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Archive for the ‘Solar Farm’ Category

TODD WOODY, Green in the New York Times, August 25, 2010

California regulators on Wednesday approved a license for the nation’s first large-scale solar thermal power plant in two decades.

The licensing of the 250-megawatt Beacon Solar Energy Project after a two-and-a-half-year environmental review comes as several other big solar farms are set to receive approval from the California Energy Commission in the next month.

“I hope this is the first of many more large-scale solar projects we will permit,” said Jeffrey D. Byron, a member of the California Energy Commission, at a hearing in Sacramento on Wednesday. “This is exactly the type of project we want to see.”

Developers and regulators have been racing to license solar power plants and begin construction before the end of the year, when federal incentives for such renewable energy projects expire. California’s three investor-owned utilities also face a deadline to obtain 20% of their electricity from renewable sources by the end of 2010.

Still, it has been long slog as solar power plants planned for the Mojave Desert have become bogged down in disputes over their impact on protected wildlife and scarce water supplies.

In March 2008, NextEra Energy Resources filed an application to build the Beacon project on 2,012 acres of former farmland in Kern County. Long rows of mirrored parabolic troughs will focus sunlight on liquid-filled tubes to create steam that drives an electricity-generating turbine.

Some rural residents immediately objected to the 521 million gallons of groundwater the project would consume annually in an arid region on the western edge of the Mojave Desert. After contentious negotiations with regulators, NextEra agreed to use recycled water that will be piped in from a neighboring community.

“It’s been a lengthy process, an almost embarrassingly long lengthy process,” said Scott Busa, NextEra’s Beacon project manager, at Wednesday’s hearing. “Hopefully, we’re going from a lengthy process to a timely process.”

However, a lawyer for a union group that has been critical of Beacon told commissioners that obstacles still stood in the way of the power plant.

“Despite all the hard work that has been done, this project won’t get built anytime soon,” said Tanya Gulesserian, representing California Unions for Reliable Energy. She cited the absence of a deal to sell electricity from the Beacon power plant to a utility.

Mr. Busa responded that NextEra was in the final stages of negotiating a power purchase agreement.

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UCILLA WANG, The Greentech Innovations Report, June 9, 2009

sunpowerWhen Pacific Gas and Electric Co. announced a deal to buy solar power from a proposed 230-megawatt project last Friday, it shone a spotlight on a two-year-old company with a different business model than many startups who have inked similar deals with the utility.

The deal also raised the question: Who is NextLight?

NextLight Renewable Power, based in San Francisco, wants to be purely a power plant developer and owner. The deal with PG&E is the first power purchase agreement for the startup, which is funded by private equity firm Energy Capital Partners, said Jim Woodruff, vice president of regulatory and government affairs, in an interview Monday.

“We think the tech agnostic approach is a winning business model,” Woodruff said. “All the core skills that are necessary to develop power projects are the same” for solar or other types of power plants.

The company boasts managers who have experience developing power plants and transmission projects as well as negotiating renewable power purchases.

NextLight’s CEO, Frank De Rosa, worked for PG&E for 23 years and held various roles at the utility, including the director of renewable energy supply, before founding NextLight in 2007. Woodruff worked for Southern California Edison for more than 10 years, first as an in-house counsel and later as the manager of regulatory and legislative issues for the utility’s alternative power business.

NextLight has been developing other solar power projects on public and private land in western states, including a plan to install up to 150 megawatts of generation capacity in Boulder City, Nevada.

The Boulder City Council is slated to vote on whether to lease 1,100 acres of city land to NextLight tonight. The company would sell 3,000-megawatt hours of energy per year to the city if the project is built, Woodruff said.

PG&E signed the deal with NextLight after it had inked many power purchase agreements in recent years to buy solar power from startup companies with the ambition to both develop their own technologies as well as owning and operating solar farms.

Some of the projects seem to be moving along. A few have hit snags. The deal to buy power from Finavera, an ocean power developer in Canada, fell apart last year when the California Public Utilities Commission decided that the contract would be too costly to ratepayers (see California Rejects PG&E Contract for Wave Energy).

OptiSolar, which was supposed to build a 550-megawatt solar farm to sell power to PG&E, couldn’t raise enough money to operate its solar panel factory and develop solar farms.

First Solar, another solar panel maker based in Tempe, Ariz., bought OptiSolar’s project development business for $400 million in April this year. First Solar would use its own, cadmium-telluride solar panels, instead of the amorphous silicon solar panels OptiSolar was developing. PG&E has said that the power contract would remain in place.

NextLight, on the other hand, would pick different solar technologies instead of developing its own. The approach isn’t new – SunEdison was doing this before others joined the party.

But there is no guarantee that this approach would enable NextLight to deliver energy more cheaply, and neither NextLight nor PG&E would discuss the financial terms of their contract.

“Our priority is about diversification of the resources we use and the companies we work with,” said PG&E spokeswoman Jennifer Zerwer. “Contracting for renewable via [power purchase agreements] is beneficial because it helps grow that ecosystem of renewable development, and there is no risk to our customers.”

Rumors have been circulating about whether NextLight would use SunPower’s equipment for the 230-megawatt project, which is called AV Solar Ranch 1, particularly since the project’s website features a photo of SunPower panels.

Woodruff said NextLight hasn’t selected a panel supplier. The company and PG&E have agreed to use solar panels, but the utility wouldn’t have a final say on the supplier, Woodruff added.

Gordon Johnson, head of alternative energy research at Hapoalim Securities, also cast doubt on the SunPower rumor.  “Based on our checks, we do not believe [SunPower] won the PPA with NextLight,” Johnson wrote in a research note.

NextLight plans to start construction of the AV Solar Ranch project in the third quarter of 2010 and complete it by 2013. The company said it would start delivering power in 2011.

The project would be located on 2,100 acres in Antelope Valley in Los Angeles County, Woodruff said. The company bought the property last year for an undisclosed sum.

The company would need approval from the Los Angeles County to construct the solar farm. The California Public Utilities Commission would need to approve the power purchase contract between PG&E and NextLight.

NextLight also is developing a power project with up to 425 megawatts in generation capacity in southern Arizona.  The company is negotiating to a farmland for the Agua Caliente Solar Project, Woodruff said. The 3,800 acres are located east of the city of Yuma.

The company is negotiating with a utility to buy power from Agua Caliente, said Woodruff, who declined to name the utility.

NextLight hasn’t decided whether to install solar panels or build a solar thermal power plant for the Agua Caliente project. Solar thermal power plants use mirrors to concentrate the sunlight for heating water or mineral oils to generate steam. The steam is then piped to run electricity-generating turbines.

But solar panels appear to be a more attractive option than solar thermal for now, Woodruff said.

“We’ve concluded that, in the near term, PV is more cost effective,” he said.

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The mineral is a key part of a Santa Monica firm’s proposed alternative energy project in the desert. The technology was proven workable in a pilot project near Barstow in the 1990s.
PETER PAE, The Los Angeles Times, May 29, 2009

47183323Just past Barstow on Interstate 15, Las Vegas-bound travelers can eye a tower resembling a lighthouse rising out of the desert encircled by more than 1,800 mirrors the size of billboards.

The complex is often mistaken for a science fiction movie set, but it is actually a power plant that once used molten salt, water and the sun’s heat to produce electricity.

Now a storied rocket maker in Canoga Park and a renewable energy company in Santa Monica are hoping to take what they learned at the long-closed desert facility to build a much larger plant that could power 100,000 homes — all from a mix of sun, salt and rocket science once believed too futuristic to succeed.

The Santa Monica-based energy firm SolarReserve has licensed the technology, developed by engineers at Rocketdyne.

“Molten salt is the secret sauce,” said SolarReserve President Terry Murphy.

It is one of at least 80 large solar projects on the drawing board in California, but the molten salt technology is considered one of the more unusual and — to some energy analysts — one of the more promising in the latest rush to build clean electricity generation.

“It’s actually something we’ll likely see in a few years,” said Nathaniel Bullard, a solar energy analyst with New Energy Finance in Alexandria, Va. “It’s moving along in a nice way, and they have good capital behind it.”

SolarReserve, which is financing and marketing the project, said it is working on agreements with several utilities to buy electricity generated from the plant. It hopes to have several announcements in a few months that could help jump-start construction of the first plant, which would probably be on private land in the Southwest, Murphy said.

