Renewable Energy Update -- April 26, 2012

by Allen Matkins

PUC May Decide California's Fight Over Net-Metering

Renewable Energy World - Apr 13

As California continues to inch toward its 33 percent renewables target, a particularly contentious battle over the future of net-metering could soon be finding a resolution. The California solar industry and the state’s top utilities have been locked in a standoff over an existing net-metering cap that threatens to limit the financial benefits of future rooftop installations. Now, California Public Utilities Commission Chairman Michael Peevey has introduced a proposal that would more clearly state the Net Energy Metering law’s intentions, and if approved it could provide a long-term boost to the residential market. As written, the law caps net metering at 5 percent of “aggregate customer peak demand.” After that, there is no guarantee that utilities will allow new solar customers to sell their unused power back to the grid. The question before the PUC is how the 5 percent cap is calculated. Right now, the state’s three big utilities — Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric — each has a different way of measuring “aggregate customer peak demand.” Leaders in the state’s solar industry, including Vote Solar, SEIA, IREC and the Sierra Club, contend that there needs to be a uniform methodology. In the end, utilities are looking to continue their more restrictive interpretation, which solar advocates say results in almost 50 percent less net metered solar energy than would otherwise be allowed.

Wind Farms and Military Unrest

Biofuels Watch - Apr 14

Although a number of both individuals and groups across the United States are against the development of expansive wind farms for a number of reasons (primarily their aesthetic drawbacks and potentially ecologically damaging capabilities during construction) a new opponent has recently joined in the fight against the development of wind farms – the US Military. Voicing their concerns that wind farm development could potentially pose safety risks in terms of disrupting military detection capabilities by limiting the overall maximum range and detection capabilities of RADAR and other devices plans for development of both onshore and offshore wind facilities have come under scrutiny from a new angle as if late previously unheard from in earlier wind development talks.

Solar Forecast: More Power With New Weather Data

Earth Techling - Apr 13

Three universities have teamed up to create a network of observation points across the West Coast and Hawaii to provide sensor data that will help forecast solar energy patterns. Western Washington University, the University of California and the University of Hawaii are joining forces in a move they hope will eventually make it easier to integrate solar energy into regional power systems. image via Western Washington University The monitoring stations have been set up at Western Washington’s campus in Bellingham, Wash.; near Ewa Beach on the island of Oahu, Hawaii; and at University of California campuses in Merced, Davis, Berkeley and San Diego. Data from the six sites will be fed into a forecasting model that combines meteorological information, satellite data, ground sensor observations and real-time irradiance measurements.

California schools harness sunshine to cut energy costs

Los Angeles Times - Apr 16

More schools install solar panels to tap California's sunshine and reduce energy costs. But among the snags are predictable complaints about aesthetics and an unexpected directional mixup. To plug in to solar energy, you need photovoltaic cells, controllers, inverters, combiner boxes and plenty of copper wiring.Oh yes — and a compass. Workers at Valencia High School found that out when they installed solar power arrays facing the wrong way. The 4,815-panel project is just one of an increasing number of solar arrays springing up on campuses across the state as financially strapped school systems try to save billions in electricity costs. But tapping into the sun can be trickier than it looks, schools are discovering. At Valencia High, a subcontractor apparently misread plans when bolting down some panels. "They used a crane to pick them up and do a 180-degree spin," explained Gail Pinsker, spokeswoman for the William S. Hart Union High School District. "They were aimed wrong." The repair job was free.

Chevron Says Bankrupt Co-Developer Can't Sell Solar Projects

Law360 - Apr 19

A U.S. division of energy giant Chevron Corp. asked a Delaware bankruptcy court Wednesday to affirm its land rights in two California solar energy projects, saying its insolvent co-developer cannot sell the projects free and clear of Chevron's interests in them. Chevron Energy Solutions Co., a division of Chevron USA Inc., also said in a reservation of rights filing that any sale of the solar projects by bankrupt Solar Trust of America LLC and other co-developers without first curing $1 million in defaulted loans.

Colorado Solar Energy Company honored as Part of President Obama's "Winning the Future" Initiative

Solar Thermal Magazine - Apr 18

Imagine transforming every parking lot in the United States into a clean energy plant. Recognized by the White House as a Champion of Change for Innovations for Renewable Energy, Erin Geegan, CEO of Zam Energy, aims to revolutionize parking facilities by installing solar energy carports to create energy and charge electric vehicles . “It’s an opportunity to support the American economy while bringing hope to future generations and the state of the planet.” Geegan, a resident of Boulder, Colo., will be honored on April 19 as part of President Obama’s “Winning the Future” initiative that recognizes American leaders for advancing new ideas that support a sustainable future.

BrightSource Adds Red-Tailed Hawks to Solar CSP Menagerie

Greentech Solar - Apr 16

BrightSource Energy wants to build concentrated solar power (CSP) plants, not tend to the mating issues of desert tortoises and red-tailed hawks. But such is life as a large energy project developer in the Mojave Desert with the eyes of environmentalist and regulators upon it. The latest impediment to BrightSource's progress, following the withdrawal of its IPO last week and its ongoing tortoise conservancy program, are some mating pairs of red-tailed hawks nesting in the way of a power line. The Riverside Press-Enterprise reported on Sunday that crews won't be able to complete a transmission line upgrade for the massive Ivanpah solar project "until after the hawk nesting season ends in August."

