Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Renewable Energy News, November 30, 2010

Energy Secretary Chu Argues for Investment in Energy Research
With some House Republicans gunning for the stimulus bill, especially the portion that went to the Energy Department, the energy secretary went on a pre-emptive offensive of sorts on Monday in advance of the Republican takeover over the chamber, telling an audience at the National Press Club that that money was merely a down payment.

Prosperity relies on technological innovation, which in turn rests on research and development, said Steven Chu, a physicist and Nobel laureate. (Just before he spoke at the luncheon meeting, guests on the dais were each served a dessert cupcake with white frosting topped by chocolatey black icing in the design of an atom, with a nucleus and circling electrons.) But private-sector investment in R&D is low, and public sector investment is wanting, too, he said: it peaked in 1979 and “with a few bumps and wiggles, has been going downhill ever since then,’’ he noted.
Senate Dems press for lame duck action on renewable power grants
Over two-dozen Senate Democrats are trying to create 11th-hour political momentum for extending a grant program that supporters say has provided a lifeline to renewable power developers during the economic downturn.

In a letter Monday to Senate Democratic and GOP leaders, the lawmakers tout the benefits of the expiring Treasury Department grant program that was created in the 2009 stimulus law, and warn that renewable energy project financing will dry up without its extension.

The program allows developers to access grants for projects such as wind farms in lieu of traditional tax credit financing, which became less attractive when the economy tanked.
Opower Tallies $50M Amid Smart-Meter Backlash
A backlash by consumers against smart-meters is causing utilities to take a harder look at how they communicate with customers, while also opening up an opportunity for start-ups like Opower Inc., which VentureWire reported raised $50 million in funding co-led by Accel Partners and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Several utilities have run into public relationship quagmires or conflicts with their utility commissions recently around smart grid programs, including Pacific Gas & Electric, Xcel Energy and Baltimore Gas & Electric.

“Frankly it’s a catch-all right now for the angst in the industry around the fact that people are upset and confused about the value of all these expensive smart-grid investments,” said Dan Yates, chief executive and co-founder of Arlington, Va.-based Opower.
Duke completes 51-megawatt wind farm in Colorado
A new wind farm is up and running on Colorado's Eastern Plains, providing enough electricity to power up to 14,000 homes.

Charlotte, N.C.-based Duke Energy announced Monday that the 51-megawatt Kit Carson windpower project near Burlington is operating. The Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association is buying the power produced by the farm under a 20-year agreement with a Duke subsidiary.

It's the first large wind power deal for Tri-State, which supplies power to about one million people through rural electric cooperatives in Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming.
Wind turbines and high-tech smart meters win in G.E. challenge
Four months and 4,000 entries into G.E.’s much-touted Ecomagination challenge, where it promised financial support of $200 million into new ideas for targeted categories, it has come up with a total of 17 high-tech companies that it said it will fund.
The G.E. Ecomagination Challenge: Powering the Grid contest wanted to corner the best ideas mainly toward building a more efficient and economical power grid. It is part of the broader Ecomagination flagship campaign.
Five winners named will each receive $100,000 to develop their ideas which address problems ranging from frozen wind farm blades, water supply and smart grid security.
Two focused on improving wind turbine designs. IceCode from New Hampshire developed a technology that can defrost wind turbine blades so they never have to be slowed or shut down for repairs.

WinFlex, from Israel, designed an inflatable wind turbine made from inexpensive cloth sheets. The lightweight wind turbine is said to reduce installation costs by at least 50 percent and could shorten the return on investment to three to four years, without subsidies.

The remaining entries were solely focused on the smart grid. Texas-based Capstone Metering’s entry is a smart water meter that can generate its own power – using water – and can be remotely accessed in real time using wireless networks, and through the Internet, eliminating the need for manual meter-readings.

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