The company last fall secured $140 million in venture capital.

The plant could begin operating by early 2013. It would use an array of 15,000 heliostats, or large tilting mirrors about 25 feet wide, to direct sunlight to a solar collector atop a 600-foot-tall tower — somewhat like a lighthouse in reverse.

The mirrors would heat up molten salt flowing through the receiver to more than 1,000 degrees, hot enough to turn water into powerful steam in a device called a heat exchanger. The steam, like that coming out of a nozzle of a boiling tea kettle, would drive a turbine to create electricity.

The molten salt, once cooled, would then be pumped back through the solar collector to start the process all over again. “The plant has no emissions, and if you have a leak or something, you can just shovel it up and take it home with you to use for your barbecue,” Murphy said.

The molten salt can be stored for days if not weeks and then used to generate electricity at any time. Many other solar technologies work only when the sun is shining. Storing electricity in a battery works for cars and homes but not on a massive scale that would be needed to power thousands of homes.

“You can put that into a storage tank that would look much like a tank at an oil refinery,” Murphy said. “We can store that energy almost indefinitely.”

While there are high hopes for the technology, some environmentalists have criticized solar-thermal plants for requiring vast tracts of land as well as precious water for generating steam and for cooling the turbines.

The array of the mirrored heliostats for the SolarReserve plant would take up about two square miles. Transmission lines would also be needed to transport the power where it’s needed. With dozens of solar, wind and geothermal projects planned for California’s deserts, some fear that this unique habitat will be destroyed.

But SolarReserve officials said that the plant would use one-tenth the amount of water required by a conventional plant and that mirrors will be “benign” to the environment.

The technology, with the exception of using salt, is similar to those that Rocketdyne engineers developed for the nation’s more notable space programs.

At the sprawling Canoga Park facility, the engineers who came up with the SolarReserve technology also developed the power system for the International Space Station, the rocket engine for the space shuttle, and the propulsion system for the Apollo lunar module.

Rocketdyne’s aerospace heritage stretches back to the earliest years of rocket development, when it was founded shortly after World War II to study German V-2 rocket technology. After becoming part of Rockwell International in the late 1960s, the company was sold to Boeing Co. in 1996.

United Technologies bought the Rocketdyne unit from Boeing for $700 million in 2005 primarily for its expertise in rocket engines. It didn’t know about the solar project until after the acquisition.

Now Rocketdyne believes it can generate $1 billion in revenue from making the components for the plant, including the tower that would collect the sun’s concentrated heat from thousands of mirrors.

The solar collector in many ways is similar to the inside of a rocket nozzle that has to withstand thousands of degrees of heat, said Rick Howerton, Rocketdyne’s program manager for concentrated solar power who previously worked on the space station program.

The solar-thermal technology was proved workable more than a decade ago at the Barstow pilot plant. But the complex was shuttered in 1999 when the cost of natural gas fell to one-tenth of what it is today.

Also there wasn’t as much concern for the environment then, Murphy said. “It was ahead of its time. The market hadn’t caught up to it.”

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TRACY SEIPEL, MercuryNews.com, May 15, 2009

brightsourceDeclaring it a record total, PG&E on Wednesday announced an expansion of solar-power contracts with Oakland’s BrightSource Energy for a total of 1,310 megawatts of electricity — enough to power 530,000 California homes.

The power purchase agreements, which will now include seven power plants, add to a previous contract the two companies struck in April 2008 for up to 900 megawatts of solar thermal power.

BrightSource called it the largest solar deal ever. The company now has 2,610 megawatts under contract, which it said is more than any other solar thermal company and represents more than 40 percent of all large-scale solar thermal contracts in the United States.

“The solar thermal projects announced today exemplify PG&E’s commitment to increasing the amount of renewable energy we provide to our customers throughout Northern and central California,” John Conway, senior vice president of energy supply for PG&E, said in a statement. “Through these agreements with BrightSource, we can harness the sun’s energy to meet our customers’ power requirements when they need it most — during hot summer days.”

John Woolard, chief executive of BrightSource Energy, said the additional contracts came about after BrightSource demonstrated its technology in Israel with results that were “at or above all the specifications. It proved to them that our technology works,” Woolard said. “They saw us executing and delivering” efficient production of solar energy.

BrightSource, which designs, builds and operates solar thermal plants, will construct the plants at a cost of at least $3 billion in the southwestern deserts of California, Nevada and Arizona. The company anticipates the first plant, a 110-megawatt facility at Ivanpah in eastern San Bernardino County, to begin operation by 2012.

Its technology uses sunlight reflected from thousands of movable mirrors to boil water to make steam. The steam then drives a turbine to generate electricity. BrightSource founder and Chairman Arnold Goldman’s previous company, Luz International, built nine solar plants in the Mojave Desert between 1984 and 1990, all of which are still operating.

In March, BrightSource reached an agreement with Southern California Edison to purchase 1,300 megawatts, then the largest solar contract ever, BrightSource said.

Investor-owned California utilities such as PG&E are required to get 20% of their power from renewable sources by 2010, or to by then have contracts for power from projects that go online by 2013. PG&E already has contracts in hand that exceed that 20% goal.  PG&E generates 12% of its energy from renewable sources now, and expects that to increase to 14% by the end of the year.

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MendoCoastCurrent, April 17, 2009

space-solar-energy-jj-001San Francisco — PG&E has begun exploring renewable energy from space as it seeks approval from California state regulators, the CPUC, to purchase power from Solaren Corporation offering 200 megawatts over 15 years.

Solaren’s technology uses solar panels in Earth orbit, converting the energy to radio frequency for transmission to an Earth-based receiving station. The received radio frequency is converted into electricity and fed into the power grid. 

Solaren envisions deploying a solar array into space to beam an average of 850 gigawatt hours the first year of the term and 1,700 gigawatts per year over the remaining term according to their filing to the CPUC.

A clear advantage of solar in space is efficiency. From space, solar energy is converted into radio frequency waves, which are then beamed to Earth. The conversion rate of the RF waves to electricity is in the area of 90%, said Solaren CEO Gary Spirnak, citing U.S. government research. The conversion rate for a typical Earth-bound nuclear or coal-fired plant, meanwhile, is in the area of 33%. And space solar arrays are also 8-10 times more efficient than terrestrial solar arrays as there’s no atmospheric or cloud interference, no loss of sun at night and no seasons.

So space solar energy is a baseload resource, as opposed to Earth-based intermittent sources of solar power. Spirnak claims that space real estate is still free although hard to reach. Solaren seeks only land only for an Earth-based energy receiving station and may locate the station near existing transmission lines, greatly reducing costs.

While the concept of space solar power makes sense on white boards, making it all work affordably is a major challenge. Solar energy from space have a long history of research to draw upon. The U.S. Department of Energy and NASA began seriously studying the concept of solar power satellites in the 1970s, followed by a major “fresh look” in the Clinton administration.

The closest comparison to the proposed Fresno, California deployment is DirecTV, the satellite TV provider, Spirnak explained. DirecTV sends TV signals down to earth on solar-powered RF waves. However, when they reach the Earth, the solar energy is wasted, he said, as all the receivers pick up is the TV programming. 

Solaren claims they’ll be working with citizen groups and government agencies to support the project’s development. Solaren is required to get  all necessary permits and approvals from federal, state and local agencies.

At onset, in exploring space solar energy as in exploring all nascent technologies, explorers shall have to show and prove their renewable technology safe.

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MendoCoastCurrent, January 17, 2009

Here’s the post from MendoCoastCurrent in the Citizen’s Briefing Book at President-elect Barack Obama’s change.gov site:

Renewable Energy Development (RED) federal task force

Immediately establish and staff a Renewable Energy Development (RED) federal task force chartered with exploring and fast-tracking the development, exploration and commercialization of environmentally-sensitive renewable energy solutions in solar, wind, wave, green-ag, et al.

At this ‘world-class incubator,’ federal energy policy development is created as cutting-edge technologies and science move swiftly from white boards and white papers to testing to refinement and implementation.

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

If you wish to support this, please vote up this post at :

Renewable Energy Development (RED) federal task force.

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

Mendocino Energy:

Renewable energy incubator and campus on the Mendocino coast exploring nascent and organic technology solutions in wind, wave, solar, green-ag, bioremediation and coastal energy, located on the 400+ acre waterfront G-P Mill site.

