Energy plans more solar bonds after oversubscribed Topaz deal

Bloomberg - Mar 1

Warren Buffett's MidAmerican Energy Holdings is planning a second round of bonds to finance its $2.4-billion Topaz Solar Farm in California after investors sought more of the debt than was offered in the first public issuance for a U.S. photovoltaic power project. The first Topaz bond offering, for $850 million, was oversubscribed by more than $400 million. Fitch Ratings said the second tranche will probably cover the balance of the $1.265 billion in debt MidAmerican needs to complete the 550MW project. The demand shows that renewable-energy projects are becoming more appealing to investors, a project finance director at Barclays Capital said.

HyperSolar partners with UC Santa Barbara for R&D

Business Wire / HyperSolar - Feb 27

HyperSolar has entered into a year-long sponsored research agreement with the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). The agreement will enable HyperSolar to refine its solar-powered nanoparticle technology for generating zero carbon hydrogen and renewable natural gas using sunlight, water and carbon dioxide. The major milestones in the agreement include: (1) a proof-of-concept heterostructure for hydrogen production using photovoltaic elements; (2) analysis of the feedstock potential of wastewater; (3) a complete photoreactor prototype for sustained hydrogen production; and (4) optimized nanoparticulate heterostructures using low-cost semiconducting materials.

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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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