Court Dismisses Lawsuit Filed Against Nevada's First Wind Farm

North American Wind Power - Apr 17

Pattern Energy Group LP has announced that its Spring Valley Wind project has settled a lawsuit by reaching an agreement, together with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Center for Biological Diversity and Western Watersheds Project. In January, environmental groups filed a lawsuit, claiming the wind project was poorly sited and would threaten rare bird species such as the greater sage grouse and golden eagles. The settlement was accepted by the Federal District court in Nevada on March 29, and the lawsuit was dismissed. Construction of Spring Valley Wind - Nevada’s first wind farm - is currently under way, and is expected to be completed in July. The 150 MW project will use 66 Siemens 2.3 MW wind turbines and will connect to an existing 230 kV transmission line. Pattern Energy has entered into a 20-year power purchase agreement with NV Energy for the sale of energy produced by the project.

Ethics Complaint Against Leading NW Solar Advocate

OPB News - Apr 18

A Washington state senator has filed a formal ethics complaint against one of the Northwest’s leading solar power advocates. Republican Jim Honeyford accuses Mike Nelson of using his position at Washington State University to help a company he later went to work for. But the solar power advocate in the spotlight vehemently denies the charge. For many years, Nelson directed the Northwest Solar Center at Washington State University. “The purpose of my job at WSU was to move the solar industry forward in the state of Washington. So that’s what I did pretty successfully,” Nelson says. Two years ago, Nelson retired from WSU to take a job with a Washington-based solar company called Silicon Energy. And that’s where the ethics complaint comes in. State Senator Jim Honeyford accuses Nelson of using his position while at WSU to help Silicon Energy win an important state certification.

'Save Hawaii Solar' seeks to preserve tax credits

Pacific Business News - Apr 17

Some of Hawaii’s solar energy companies, including one of the biggest — Kailua-based Sunetric — have formed a group called “Save Hawaii Solar” to try and stop proposed state legislation they say “would kill Hawaii’s solar industry.” The group’s website has circulated an online petition targeting Senate Bill 2288, which Save Hawaii Solar says would severely restrict the Renewable Energy Technology Credit currently offered by the state.

Notable Renewable Energy Projects and Deals

Google-backed AltaRock moves forward with geothermal drilling project

Gigaom - Apr 19

After nearly two years, a Google-backed geothermal startup, AltaRock Energy, has finally gotten the go-ahead for a demonstration project in Oregon to show its novel technology does work. The Bureau of Land Management said earlier this month that it found no big environmental impact for the project, which is set to take place near Newberry Volcano in the Deschutes National Forest in central Oregon. The decision allows Seattle-based AltaRock to start the 2-year project of engineering an underground reservoir to create the hot water and steam needed to produce electricity.

Terra-Gen lands $650m financing for 300MW at Alta Wind

Recharge - Apr 18

Terra-Gen Power continues its record of success in financing construction of one of the largest US wind developments with a $650m deal to add 300MW at the Alta Wind Energy Center (AWEC) in California. A syndicate of international banks are providing construction, seven-year term and bridge loans for the 168MW Alta Wind 7 and 132MW Alta Wind 9 projects, which will increase capacity at the broader AWEC to 1,320MW. The bridge loans provide financing until the projects are complete and can qualify for the 30% Treasury cash grant. The projects at the wind-rich Tehachapi pass will use 100 Vestas V90-3.0MW wind turbines.

Vestas Reaches 50 GW Of Installed Wind Power Capacity

North American Wind Power - Apr 18

Vestas has announced that 46,000 of its wind turbines have been installed worldwide, which equates to 50 GW of wind power capacity. According to Vestas, this represents close to 20% of total global wind energy capacity and is enough energy to power 19 million households. The threshold was passed with the completion of the Knared wind project in southern Sweden. Knared is a 20 MW project developed by E.ON and features 10 V90-2.0MW turbines.

Bechtel Awarded EPC Contract for New Solar Power Project

Solar Thermal Magazine - Apr 17

Bechtel has been awarded a contract by enXco, an EDF Energies Nouvelles Company, for the engineering, procurement, and construction of the Catalina Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Generating Project in Kern County in Southern California. Bechtel will also build the 7.2 mile transmission line to connect the facility to a nearby substation. The 110 MWac facility will be built on 1,100 acres and produce enough energy to power approximately 35,000 homes.

Silverado Power Announces New Power Purchase Agreement With Pacific Gas & Electric

eSolar Energy News - Apr 17

Silverado Power has announced signing a new power purchase agreement (PPA) with Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) for a solar energy project in Lancaster, California. The project will generate 20 megawatts of clean, domestic power for distribution by PG&E, the contract term extends for 20 years.

Chinese said to be considering Vestas takeover

Denver Business Journal - Apr 16

Rival Chinese wind-power companies have discussed mounting competing takeover bids for Danish wind-turbine maker Vestas Wind Systems A/S, which operates factories in Colorado, according to a news report Monday. The company employs about 1,700 people in the state. Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, citing unnamed sources, reports that Sinovel Wind Group and Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology, the No. 1 and 2 Chinese wind-turbine makers respectively, have discussed takeover bids with bankers.

Solar junction receives award from department of energy

Your Renewable News - Apr 16

Solar Junction, a developer of high efficiency multi-junction solar cells for the concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) market, announces a SUNPATH award from the Department of Energy (DOE) as part of a $21.5 million program to increase its CPV cell manufacturing capacity. Through this program, Solar Junction is targeting a median cell efficiency of 42% on 150mm substrates.

China state-run corporations eager to enter solar industry, says report

DigiTimes - Apr 16

A report from China Business Media, a China-based news outlet, has indicated that China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) plans to acquire Canadian Solar, a China-based solar firm. The acquisition is still in talks. According to the report, sources noted that talks have been stalled due to some difficulties because Canadian Solar has not yet accepted the terms listed by CNOOC.

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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