Mendocino Energy may be a Campus in Obama’s Renewable Energy Development (RED) federal task force.

Vision:

Mendocino Energy is located on the Mendocino coast, three plus hours north of San Francisco/Silicon Valley.  On the waterfront of Fort Bragg, a portion of the now-defunct Georgia-Pacific Mill Site shall be used for exploring best practices, cost-efficient, environmentally-sensitive renewable and sustainable energy development – wind, wave, solar, bioremediation, green-ag, among many others. The end goal is to identify and engineer optimum, commercial-scale, sustainable, renewable energy solutions.

Start-ups, universities (e.g., Stanford’s newly-funded energy institute), the federal government (RED) and the world’s greatest minds working together to create, collaborate, compete and participate in this fast-tracked exploration.

The campus is quickly constructed of green, temp-portable structures (also a green technology) on the healthiest areas of the Mill Site as in the past, this waterfront, 400+ acre created contaminated areas where mushroom bioremediation is currently being tested (one more sustainable technology requiring exploration). So, readying the site and determining best sites for solar thermal, wind turbines and mills, wave energy, etc.

To learn more about these technologies, especially wave energy, RSS MendoCoastCurrent.

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NANEA KALANI, Pacific Business News, January 12, 2009

217835-0-0-1Honolulu-based Sopogy announced last week that it will build a 50-megawatt system in Toledo, Spain, using its proprietary technology in partnership with a German energy financier and a Spanish project developer. The system could generate enough electricity to power 15,000 homes.

Sopogy founder and CEO Darren Kimura said the Spanish project, expected to be completed by the end of 2010 and cost about $300 million, is part of the company’s plans to expand its presence abroad as the U.S. financial market wanes.

“For about a year now, Sopogy has felt that it’s necessary to diversify and become more global,” Kimura told PBN. “Because our technology offers higher production and lower capital costs, we’re looking for sites where our technology has the best value, and the best value today lies in the European market.”

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Redwood Times, December 17, 2008

cudrefin_switzerlandashxCalifornia State Senator Patricia Wiggins has introduced new legislation to encourage more production of solar power by compensating smaller producers for all of the solar power that they generate.

Currently, residential electric customers can participate in the state’s solar program, known as the California Solar Initiative, and receive subsidies for the installation of photovoltaic panels to produce solar power. They may also participate in “net-energy metering,” a program that gives customers credits for the amount of solar power they produce against their electric bills. However, power produced beyond their own use is returned to their electric provider for free.

SB 7 would not only allow residential utility customers to continue to receive credits for the solar power they produce for their own use, it would also allow them to contribute more solar-based power to the electrical grid and be compensated for it at the same rate a utility provider would pay.

The state already has legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by getting 33% of its power from renewable sources.

SB7 “offers a fair and reasonable path to increased production of solar power, and it contributes a win-win for solar power producers, utility providers and our environment,” Wiggins said.

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MendoCoastCurrent, December 14, 2008

kevinruddAustralian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called for a “solar revolution” on Sunday as he unveiled plans to bring forward a A$500 million (US$329 million) fund promoting renewable energy in a bid to stimulate the economy.

Speaking just a day before a key announcement on Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions targets, Rudd said the fund’s timescale would be brought forward from the original six-year plan to the next 18 months.

“It’s good for jobs. It’s good for stimulus. It’s good for acting on climate change,” Rudd said of the move. “It’s time for Australia to begin a solar revolution, a renewable energy revolution and we’ve got to fund it for the future.”

Rudd made the announcement at the Queensland town of Windorah, where a new solar energy plant is expected to produce around 360,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year and provide the town’s daytime power needs.

The prime minister said A$100 million would be released by June 30 next year, with the remaining A$400 million to be released in the following 12 months.

The only condition, he said in an accompanying statement, was “availability of suitable demonstration projects.” Guidelines would be released early in 2009, the statement said.

The Renewable Energy Fund, which also includes work on biofuels development and geothermal drilling, was set up to help cut the cost of developing technologies that might play a key role in energy supply and security over the next few decades.

The fund was an election commitment by the ruling Labor party in last year’s election, in which Rudd defeated conservative predecessor John Howard. During the campaign Rudd set a target that 20% of Australia’s energy should be from renewable sources by 2020.

A key ‘white paper’ policy document is due on Monday setting out Australia’s official targets for emissions cuts and plans for carbon trading. Australia is widely expected to adopt a target of a 10% cut from 2000 levels by 2020.

Although Rudd has been applauded by environmentalists for his decision for Australia to join the Kyoto protocol, they also say Canberra’s actions on reducing greenhouse gas emissions have so far been inadequate.

(A$1=US$0.66)

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Giles Tremlett, The Guardian UK, December 2, 2008

portugalwind1Europe’s biggest onshore wind farm plugged itself into the grid today to provide enough electricity for up to a million people in northern Portugal.

A total of 120 windmills are dotted across the highlands of the Upper Minho region of Portugal as one of western Europe’s poorer nations continues to forge its reputation as a renewables champion.

“Europe’s largest onshore wind farm is now fully operational,” a spokeswoman for France’s EDF Energies Nouvelles, which co-owns the farm, announced this morning.

The two megawatt turbines on each windmill deliver electricity to a single connection point with the electricity grid and should supply around 1% of Portugal’s total energy needs.

A second, smaller wind farm is already functioning nearby, giving a combined output of 650 gigawatt hours per year. “That is above 1% of national consumption,” said Nuno Ribeiro da Silva, head of the VentoMinho company that runs the farm.

That would provide enough energy for 300,000 homes, or most of the northern city of Viana do Castelo and its surrounding districts, he told the Publico newspaper.

Portugal’s mixture of government enthusiasm, subsidies and special tariffs has turned it into one of the focal points of renewables development in Europe over the past five years.

The world’s largest solar photovoltaic farm is being built near the southern town of Moura. The Moura solar farm, which will include a research centre, should be twice the size of any other in the world when it is fully up and running in two years time.

Portugal also recently inaugurated the world’s first commercial wave power plant in the Atlantic Ocean off Aguçadoura, using technology developed in Scotland.

The country is heavily dependent on imported fossil fuels and has set a target of obtaining 31% of energy needs from renewables by the year 2020. That is more than twice the UK target. It also uses its subsidies policy to insist that manufacturers of turbines and solar panels set up production plants.

“By 2010 we will have 5,000MW of wind energy installed, meaning we will have increased it tenfold in just five years,” economy minister Manuel Pinho said. “This is another step towards putting our country in the vanguard of what is being done with renewable energy.”

Portugal, which claims to be one of the world’s top five renewable energy countries, provides subsidies of up to 40% for new projects.

The world’s largest onshore wind farms are in the United States, with the Horse Hollow farm in Texas providing more than 700MW.

These will soon be dwarfed by proposed offshore wind farms of up to 5,000MW each.

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PAUL GIPE, RenewableEnergyWorld.com, December 4, 2008

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced to much fanfare on November 24 that the city’s municipal utility would launch one of the continent’s largest solar power programs. The mayor’s plan would direct the city’s municipal utility, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), to build or purchase 1,300 MW of solar energy by 2020.

Interestingly, it was a municipal utility that launched the modern version of Germany’s famed feed-in tariffs.

Among provisions of the plan is a feed-in tariff for 150 MW of solar photovoltaics by 2016. This is the first official announcement of a feed-in tariff proposal by a California city, but it is not the first in the United States. Gainesville, Florida previously announced that it was formally considering a feed-in tariff to replace its solar rebate program.

Recently, the Palm Springs Desert Sun reported that Palm Desert, California was also considering solar feed-in tariffs after city officials toured Spain, one of the world’s leading developers of solar energy. Spain uses feed-in tariffs.

LADWP is the continent’s largest municipal utility. It was briefly at the forefront of solar energy development in California from 1999 to 2003, before inexplicably abandoning its program.

The city and LADWP provided no details on the solar feed-in tariff or on the other renewable energy proposals that were part of the mayor’s press release. There were no further details on LADWP’s web site. Photos of wind turbines on the web site were standard stock photos and all were of wind turbines outside the utility’s service area.

LADWP claims that 8.5% of its electricity currently comes from renewables and that the utility is on track to meet its 20% target by 2010. The last report on the utility’s web site about its renewable energy program, however, is dated 2003, the year the utility canceled its successful solar program.

