Renewable Energy Update -- March 21, 2012

by Allen Matkins

Rewnewable Energy Focus

Solar power firms in Mojave Desert feel glare of tribes, environmentalists

The Guardian - Mar 11

At least two renewable energy developments on the California-Arizona border -- the $1-billion, 250MW Genesis Solar near Blythe in the lower Colorado river valley and the Solar Millennium project -- are beset with lengthy construction delays, while others are facing legal challenges lodged by environmental groups and Native American groups who fear damage to the desert ecology as well as to ancient rock art and other sacred heritage sites. Out on the stony desert floor, Native Americans say, are sites of special spiritual significance, specifically involving the flat-tailed horned toad and the desert tortoise. Tribal leaders say damage to their sacred sites from the projects is inevitable. They have filed suits against six sites, including Ivanpah, a $2.2-billion Google-backed project in the Mojave Desert which will be the largest solar plant when it comes online in 2014.

Wind energy set to grow six-fold in California, but not without concerns

San Diego's East County Magazine - Mar 10

According to the American Wind Energy Association, California currently produces 3,927MW of wind power. Another 847MW is under construction and 18,269MW are in the queue. If all are built, that would bring total wind generation in the state to more than 24,000MW -- six times the current level. Potentially, California could produce even more -- as much as 105,646 GWh -- if all areas with strong wind conditions were developed. In 2010, wind accounted for 3.3% of the state's power, and according to a resource assessment from the National Renewable Energy Lab, California's wind resources could provide up to 39.4% of the state's current electricity needs. But wind turbines generate controversies over bird kills, health impacts, visual blight, maintenance costs and who takes responsibility if turbines are damaged or abandoned.

Mitsubishi Heavy: No PTC, no U.S. wind turbine plant

Recharge - Mar 9

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) will not open its first wind turbine factory in the U.S. if the government does not renew a critical subsidy. In 2009, the Japanese company revealed plans for a $100-million nacelle manufacturing plant in Arkansas to support demand in its main market. It was scheduled to have opened earlier in 2012. However, turbine sales are certain to plummet if Washington does not renew the production tax credit (PTC), which is due to expire at the end of the year. MHI has a 10% share of the U.S. market and "several hundred megawatts" of orders in hand, according to Yoshinori Ueda, assistant general manager of MHI's wind turbine business. These include a 49MW contract with AES for a project in Palm Springs, Calif., signed last March, and a deal to supply 84 of its 2.4MW turbines to a Duke Energy wind farm in Texas, announced in October. But it needs new orders to sustain a local factory, says Ueda. MHI is not the first to warn of the impact of the PTC expiry. Vestas has said it will cut jobs in the U.S. if the government does not renew the subsidy.

Related News:
Mitsubishi Heavy told to pay GE $170M over turbines

CPUC approves third round of grants for California Solar Initiative RD&D Program

CPUC - Mar 12

The CPUC approved seven grants totaling up to $7.65 million in funding for the California Solar Initiative (CSI) Research, Development, Deployment and Demonstration (RD&D) Program's third grant solicitation, which had a primary focus on grid integration of solar energy and a secondary focus on improved PV production technologies and business development and deployment. The recipients are expected to have matching funds of more than $7.8 million for their projects. The CPUC approved grants for: (1) General Electric International; (2) Electric Power Research Institute; (3) BEW Engineering; (4) Clean Power Research; (5) University of California, San Diego; (6) Strategic Energy Innovations; and (7) Southern California Edison.

Kurios Energy, SFFCU collaborate to bring new solar financing to California

Kurios Energy - Mar 14

The San Francisco Fire Credit Union (SFFCU) has begun offering solar loans as part of its normally offered financing arms and will make it available to customers all over California. Kurios Energy will be utilizing the financing which is designed specifically for residential green energy customers. According to the energy company's CEO Todd Filbrun, Kurios and the SFFCU wanted to provide financing that has the flexibility of solar leasing products and PPAs, but does not require customers to pay origination fees, accept inflated payback structures, or give up tax credits and rebates.

SolarCity, Rabobank announce $42.5M fund for commercial solar projects in California

SolarCity - Mar 15

Rabobank and SolarCity announced $42.5 million in structured financing to fund over 30 commercial solar projects in California. This new fund is the latest iteration of a Rabobank-SolarCity collaboration that has has produced a solar-powered electric vehicle charging corridor to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco, and a series of solar installations at local bank branches in California.

Number of megawatts of solar power installed in U.S. doubled in 2011

SEIA - Mar 14

The number of megawatts of solar power installed in the U.S. in 2011 more than doubled from the previous year, driven by growth in solar plants built for utilities, according to a study by Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research. However, U.S. production of solar panels slipped amid a world-wide glut of capacity and falling prices. The low prices as well as federal and state subsidies drove investment in solar power by large energy companies. Overall, new solar installations reached 1,855MW in 2011, up from 887MW in 2010, the report said. The value of solar-power generating systems installed in 2011 rose 70% to $8.5 billion, it said. The report predicted that the U.S. solar market will continue growing and its share of global solar-panel installations will grow from 5% in 2010 and 7% in 2011 to 15% by 2016.

