Thursday, December 16, 2010

Renewable Energy News, December 16, 2010

U.S. Senate Vote Preserves Renewable Energy Cash Grants
By a vote of 81-19, the U.S. Senate has approved a comprehensive tax package that includes a one-year extension of the Department of Treasury's Section 1603 program, also known as the cash-grant program.

Various organizations and trade associations have been lobbying for the program's extension, saying it has been instrumental in supporting the growth of the renewable energy industry. The program offers a cash grant to renewable energy developers in lieu of an investment tax credit.

The legislation will now be considered by the House, which is expected to bring the bill to the floor later this week, the New York Times has reported.
'Sunrise on Solar' party celebrates new solar farm in Ferrisburgh
Ernie Pomerleau didn’t want just an ordinary ribbon-cutting to launch the state’s largest solar field — so the developer threw a party.

In the Vergennes Union High School gym late Wednesday afternoon, he amassed a wide variety of people with whom he and his company, Pomerleau Real Estate, worked to get the project going. They included bankers who helped with financing, engineers who installed the solar panels, and students at the high school who are using the neighboring solar field as an extension of their classrooms.

“This has been an amazing experience,” Pomerleau said. “It’s good for the economy, it’s good for jobs, and it’s good for the environment.”

Disclosure: SDRS represents Pomerleau Real Estate in this matter.
Fossil fuel giant is betting on a bright future in solar
National climate change legislation may be dead as global warming skeptics take power in Congress. But if you want to see where some big businesses think the future of energy lies, pay attention to NRG Energy.

The New Jersey-based electricity provider, which operates nuclear, coal, and natural gas-fired power plants, has embarked on a solar shopping spree.

On Tuesday, NRG bought a planned 290-megawatt photovoltaic farm from thin-film solar module maker First Solar, agreeing to pour up to $800 million into the Yuma County, Ariz., project. The Agua Caliente power plant will supply electricity to California utility PG&E under a 25-year contract.

The deal follows NRG's agreement to buy SunPower's 250-megawatt California Valley Solar Ranch photovoltaic project on the state's central coast for $450 million. That solar power plant will also supply electricity to PG&E. In October, NRG said it would invest $300 million investment in BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah solar thermal power plant now under construction in the Southern California desert.

In other words, over the course of two months, NRG has made a nearly $1.6 billion bet on Big Solar.
UVM installs 17 solar trackers
The University of Vermont is poised to add another credential to its sustainability resume, and all the students get credit for this one — regardless of whether they know it.

Seventeen photovoltaic panels have been installed on UVM land outside the U.S. Forest Service’s lab on Spear Street. They’re called “solar trackers,” which means they’ll tilt toward the sun as it moves across the sky, drawing optimal amounts of power-generating sunlight. The trackers won’t be operational for another couple of weeks, though, and their most significant contribution to UVM’s environmental profile is about a year away.

That’s when the fully renovated Aiken Center — home to the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources — will be ready for occupancy. The trackers are expected to supply about 20 percent of the rehabbed building’s electric power needs, enhancing its anticipated ranking as one of the greenest buildings around.
Feed-in-Tariff Presents New Possibilities for Maui Residents
It appears that the State of Hawai‘i may be inching closer to what once seemed to be a rather lofty goal: achieving 70 percent clean energy by the year 2030.

Earlier this month, the now former Gov. Linda Lingle announced the state’s Department of Accounting and General Services plans to install more than 1,000 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on the Kalanimoku Building in the Honolulu Capital District. The installation, which is slated to begin in February 2011, is expected to generate nearly 300,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of clean energy annually—while significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

This announcement comes on the heels of yet another transformative initiative: Hawai‘i’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) authorized Hawai‘i Electric Company (HECO)—parent company of Hawai‘i Electric Light Company (HELCO) and Maui Electric Company (MECO)—to begin accepting applications for a new feed-in-tariff (FIT) program.

In a statement released last month, HECO said the program will offer “pre-established rates and standardized contract terms” to qualifying applicants and qualifying renewable technologies, which includes PV, concentrated solar power, on-shore wind and in-line hydropower. The program, said HECO, “will provide an easy way for individuals, businesses, governmental entities and other developers to sell renewable energy to HECO.” The goal is to bring 60 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy projects online within the next two years—five times the current installation of solar power.
California Set to Adopt Sweeping Cap-and-Trade Rules
California air quality regulators are poised to adopt the nation's most sweeping regulations to give power plants, refineries and other major polluters a financial incentive to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The Air Resources Board was expected to pass this key piece of the California's 2006 climate law, called AB32, at its meetings Thursday or Friday, with the hope that other states and nations will follow the lead of the world's eighth largest economy.

"AB32 was passed primarily to fill the vacuum created by the failure of Congress to pass any kind of climate or energy legislation for many years now," said Mary Nichols, the air board's chairwoman. "The goal was to lead by example, and being a leader you have to bring others along with you."

California's cap-and-trade rules would set up the largest U.S. carbon trading market as the way to enforce the state's gradually tightening cap on emissions.
A New Way to Buy Wind Power
Millions of people think about buying solar cells for their roofs, but far fewer would consider owning a wind turbine.

An Oregon manufacturer of small wind systems is trying to change that by borrowing a financial strategy from the solar industry: the customer provides a space for the equipment and buy the energy it produces, but the company owns the device, at least for the first few years.

This month the manufacturer, Xzeres, began offering its 10-kilowatt model, which sits on a tower 60 to 100 feet high, with a rotor diameter of under 24 feet. By comparison, a utility-scale wind machine has a capacity that is 100 to 200 times larger, towers as high as 300 feet, and rotor diameters of 250 feet.
Virginia wind farm proceeding
Dominion Resources announced Wednesday that it is acquiring 100-percent ownership of a 2,600 acre tract of land on East River Mountain for the purpose of developing the proposed Bluestone River Wind Farm.

A deed transferring the full ownership of the property to Dominion will be recorded today at the Tazewell County Courthouse. Emil Avram, director of business development for Dominion, said BP, or British Petroleum, an original co-developer of the project, will no longer be involved with the East River Mountain development.

Avram said Dominion still believes the wind turbine project will create jobs, income and economic opportunities for Tazewell County.
Two New Mexico solar projects break ground
Two solar facilities will begin construction before the end of the year in New Mexico as utilities work to meet the state's renewable energy mandate.

Xcel Energy's (XEL.N) utility serving New Mexico and Texas broke ground on Wednesday on a 54-megawatt photovoltaic solar project to be built and operated by SunEdison, a subsidiary of MEMC Electronic Materials Inc (WFR.N).

The solar project, which will be the state's largest, will allow the utility to fulfill a New Mexico mandate that utilities use renewable sources to supply 15 percent of their electricity needs by 2015, the company said.

The renewable mandate increases to 20 percent by 2020.

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