Los Angeles’ 120 MW Pine Tree wind project is slated to come on line in 2009. The project also is outside of the Los Angeles Basin, just north of the Tehachapi Wind Resource Area.

Interestingly, it was a municipal utility that launched the modern version of Germany’s famed feed-in tariffs. Aachen introduced the first solar-specific feed-in tariff in the mid-1990s. Subsequently other German cities followed suit. In 2000 Germany’s parliament incorporated the concept behind Aachen’s policy in its groundbreaking system of Advanced Renewable Tariffs.

Municipal utilities in the Americas may be able to emulate Aachen and be the first to launch true feed-in tariffs. Because municipal utilities are governed by city officials, they can be more responsive to public demands for action on renewable energy than the often more distant state or provincial legislatures.

Tortonto Hydro, North America’s second largest and Canada’s largest municipal utility, briefly considered a solar PV feed-in tariff in 2007, but took no action. The proposal before Toronto Hydro employed a differentiated feed-in tariff that was intended to work with the province of Ontario’s Standard Offer Contract Program.

The proposal of Gainsville Regional Utilities (GRU) is the most advanced in the United States. GRU’s commission has ordered preparation of a tariff.

In contrast to Gainesville’s approach, LADWP made public little or no information on the details of its proposal. GRU prepared a detailed report which it presented to Gainesville’s utility commission when the utility went public with its proposal.

Los Angeles incorporates Hollywood within its city boundaries and there’s always an element of showmanship in its pronouncements. The city’s proposal is aggressive, more than one-third of the California Solar Initiative’s 3,000 MW of solar PV, if it is more than simply aspirational.

The portion of the plan devoted to a feed-in tariff is about one-tenth of the entire program. Countries that have been the most successful at rapidly developing renewable energy (Germany, France, and Spain) use feed-in tariffs as the principal if not only policy mechanism.

Despite the uncritical media accounts of the “world’s most ambitious solar plan,” attention has focused not only on the targets, but also on the various mechanisms that may be used to reach those targets, including feed-in tariffs.

Regardless of how or even whether it follows through, Los Angeles, as one of North America’s largest cities, has put feed-in tariffs, at least for solar, on the continent’s public policy map.

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MARCEL HAWIGER, SFGate, November 19, 2008

California’s regulators are exploring whether or not California should follow the German model to promote rooftop solar power by adopting a “feed-in tariff” for solar energy. This tariff sets a price for any and all electric power that the solar installation feeds into the electric grid, even relatively small amounts. Rooftop photovoltaic installations on both homes and businesses have blossomed in Germany due to the use of this incentive.

So we know that this policy can convince building owners to invest in more solar installations. But it is not the only way to develop solar power – or the best way. In Ontario, Canada, a feed-in tariff that paid four times the normal price for electricity failed to stimulate small-scale projects. The Ontario Power Authority has been unwilling to up the ante, because it would raise electric rates for consumers – the biggest problem with high feed-in tariffs is that they result in higher utility bills, because ratepayers pay top dollar for every single kilowatt produced. Here in California, we are already subsidizing solar through higher utility bills. Thus a high feed-in tariff is unnecessary, and unfair.

PG&E, Edison and SDG&E now pay a homeowner or business full price rather than the wholesale rate other electric generators receive for their solar output up to the amount of electricity they use annually. Solar advocates want utility companies to purchase excess solar output from homeowners and businesses, and want the utility to pay an inflated price per kilowatt hour. But overpaying for rooftop solar would actually buy us less renewable power in the end by spending consumers’ money on the most expensive renewable technology – photovoltaic solar energy – which is more than twice as expensive as solar thermal, wind, geothermal or biomass.

There are better ways to maximize our state’s investment in solar energy. My organization, TURN, was instrumental in passing legislation that requires the California utilities to use renewable energy to meet at least 20% of their energy need in 2010. That law included important consumer protections to insure that renewables are purchased at the best possible price for consumers.

In contrast, a high feed-in tariff, like other programs funded through utility bills, burdens small consumers with higher bills that have limited returns.

The California Solar Initiative is one such program, already providing ample financial incentives for starting small solar, and already a burden on working Californians. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has claimed the environmental mantle by pushing for a “million solar roofs” without raising any income taxes, but he instead raised utility rates, thus forcing ordinary Californians to subsidize a program that disproportionately benefits the wealthy, who are receiving the majority of the funding. More than 80% of the projects funded under the initiative are being put on commercial rooftops, bringing huge benefits to large businesses like Wal-Mart and Macy’s. Under a feed-in tariff, wealthy businesses and individuals can double-dip – building their systems with generous subsidies, enjoying free electricity and higher home values, and then selling the excess power back to the consumers for hugely inflated prices.

The goal of the feed-in tariff promoters cannot be faulted – promoting renewable power. But that can be done without harming utility ratepayers. The City of Berkeley has developed an innovative pilot program to provide homeowners with special tax financing for the cost of a solar installation. And in the recent bailout bill, Congress finally extended the generous tax benefits available to commercial solar installations to residential projects, a long-overdue change.

Will we ever catch up with Germany by making these changes? Perhaps not. But we’re behind on social programs too, including programs that provide a safety net for hard economic times. After we address those, then I won’t worry so much about using utility bills to fund those solar panels I see all over my Berkeley neighborhood.

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PETER S. GOODMAN, The New York Times, November 2, 2008

Newton, Iowa – Like his uncle, his grandfather and many of their neighbors, Arie Versendaal spent decades working at the Maytag factory here, turning coils of steel into washing machines.

When the plant closed last year, taking 1,800 jobs out of this town of 16,000 people, it seemed a familiar story of American industrial decline: another company town brought to its knees by the vagaries of global trade.

Except that Mr. Versendaal has a new factory job, at a plant here that makes blades for turbines that turn wind into electricity. Across the road, in the old Maytag factory, another company is building concrete towers to support the massive turbines. Together, the two plants are expected to employ nearly 700 people by early next year.

“Life’s not over,” Mr. Versendaal says. “For 35 years, I pounded my body to the ground. Now, I feel like I’m doing something beneficial for mankind and the United States. We’ve got to get used to depending on ourselves instead of something else, and wind is free. The wind is blowing out there for anybody to use.”

From the faded steel enclaves of Pennsylvania to the reeling auto towns of Michigan and Ohio, state and local governments are aggressively courting manufacturing companies that supply wind energy farms, solar electricity plants and factories that turn crops into diesel fuel.

This courtship has less to do with the loftiest aims of renewable energy proponents — curbing greenhouse gas emissions and lessening American dependence on foreign oil — and more to do with paychecks. In the face of rising unemployment, renewable energy has become a crucial source of good jobs, particularly for laid-off Rust Belt workers.

Amid a presidential election campaign now dominated by economic concerns, wind turbines and solar panels seem as ubiquitous in campaign advertisements as the American flag.

No one believes that renewable energy can fully replace what has been lost on the American factory floor, where people with no college education have traditionally been able to finance middle-class lives. Many at Maytag earned $20 an hour in addition to health benefits. Mr. Versendaal now earns about $13 an hour.

Still, it’s a beginning in a sector of the economy that has been marked by wrenching endings, potentially a second chance for factory workers accustomed to layoffs and diminished aspirations.

In West Branch, Iowa, a town of 2,000 people east of Iowa City, workers now assemble wind turbines in a former pump factory. In northwestern Ohio, glass factories suffering because of the downturn in the auto industry are retooling to make solar energy panels.

“The green we’re interested in is cash,” says Norman W. Johnston, who started a solar cell factory called Solar Fields in Toledo in 2003.

The market is potentially enormous. In a report last year, the Energy Department concluded that the United States could make wind energy the source of one-fifth of its electricity by 2030, up from about 2 percent today. That would require nearly $500 billion in new construction and add more than three million jobs, the report said. Much of the growth would be around the Great Lakes, the hardest-hit region in a country that has lost four million manufacturing jobs over the last decade.

Throw in solar energy along with generating power from crops, and the continued embrace of renewable energy would create as many as five million jobs by 2030, asserts Daniel M. Kammen, director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, and an adviser to the presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama.

