Renewable Energy Update -- February 29, 2012

by Allen Matkins

Renewable Energy Focus

Solar power sparks land rush in the desert

Calgary Herald - Feb 22

Solar companies and land speculators are gobbling up scarce private land in the California deserts, driving prices up 10- to 20-fold, or even higher. Desolate acreage that a few years ago might have sold for less than $500 an acre can now bring as much as $20,000 an acre, according to land brokers in the region. Farmers are also getting in on the action. Alfalfa and cotton fields are being converted to solar and wind farms as the industry's big players put together mega-deals. Depending on the size of the plant, companies may need a few hundred or a few thousand acres.

Power plant in California converts from coal to biomass

Bakersfield Californian - Feb 22

Mt. Poso Cogeneration Co. announced that its 44MW power plant near Bakersfield no longer burns coal but runs entirely on tree trimmings, agricultural residue and other biomass feedstock. The announcement marks the end of a 15-month project, earlier estimated to cost $50 million, to convert the plant in a way that reduces emissions. After producing limited biomass-fueled power in November, Mt. Poso said it is now at full capacity, generating enough electricity to supply about 35,000 homes.

First Solar reportedly settles permit issues with Antelope Valley

Forbes - Feb 17

First Solar has settled the permit issues that have been delaying the completion of funding for the Antelope Valley Solar Ranch project the company has been building in California for Exelon. The company previously said that a DOE loan crucial to the project had been delayed due to a local permitting issue, and that First Solar might have to buy back the project from Exleon if the issue could not be resolved. A Collins Stewart analyst writes in a research note that he has had multiple conversations with various permit-issuing groups in Los Angeles County, and that most were unaware that there remained an outstanding permitting issue on the project.

Borrego Solar awarded GSA contract to provide solar installation services to federal government

Business Wire / Borrego Solar - Feb 21

California-based Borrego Solar Systems was awarded a contract by the General Services Administration (GSA), under which the company will provide solar installation services to federal agencies. The company's solar installation services are in increased demand, particularly with the Department of Defense, which is expected to continue to increase spending on renewable energy, reaching $10 billion annually by 2030, according to Pike Research. The GSA contract win will help bolster Borrego Solar's growing federal portfolio.

SCE scales back rooftop solar program to save money

Renewable Energy World - Feb 17

Southern California Edison has won approval to modify a PV program that won praise for its intent to promote distributed, rooftop generation when it received the initial thumbs-up from state regulators in 2009. With the changes, though, the utility will look for larger and more ground-mounted projects and scale back the plan to build some of the projects on its own. The CPUC approved the changes to the 500MW PV program, a year after SCE filed the request for modification.

IID talks over wheeling rate

Imperial Valley Press - Feb 22

The Imperial Irrigation District Board of Directors showed support for an economic-based wheeling rate. However, a vote will have to wait 60 days while the district gets stakeholder input on an adjusted charge on renewable energy developers, said CFO Greg Broeking. Concerns have been raised about the wheeling rate -- a charge to transport electricity across IID power lines to areas outside the district's service area -- specifically about whether the district's fee would be "pancaked" on to the California Independent System Operator's existing rate. The rate proposed would increase the wholesale transmission rate cost from $3.29 per MWh to $3.94 per MWh. It is a smaller rate than the California ISO's $6.82 per MWh. While it does not eliminate the "pancaking" effect, the district hopes to mitigate it substantially, Broeking said.

SCE develops 8MW Li-ion battery for wind power storage

Greentech Media - Feb 21

The Southern California Edison Tehachapi Wind Energy Storage project will test the capabilities of an 8MW, 32 MWh lithium-ion battery at SCE's Monolith substation in the wind-rich Tehachapi Mountains, according to Mark Irwin, a director in SCE's advanced technology department. To fund the $53.5 million test, DOE will supply nearly $25 million and other partners, including the CPUC and A123 Systems, will supply over $29.9 million. The battery storage system is now being installed and is scheduled to go operational late in 2012. Testing will run for a minimum of 24 months. The lithium-ion phosphate battery system will take four hours to charge and will discharge over four hours. It will occupy an unmanned 6,300-square-foot building at Monolith. Monitoring will be done remotely.

Two California utilities hit target of 20% from renewables - Feb 20

Two of California's largest utilities are now getting 20% of their energy from renewables as required by the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard -- 20% by 2010. The companies are a year late, but Southern California Edison and SDG&E hit the target in 2011. That is impressive considering the law was passed five years ago (in 2006) and, just 10 years ago, SDG&E sourced only 1% from renewables.

California leads the U.S. in clean-tech venture capital funding

Los Angeles Times - Feb 21

California companies raked in $2.8 billion, or 57%, of the $4.9 billion in venture capital offered up in the so-called clean-tech category of funding nationwide in 2011, according to an analysis from Ernst & Young. Massachusetts companies were a distant second with $465.1 million, followed by Colorado companies, which pulled in $363.3 million. The $4.9 billion in total venture funding was a 4.5% decline from 2010. But Jay Spencer, Ernst & Young's Americas clean-tech director, said the amount was encouraging for an industry still finding its footing in a weak economy.

California's greenhouse gas battle could reap billions in auctions

Capitol Weekly - Feb 21

As California's attempt to curb climate-changing greenhouse gases ramps up, critical pieces of the landmark law remain uncertain, including the impact of the auctions of hundreds of millions of so-called "emission allowances" that will serve as the spur for utilities, refiners and others to comply. Over the next eight years, the quarterly auctions by some estimates are projected to raise between $8 billion and $41 billion, with the money going to everything from helping balancing the state budget to promoting the virtues of clean energy to giving breaks to millions of residential and commercial electricity customers. In this electronic auction, bids may be submitted weeks in advance.

Notable Renewable Energy Projects and Deals

MidAmerican's Topaz Solar sells $850M in bonds

NewNet - Feb 17

MidAmerican Energy-owned Topaz Solar has priced $850 million of bonds in an offering to U.S. credit markets. The investment grade bonds were priced at par at a yield of 5.75%. The 550MW photovoltaic plant is being built in San Luis Obispo County. PG&E will purchase power from the Topaz project under a 25-year PPA.

Nanosolar secures $20M in new funds

Nanosolar - Feb 17

California-based Nanosolar announced that it has closed $20 million to fund continued expansion as well as newly committed projects. Nanosolar combines proprietary technology with advanced system design and manufacturing processes to reduce both panel and balance of system costs.

EnerVault raises $15.5M for grid-size energy storage systems

PR Newswire / EnerVault - Feb 23

California-based EnerVault Corp. announced the completion of a $15.5-million Series B financing, bringing total funding to date to $24.5 million. The investor funds complement the company's grant awards totaling $5.5 million from the DOE, CEC and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. EnerVault is developing energy storage systems based on a novel redox flow battery technology.

William R. Devine
Land Use | Real Estate | Energy & Cleantech | Environmental & Natural Resources | Water Rights & Resources
Orange County
(949) 851-5412
(949) 553-8354 (fax)

Emily L. Murray
Energy & Cleantech | Land Use | Litigation | Environmental & Natural Resources | Telecommunications
Los Angeles
(213) 955-5584
(213) 620-8816 (fax)

Patrick A. Perry
Land Use | Energy & Cleantech | Telecommunications | Real Estate | Infrastructure
Los Angeles
(213) 955-5504
(213) 620-8816 (fax)


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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