Sunrise Powerlink will help with renewable energy transmission problems

Renew Grid - Mar 14

The Sunrise Powerlink, a 117-mile, 500kV transmission line, is currently being developed by SDG&E to carry power from Imperial County west to San Diego. Construction for the powerlink began in fall 2010, and the project is almost complete, with an in-service date expected for this summer. This is good news for the area, as, according to SDG&E, experts have identified the Imperial Valley/Baja Norte regions of California as having huge renewable energy potential. Studies conducted by California's Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative estimate that the area has the potential to produce up to 12GW of renewable energy -- 6.5GW of solar power, 3.5GW of wind power and 2GW of geothermal.

Senate rejects measure to extend wind energy production tax credit

North American Windpower - Mar 13

The U.S. Senate has voted to reject an amendment to the Surface Transportation Bill that would have extended several important renewable energy incentives -- including the production tax credit for wind power -- for one year. The measure, introduced by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich), also called for an extension of the Section 48C advanced energy manufacturing tax credit, which expired in 2010, as well as an extension of the Section 1603 cash-grant program.

Legislation aims to help clean energy businesses access financing

North American Windpower - Mar 9

Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has introduced the Small Business Clean Energy Financing Act, legislation that aims to help small businesses in the clean energy sector gain access to financing. Matsui says her new legislation would help fill a lending gap by directing the SBA to establish a clean energy program within the 7(a) loan program. The legislation would not authorize new funds for the clean energy sector, but instead allow the SBA to utilize its existing budget authority to address the needs of clean energy businesses.

Report: Solar, wind and biofuel markets smash revenue records

BusinessGreen - Mar 13

Clean Edge released its annual Clean Energy Trends 2012 report, revealing that combined global revenue for solar PV, wind power and biofuels defied the tough economic environment to grow 31% from $188.1 billion in 2010 to $246.1 billion in 2011. The global market for solar PV grew 29% from $71.2 billion in 2010 to $91.6 billion last year, driven by falling technology prices that helped fuel a 69% increase in installations. Similarly, the market for new wind power installations reached a record $71.5 billion, up 18% from $60.5 billion. Finally, the biofuels market reached a record $83 billion, up from $56.4 billion. The report also cited data from the Cleantech Group that shows U.S.-based venture capital clean-tech investment rose 30% in 2011 to $6.6 billion, accounting for a record 23.2% of all U.S. venture activity.

California bill would boost renewable energy

UPI - Mar 12

A bill in California would allow cities to designate areas as renewable energy zones and redirect property taxes to renewable energy projects, its sponsor says. State Assemblyman Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) said the areas would be required to generate at least 10MW of renewable energy, then the city could create a financing district in the area and use the funds collected "for the purpose of promoting renewable energy projects," the Los Angeles Times reported. If passed by the state Legislature, the bill would exempt these energy districts from voter approval requirements, allowing city councils to create them with a simple majority vote, the Times reported.

Solar debate heats up as California farmland is targeted

Silicon Valley Mercury News - Mar 14

All eyes have been on Fresno County, where the abundance of sunshine that make it the No. 1 agriculture-producing county in the nation also make it ideal for solar arrays. The county, which has 29 projects on 11,000 acres in the pipeline, approved its plan to balance food security with green energy with a decision that falls short of what both sides wanted. Under the new regulations, authorities will consider the prior agricultural productivity of farmland in deciding whether to issue conditional use permits for projects on that land, but they will not automatically direct development to marginal and retired land lacking adequate water supplies. County officials felt that guidelines that would have given preference to marginal land over prime land would have required more intensive study. The county will make case-by-case decisions before issuing permits.

Notable Renewable Energy Projects and Deals

Capital Dynamics acquires three solar energy portfolios in California, N.J.

Capital Dynamics - Mar 15

Switzerland-based private asset manager Capital Dynamics acquired three portfolios of solar energy projects in California and New Jersey, representing investment projects in various stages of development worth over $300 million. The first portfolio features approximately 80MW of utility-scale solar power generation projects which are all under long-term PPAs with California utilities. As much as 30MW is on schedule to be operational by year-end. The second portfolio features a pipeline of 25MW of commercial-scale PV projects in advanced development and has a 20-year PPA with PG&E. The third portfolio is located at US Foods' cold storage warehouses in New Jersey. Capital Dynamics is constructing the 8MW solar energy project for which it has secured long-term PPAs with US Foods.

SolarCity, U.S. Bancorp launch fund for military solar installations

U.S. Bancorp - Mar 13

SolarCity and U.S. Bancorp said they have created a renewable energy tax equity fund. The size of the fund was not disclosed. The fund is expected to help SolarCity initiate phase one of its SolarStrong project, a five-year plan to provide privatized military housing with access to affordable solar power. The project aims to provide power to up to 120,000 military family homes.

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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