The unfolding financial crisis seems likely to slow the pace of development, making investment harder to secure. But renewable energy has already gathered what analysts say is unstoppable momentum. In Texas, the oil baron T. Boone Pickens is developing what would be the largest wind farm in the world. Most states now require that a significant percentage of electricity be generated from wind, solar and biofuels, effectively giving the market a government mandate.

And many analysts expect the United States to eventually embrace some form of new regulatory system aimed at curbing global warming that would force coal-fired electricity plants to pay for the pollution they emit. That could make wind, solar and other alternative fuels competitive in terms of the cost of producing electricity.

Both presidential candidates have made expanding renewable energy a policy priority. Senator Obama, the Democratic nominee, has outlined plans to spend $150 billion over the next decade to spur private companies to invest. Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee, has spoken more generally of the need for investment.

In June, more than 12,000 people and 770 exhibitors jammed a convention center in Houston for the annual American Wind Energy Association trade show. “Five years ago, we were all walking around in Birkenstocks,” says John M. Brown, managing director of a turbine manufacturer, Entegrity Wind Systems of Boulder, Colo., which had a booth on the show floor. “Now it’s all suits. You go to a seminar, and it’s getting taught by lawyers and bankers.”

So it goes in Iowa. Perched on the edge of the Great Plains — the so-called Saudi Arabia of wind — the state has rapidly become a leading manufacturing center for wind power equipment.

“We are blessed with certainly some of the best wind in the world,” says Chet Culver, Iowa’s governor.

Maytag was born in Newton more than a century ago. Even after the company swelled into a global enterprise, its headquarters remained here, in the center of the state, 35 miles east of Des Moines.

“Newton was an island,” says Ted Johnson, the president of local chapter of the United Automobile Workers, which represented the Maytaggers. “We saw autos go through hard times, other industries. But we still had meat on our barbecues.”

The end began in the summer of 2005. Whirlpool, the appliance conglomerate, swallowed up Maytag. As the word spread that local jobs were doomed — Whirlpool was consolidating three factories’ production into two — workers unloaded their memorabilia at Pappy’s Antique Mall downtown: coffee mugs, buttons, award plaques.

“If it said Maytag on it, we bought it,” says Susie Jones, the store manager. “At first, I thought the stuff had value. Then, it was out of the kindness of my heart. And now I don’t have any heart left. It don’t sell. People are mad at them. They ripped out our soul.”

When the town needed a library, a park or a community college, Maytag lent a hand. The company was Newton’s largest employer, its wages paying for tidy houses, new cars, weddings, retirement parties and funerals.

As Whirlpool made plans to shutter the factory, state and county economic development officials scrambled to attract new employers. In June 2007, the local government dispatched a team to the American Wind Energy Association show in Los Angeles. Weeks later, a company called TPI Composites arrived in Newton to have a look.

Based in Arizona, TPI makes wind turbine blades by layering strips of fiberglass into large molds, requiring a long work space. The Maytag plant was too short. So local officials showed TPI an undeveloped piece of land encircled by cornfields on the edge of town where a new plant could be built.

Although TPI was considering a site in Mexico with low labor costs, Newton had a better location. Rail lines and Interstate 80 connect it to the Great Plains, where the turbines are needed. Former Maytag employees were eager for work, and the community college was ready to teach them blade-making.

Newton won. In exchange for $6 million in tax sweeteners, TPI promised to hire 500 people by 2010. It has already hired about 225 and is on track to have a work force of 290 by mid-November.

“Getting 500 jobs in one swoop is like winning the lottery,” says Newton’s mayor, Chaz Allen. “We don’t have to just roll over and die.”

On a recent afternoon, workers inside the cavernous TPI plant gaze excitedly at a crane lifting a blade from its mold and carrying it toward a cleared area. Curved and smooth, the blade stretches as long as a wing of the largest jets. One worker hums the theme from “Jaws” as the blade slips past.

Larry Crady, a worker, takes particular pleasure in seeing the finished product overhead, a broad grin forming across his goateed face. He used to run a team that made coin-operated laundry machines at Maytag. Now he supervises a team that lays down fiberglass strips between turbine moldings. He runs his hand across the surface of the next blade for signs of unevenness.

“I like this job more than I did Maytag,” Mr. Crady says. “I feel I’m doing something to improve our country, rather than just building a washing machine.”

Ask him how long he spent at Maytag and Mr. Crady responds precisely: “23.6 years.” Which is to say, 6.4 years short of drawing a pension whose famously generous terms compelled so many to work at the Maytag plant. “That’s what everyone in Newton was waiting on,” he says. “You could get that 30 and out.”

But he is now optimistic about the decades ahead. “I feel solid,” he says. “This is going to be the future. This company is going to grow huge.”

The human resources office at TPI is overseen by Terri Rock, who used to have the same position at Maytag’s corporate headquarters, where she worked for two decades. In her last years there, her job was mostly spent ending other people’s jobs.

“There was a lot of heartache,” she says. “This is a small town, and you’d have to let people go and then see them at the grocery store with their families. It was a real tough job at the end.”

Now, Ms. Rock starts fresh careers, hiring as many as 20 people a week. She enjoys the creative spirit of a start-up. “We’re not stuck with the mentality of ‘this is how we’ve done it for the last 35 years,’ ” she says.

Maytag is gone in large part because of the calculus driving globalization: household appliances and so many other goods are now produced mostly where physical labor is cheaper, in countries like China and Mexico. But wind turbines and blades are huge and heavy. The TPI plant is in Iowa largely because of the costs of shipping such huge items from far away.

“These are American jobs that are hard to export,” says Crugar Tuttle, general manager of the TPI plant.

And these jobs are part of a build-out that is gathering force. More than $5 billion in venture capital poured into so-called clean energy technology industries last year in North America and Europe, according to Cleantech, a trade group. In North America, that represented nearly a fifth of all venture capital, up from less than 2 percent in 2000.

“Everybody involved in the wind industry is in a massive hurry to build out capacity,” Mr. Tuttle says. “It will feed into a whole local industry of people making stuff, driving trucks. Manufacturing has been in decline for decades. This is our greatest chance to turn it around. It’s the biggest ray of hope that we’ve got.”

Those rays aren’t touching everyone, though. Hundreds of former Maytag workers remain without jobs, or stuck in positions paying less than half their previous wages. Outside an old union hall, some former Maytaggers share cigarettes and commiserate about the strains of starting over.

Mr. Johnson, the former local president, is jobless. At 45, he has slipped back into a world of financial hardship that he thought he had escaped. His father was a self-employed welder. His mother worked at an overalls factory.

“I grew up in southern Iowa with nothing,” he says. “If somebody got a new car, everybody heard about it.”

When Maytag shut down, his $1,100-a-week paycheck became a $360 unemployment check. He and his wife divorced, turning what once was a two-income household into a no-income household. He sold off his truck, his dining room furniture, his Maytag refrigerator — all in an effort to pay his mortgage. Last winter, he surrendered his house to foreclosure.

Mr. Johnson has applied for more than 220 jobs, he says, from sales positions at Lowe’s to TPI. He has yet to secure an interview. His unemployment benefits ran out in May. He no longer has health insurance. He recently broke a tooth where a filling had been, but he can’t afford to have it fixed.

When his teenage daughter, who lives with him, complained of headaches, he paid $1,500 out of pocket for an M.R.I. The doctor found a cyst on her brain. And how is she doing now? Mr. Johnson freezes at the question. He is a grown man with silver hair, a black Harley-Davidson T-shirt across a barrel chest, and calloused hands that could once bring a comfortable living. He tries to compose himself, but tears burst. “I’m sorry,” he says.

He signed up for a state insurance program for low-income families so his daughter could go to a neurologist.

Although the United States is well behind Europe in manufacturing wind-power gear and solar panels, other American communities are joining Newton’s push, laying the groundwork for large-scale production.

“You have to reinvest in industrial capacity,” says Randy Udall, an energy consultant in Carbondale, Colo. “You use wind to revitalize the Rust Belt. You make steel again. You bring it home. We ought to be planting wind turbines as if they were trees.”

In West Branch, Acciona, a Spanish company, has converted the empty hydraulic pump factory into a plant that makes wind turbines. When the previous plant closed, it wiped out 130 jobs; Acciona has hired 120 people, many of them workers from the old factory.

Steve Jennings, 50, once made $14 an hour at the hydraulic pump factory. When he heard that a wind turbine plant was coming in a mere five miles from his house, he was among the first to apply for a job. Now he’s a team leader, earning nearly $20 an hour — more than he’s ever made. Ordinary line workers make $16 an hour and up.

“It seemed like manufacturing was going away,” he says. “But I think this is here to stay.”

Acciona built its first turbine in Iowa last December and is on track to make 200 this year. Next year, it plans to double production.

For now, Acciona is importing most of its metal parts from Europe. But the company is seeking American suppliers, which could help catalyze increased metalwork in the United States.

“Michigan, Ohio — that’s the Rust Belt,” says Adrian LaTrace, the plant’s general manager. “We could be purchasing these components from those states. We’ve got the attention of the folks in the auto industry. This thing has critical mass.”

In Toledo, the declining auto industry has prompted a retooling. For more than a century, the city has been dominated by glass-making, but the problems of Detroit automakers have softened demand for car windows from its plants. Toledo has lost nearly a third of its manufacturing jobs since 2000.

Now, Toledo is harnessing its glass-making skills to carve out a niche in solar power. At the center of the trend is a huge glass maker, Pilkington, which bought a Toledo company that was born in the 19th century.

Half of Pilkington’s business is in the automotive industry. In the last two years, that business is down 30% in North America. But the solar division, started two years ago, is growing at a 40 percent clip annually.

Nearby, the University of Toledo aims to play the same enabling role in solar power that Stanford played at the dawn of the Internet. It has 15 faculty members researching solar power. By licensing the technologies spawned in its labs, the university encourages its academics to start businesses.

One company started by a professor, Xunlight, is developing thin and flexible solar cells. It has 65 employees and expects to have as many as 150 by the middle of next year.

“It’s a second opportunity,” says an assembly supervisor, Matt McGilvery, one of Xunlight’s early hires. Mr. McGilvery, 50, spent a decade making steel coils for $23 an hour before he was laid off. Xunlight hired him this year. His paycheck has shrunk, he says, declining to get into particulars, but his old-fashioned skills drawing plans by hand are again in demand as Xunlight designs its manufacturing equipment from scratch, and the future seems promising.

“The hope is that two years from now everything is smoking and that envelope will slide across the table,” he says. “The money that people are dumping into this tells me it’s a huge market.”

In Newton, the tidy downtown clustered around a domed courthouse is already showing signs of new life, after the pain of Maytag’s demise.

The owner of Courtyard Floral, Diane Farver, says she saw a steep drop in sales after Maytag left, particularly around holidays like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, when she used to run several vanloads a week to the washing machine plant. Times have changed since that decline. When TPI recently dispatched workers to a factory in China for training, the company ordered bouquets for the spouses left at home.

Across the street at NetWork Realty, the broker Dennis Combs says the housing market is starting to stabilize as Maytag jobs are replaced.

“We’ve gone from Maytag, which wasn’t upgrading their antiquated plant, to something that’s cutting-edge technology, something that every politician is screaming this country has to have,” he says.

At Uncle Nancy’s Coffee House, talk of unemployment checks and foreclosures now mixes with job leads and looming investment.

“We’re seeing hope,” says Mr. Allen, the mayor.

The town is hardly done. Kimberly M. Didier, head of the Newton Development Corporation, which helped recruit TPI, is trying to attract turbine manufacturers and providers of raw materials and parts for the wind industry.

“This is in its infancy,” she says. “Automobiles, washer-dryers and other appliances have become commodities in their retirement phase. We’re in the beginning of this. How our economy functions is changing. We built this whole thing around oil, and now we’ve got to replace that.”

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MendoCoastCurrent, September 18, 2008

EnviroMission’s Solar Tower technology is focused on large-scale, clean, green renewable energy generation from the world’s first 200MW solar thermal power station.

One 200MW power station will provide enough electricity to around 200,000 typical Australian households and abates over 900,000 tonnes of greenhouse producing gases from entering the environment annually.

The monolithic scale of the project may also add value to the construction of the power station through tourism and associated economic benefits.

The prototype Solar Tower has been tested and proven with a small-scale pilot project in Manzanares, Spain, as a result of collaboration between the Spanish government and German designers, Schlaich Bergermann and Partner.

It even operated for seven years between 1982 and 1989, and consistently generated 50kW output of green energy, proving the concepts works as well as providing data for design modifications to achieve greater commercial and economic benefits associated with an increased scale of economy.

Where Next?

After an extensive search, EnviroMission selected the site for the world’s first Solar Tower power station to be built in the Buronga district of the Wentworth Shire in NSW and 25km NE of Mildura in Victoria, Australia.  The proposed site shows EnviroMission’s commitment to the Australia’s Sunraysia Region of NSW and Victoria. The project still requires planning approval codes, regulations and legislation from Australia’s State and Local Governments.

Background on the Solar Tower and the Market in Australia

Formerly referred to as Solar Chimney technology in academic literature – the Solar Tower is now marketed without the reference to chimney (to avoid confusion with the pollution associated with chimneys – this technology is emission free) – the Solar Tower has had in excess of A$35 million and 20 years of research and development invested in it.  EnviroMission believe that now, more than ever before, the time is ideal to apply this technology.

For more than 100 years it has been relatively cheap, environmentally unaccountable and simple to dig up coal as a fuel source to produce electricity. With concerns over climate change and increasing need for clean, renewable energy solutions account for still less than 10% of all electricity generated in Australia.

Community concern about Australia’s over reliance on coal-based ‘black’ and ‘brown’ energy and the negative impact on the environment has helped to drive political change. There is now a legislated market for clean, green renewable energy, legislated as a Mandated Renewable Energy Target (9500 gWh annual renewable energy target by 2010) has opened the way for investment in new approaches to renewable energy generation.  This recent incentive is important to the growth of renewable energy development including Solar Tower technology.

A further political incentive in the form of the Renewable Energy Credit (REC) developed by the Australian Government in 2001 has encouraged new investment in renewable energy development, with the purpose of reducing greenhouse gases and increasing the amount of renewable energy output.

As new materials, construction methods and government policy are now available to the extent that there is environmental, social and commercial advantage in the development of Solar Tower technology.

EnviroMission claims that each 200MW solar thermal power station will abate over 900,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the environment annually. The Solar Tower technology will help Australia meet its Kyoto obligations, provide a bonus to the environment, and will be a major producer of scaleable renewable energy with flow on benefits to the community and our investors.

Terms of Recent Deal with SMT

Following the mutual termination of the 2007 merger proposal between EnviroMission Limited with SolarMission Technologies, Inc (SMT), EnviroMission and SMT have continued to explore alternative corporate actions and structures to facilitate the shared ambition and vision for the long-term Solar Tower development.

As a result, EnviroMission implemented an acquisition model to leverage off the advantage of its public listing, providing the inducement of listing liquidity to SMT common share and warrant holders under the terms of a Stock Exchange Offer, with the aim of securing at least majority control of SMT.

In the weeks leading up to the close of the Stock Exchange Offer (August 1, 2008), EnviroMission negotiated a license agreement with SMT to confirm the strategic intent of the acquisition and ensure the licence also contained sufficient commercial terms to provide equity to all SMT security holders, including security holders that may decline the EnviroMission Stock Exchange Offer. EnviroMission’s license agreement with SMT takes effect from July 31, 2008 to secure the global SolarTower development license in all markets, excluding China.

EnviroMission will issue 5,000,000 (five million) ordinary free trading shares to SMT as an equity consideration for the global Solar Tower license (excluding China), with additional ‘commercial in confidence’ provisions to satisfy the immediate and equitable assignment of the Solar Tower license to EnviroMission; subject also to EnviroMission shareholder approval of the Stock Exchange Offer to SMT.

Commercial terms are based on development milestones to provide an ongoing equity opportunity to SMT (EnviroMission anticipates owning 58.92% of SMT subject to shareholder approval). On this basis, EnviroMission has negotiated an agreement assigning the global Solar Tower license to EnviroMission.

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EuroWeekly News, July 24, 2008

The results of a study by business analysts DBK, which have just been released, show that the use of renewable energy resources is increasing rapidly here in Spain.

The energy generated from wind in 2007 rose to 13.8 Megawatts, with a projected increase to15.9 MW by the end of the year. The power generated from solar energy in 2007 totaled 623 MW, with a projection of 1,200 MW, an almost 100% increase, by the end of this year. A town of 10,000 people needs around 6.5 MW.

At the end of 2007, there were 574 wind farms in Spain and the number of solar generation installations has risen form just five at the end of the last decade to 19,000 at the end of last year, meaning the government’s objectives for power generated from the sun by 2010, have already been reached. Power generation from renewable sources formed a little over 10% of the electricity sold in Spain in 2007. Wind generated electricity sales were worth 2.100 million euros and those from solar energy came to 209 million euros – four times the amount made the previous year – and the projection for 2008 rises to 470 million euros.

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JOHN VIDAL, The Guardian, June 6, 2008

From a distance the bizarre structures sprouting from the high Alentejo plain in eastern Portugal resemble a field of mechanical sunflowers. Each of the 2,520 giant solar panels is the size of a house and they are as technically sophisticated as a car. Their reflective heads tilt to the sky at a permanent 45 degrees as they track the sun through 240 degrees every day.

The world’s largest solar photovoltaic farm, generating electricity straight from sunlight, is taking shape near Moura, a small town in a thinly populated and impoverished region which boasts the most sunshine per square metre a year in Europe.

When fully commissioned later this year, the £250m farm set on abandoned state-owned land will be twice the size of any other similar project in the world, covering an area nearly twice the size of London’s Hyde park. It is expected to supply 45MW of electricity each year, enough to power 30,000 homes.

Portugal, without its own oil, coal or gas and with no expertise in nuclear power, is pitching to lead Europe’s clean-tech revolution with some of the most ambitious targets and timetables for renewables. Its intention, the economics minister, Manuel Pinho, said, is to wean itself off oil and within a decade set up a low carbon economy in response to high oil prices and climate change.

“We have to reduce our dependence on oil and gas,” said Pinho. “What seemed extravagant in 2004 when we decided to go for renewables now seems to have been a very good decision.”

He expects Portugal to generate 31% of all its energy from clean sources by 2020. This means lifting its renewable electricity share from 20% in 2005 to 60% in 2020, compared with Britain’s target of 15% of all energy by 2020. Having passed its target for 2010 it could soon top the EU renewables league.

In less than three years, Portugal has trebled its hydropower capacity, quadrupled its wind power, and is investing in flagship wave and photovoltaic plants. Encouraged by long-term guarantees of prices by the state, and not delayed by planning laws or government indecision, it has proved a success. Firms are expected to invest £10bn in renewables by 2012 and up to £100bn by 2020.

However, Portugal says it wants to develop a renewables industry to rival Denmark or Japan. When the government invited companies for tenders to supply wind, solar and wave power, it demanded they work with manufacturing companies to establish clusters of industries.

This is a great success, say regional governments. In northern Portugal, where the world’s biggest wind farm, with more than 130 turbines, is now being strung across the mountainous Spanish border, a German firm employs more than 1,200 people building 600 40-metre-long fibreglass wind turbine blades a year.

The turbines are earmarked for Portuguese farms first, but orders are being taken from Britain and other countries. Half the workforce are women who once worked in the declining textile industry.

It is Portuguese plans for wave power that are prompting the most interest in Europe. The world’s first commercial wave farm is being assembled near Porto. Three “sea snakes”, developed by the Edinburgh-based company Pelamis, will shortly be towed out to sea and will start pumping modest amounts of electricity into the grid later this year.

It is the start of a potentially giant global industry with Portuguese firm Enersis planning to invest more than £1bn in a series of farms that together would power 450,000 homes.

Pinho dismisses nuclear power. “When you have a programme like this there is no need for nuclear power. Wind and water are our nuclear power. The relative price of renewables is now much lower, so the incentives are there to invest. My advice to countries like the UK is to move as fast as they can to renewables. With climate change and the increase in oil prices, renewables will become more and more important.

“Countries that do not invest in renewables will pay a high price in future. The cost of inaction is very high indeed. The perception that renewable energy is very expensive is changing every day as the oil price goes up.”

He added: “Energy and environment are the biggest challenge of our generation. We need to develop a low-carbon model for the world economy. The present situation is dangerous.”

EU Renewable League

Top

  • Sweden 2005 39.8%, target by 2020 49%
  • Latvia 34.9%, target 42%
  • Finland 28.5%, target 38%
  • Austria 23.3%, target 34%
  • Portugal 20.5%, target 31%

Bottom

  • Cyprus 2.9%, target by 2020 13%
  • Netherlands 2.4%, target 14%
  • Ireland 3.1%, target 16%
  • Netherlands 2.4%, target 14%
  • Belgium 2.2%, target 13%
  • UK 1.3%, target 15%

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MendoCoastCurrent, May 27, 2008

napa3Napa Valley winery Far Niente has gone live with its Floatovoltaic™ solar array, the first-ever system and technology of its kind in the solar industry. The installation, designed and installed by SPG Solar, with technology developed by Thompson Technology Industries, creatively couples photovoltaic energy with water, saving valuable vineyard acreage from being sacrificed for land-mounted arrays.

This unique solution came about as a meeting of the minds between Far Niente and SPG Solar. “We looked at several configurations for our solar array, but they all involved taking out a significant amount of our vineyard, which was not an attractive idea. Finally my partner, Dirk Hampson, suggested we find a way to put the panels on our irrigation pond. After interviewing several companies, it turned out that SPG Solar’s sister company, TTI, had developed the technology to float an installation on water, and we provided them with the opportunity to try it,” said Larry Maguire, Partner and CEO of Far Niente.

Far Niente’s Floatovoltaic system involves securing nearly 1,000 Sharp solar panels on pontoons that float on the winery’s vineyard irrigation pond. Combined with a section of about 1,300 panels located on land adjacent to the pond, the array will generate 400 kilowatts at peak output, enough to offset the winery’s annual power usage and provide a net-zero energy bill.

The Far Niente array is located in the 100-acre Martin Stelling Vineyard, which is the cornerstone of the winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon program and is located directly behind the winery. About one acre of vineyard was removed to accommodate the land-mounted portion of the system, but the floating array’s positioning on the pond saved another three-quarters of an acre of valuable Cabernet vines that would have been ripped out for a total land-mounted system. This is equivalent to about $150,000 dollars’ worth of bottled Far Niente Cabernet annually.

SPG Solar also installed an adjustable-tilt ground mounted system, developed by TTI, for Nickel & Nickel, Far Niente’s sister winery, which went live in October 2007 and brought in much of the harvest with solar power. Located in the Sullenger Vineyard on the Oakville winery’s estate, the array’s 1,904 Sharp solar panels generate 330 kilowatts at peak output, offsetting the winery’s annual power usage and providing a net-zero energy bill.

“We will always be committed first and foremost to producing great wines; it’s what we’ve been doing for over 25 years,” said Maguire. “Yet, we recognize that our environment is facing significant challenges, and as an agriculture-based business we have an obligation to do our part and take sustainable measures where possible

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ARJUN MAKHIJANI, Institute for Energy & Environmental Research, August 2007

Excerpts from Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy. About this book here. Book PDF available as free download here. Executive Summary here.

The 12 most critical policies that need to be enacted as urgently as possible for achieving a zero-CO2 economy without nuclear power are as follows.

1. Enact a physical limit of CO2 emissions for all large users of fossil fuels (a “hard cap”) that steadily declines to zero prior to 2060, with the time schedule being assessed periodically for tightening according to climate, technological, and economic developments. The cap should be set at the level of some year prior to 2007, so that early implementers of CO2 reductions benefit from the setting of the cap. Emission allowances would be sold by the U.S. government for use in the United States only. There would be no free allowances, no offsets and no international sale or purchase of CO2 allowances. The estimated revenues – approximately $30 to $50 billion per year – would be used for demonstration plants, research and development, and worker and community transition.

2. Eliminate all subsidies and tax breaks for fossil fuels and nuclear power (including guarantees for nuclear waste disposal from new power plants, loan guarantees, and subsidized insurance).

3. Eliminate subsidies for biofuels from food crops.

4. Build demonstration plants for key supply technologies, including central station solar thermal with heat storage, large- and intermediate-scale solar photovoltaics, and CO2 capture in microalgae for liquid fuel production (and production of a high solar energy capture aquatic plants, for instance in wetlands constructed at municipal wastewater systems).

5. Leverage federal, state and local purchasing power to create markets for critical advanced technologies, including plug-in hybrids.

6. Ban new coal-fired power plants that do not have carbon storage.

7. Enact at the federal level high efficiency standards for appliances.

8. Enact stringent building efficiency standards at the state and local levels, with federal incentives to adopt them.

9. Enact stringent efficiency standards for vehicles and make plug-in hybrids the standard U.S. government vehicle by 2015.

10. Put in place federal contracting procedures to reward early adopters of CO2 reductions.

11. Adopt vigorous research, development, and pilot plant construction programs for technologies that could accelerate the elimination of CO2, such as direct electrolytic hydrogen production, solar hydrogen production (photolytic, photoelectrochemical, and other approaches), hot rock geothermal power, and integrated gasification combined cycle plants using biomass with a capacity to sequester the CO2.

12. Establish a standing committee on Energy and Climate under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board.

Dr. Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Takoma Park, Maryland, is the book’s author. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, where he specialized in nuclear fusion and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society. Among his book’s recommendations:

“Continuing on a ‘business as usual’ path is unacceptable, as other experts have made clear,” Dr. Makhijani explained. “The approaches outlined in my book are all technologically feasible and economically viable today or could be made so within a decade by sound government and private investment. Nuclear power, on the other hand, entails risks of proliferation, terrorism and serious accidents. The United States can lead the world to a fully renewable, efficient energy economy, which can be achieved in 30 to 50 years.”

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Press Release from Solectria Renewables, April 29, 2008

Solectria Renewables announces the installation of over 1.2MW of its signature premium efficiency solar PV inverters (PVI 60kW, PVI82kW & PVI95kW) at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co, located in Chico, CA.

“We are proud to provide inverters for one of the country’s largest private solar installations. This installation is proof that Solectria Renewables is a great inverter choice for MW sized PV installations,” said James Worden, CEO of Solectria Renewables.

The inverters will be used as part of a 1.4 MW solar project recently completed. The power plant, along with an existing 1MW fuel cell plant, is providing the majority of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s electrical energy needs.

DC Power Systems, Inc, a full-service wholesale distributor of renewable energy products located in Healdsburg, CA purchased the inverters from Solectria Renewables for use by Chico Electric, who installed the PV system.

Solectria Renewables develops and manufatures a wide range of inverters for renewable power applications including 1.8kW to 95kW grid tied PV inverters for systems from 1kW to 1MW. Solectria Renewables has an 18-year background in inverters and other electronic power systems for harsh environments.

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TYLER HAMILTON, The Star, April 21, 2008

Ground will be broken today on the first of several massive solar farms expected to dot the Ontario landscape over the coming years, part of the government’s plan to add more renewable power to the province’s energy mix.

Joint venture partners SkyPower Corp. of Toronto and Baltimore-based SunEdison LLC say construction will begin this week on their First Light solar park, located near the town of Stone Mills about 30 kilometres west of Kingston.

The finished park, spreading across 300 acres of land and made up of more than 200,000 sunshine-catching solar panels, will provide enough power over a year to supply 2,000 homes.

SkyPower and SunEdison expect the 19-megawatt project to finish in late 2009, though the first 9 megawatts will likely be in place by the end of this year.

Six more projects from the joint venture are planned across southern Ontario, roughly equivalent to blanketing the entire downtown core of Toronto with solar panels.

“I think Ontario is setting an example for other provinces across Canada to follow,” said Kerry Adler, president and chief executive of SkyPower.

The companies are following through on 20-year contracts signed with the Ontario Power Authority under the province’s standard-offer program. The program pays 42 cents for every kilowatt-hour of electricity produced from a solar system, or roughly seven times the going rate for electricity from the grid.

The power authority has so far struck contracts for 407 megawatts of solar since the program was launched in 2006. At that time, the agency only envisioned about 88 megawatts ever getting built.

“The program has been quite remarkably successful when measured against expectations,” said Tim Taylor, spokesperson for the power authority. “Our hope is that all of them come to fruition, and it’s a wonderful signal to see the work beginning.”

Under program rules, no individual contract can exceed 10 megawatts. It’s for this reason First Light has been broken into two phases.

Brian Robertson, president of SunEdison, said the park is by far the largest in North America under construction, though he admits the bar is rising fast.

“It’s kind of like the world’s tallest building competition,” he said. “It’s tops for the first time until a bigger one comes along.”

That’s likely to happen next month, when OptiSolar Farms Canada begins building its enormous 60-megawatt “Sarnia Solar” park, which will be broken into six construction phases. Vice-president Peter Carrie said the first 10-megawatt phase is expected to be complete by year’s end. “We’ll build out the balance in 2009.”

OptiSolar has a total of 21 multi-megawatt solar projects on the drawing board and approved by the power authority. “This is the year the rubber hits the road for solar in Ontario,” said Carrie.

The company is using solar photovoltaic panels from its U.S. parent OptiSolar Inc., which is manufacturing the product out of facilities in California. SkyPower and SunEdison, meanwhile, plan to use solar panels from First Solar Inc. for the first phase of its project.

Deployment of projects is expected to be fast. After a site is cleared, levelled and fenced in, small teams begin assembling the steel and cement structures that hold the panels in place. Closely behind is a panel-mounting team, followed by an electrical team that connects the panels to the local distribution line.

Just how many of these multi-megawatt projects will get built is the subject of much debate, given the hundreds of millions of dollars in financial commitments involved. But both Carrie and Adler assure that their companies have every intention of following through.

Likewise, SunEdison said it’s committed to the Ontario market. “As a policy we don’t announce things we don’t intend to build,” said Robertson.

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PETER FAIRLEY, MIT Technology Review, February 29, 2008

Using the Sun’s Heat to Boil Water to Steam Turbines

Investors and utilities intent on building solar power plants are increasingly turning to solar thermal power, a comparatively low-tech alternative to photovoltaic panels that convert sunlight directly into electricity. This month, in the latest in a string of recent deals, Spanish solar-plant developer Abengoa Solar and Phoenix-based utility Arizona Public Service announced a 280-megawatt solar thermal project in Arizona. By contrast, the world’s largest installations of photovoltaics generate only 20 megawatts of power.

In a solar thermal plant, mirrors concentrate sunlight onto some type of fluid that is used, in turn, to boil water for a steam turbine. Over the past year, developers of solar thermal technology such as Abengoa, Ausra, and Solel Solar Systems have picked up tens of millions of dollars in financing and power contracts from major utilities such as Pacific Gas and Electric and Florida Power and Light. By 2013, projects in development in just the United States and Spain promise to add just under 6,000 megawatts of solar thermal power generation to the barely 100 megawatts installed worldwide last year, says Cambridge, MA, consultancy Emerging Energy Research.

The appeal of solar thermal power is twofold. It is relatively low cost at a large scale: an economic analysis by Severin Borenstein, director of the University of California’s Energy Institute, notes that solar thermal power will become cost competitive with other forms of power generation decades before photovoltaics will, even if greenhouse-gas emissions are not taxed aggressively.

Solar thermal developers also say that their power is more valuable than that provided by wind, currently the fastest-growing form of renewable energy. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, wind power costs about 8 cents per kilowatt, while solar thermal power costs 13 to 17 cents. But power from wind farms fluctuates with every gust and lull; solar thermal plants, on the other hand, capture solar energy as heat, which is much easier to store than electricity. Utilities can dispatch this stored solar energy when they need it–whether or not the sun happens to be shining. “That’s going to be worth a lot of money,” says Terry Murphy, president and chief executive officer of SolarReserve, a Santa Monica, CA, developer of solar thermal technology. “People are coming to realize that power shifting and ‘dispatchability’ are key to the utility’s requirements to try to balance their system.”

In fact, the capacity to store energy is critical to the economics of the solar thermal plant. Without storage, a solar thermal plant would need a turbine large enough to handle peak steam production, when the sun is brightest, but which would otherwise be underutilized. Stored heat means that a plant can use a smaller, cheaper steam turbine that can be kept running steadily for more hours of the day. While adding storage would substantially increase the cost of the energy produced by a photovoltaic array or wind farm, it actually reduces the cost per kilowatt of the energy produced by solar thermal plants.

The amount of storage included in a plant–expressed as the number of hours that it can keep the turbine running full tilt–will vary according to capital costs and the needs of a given utility. “There is an optimal point that could be three hours of storage or six hours of storage, where the cents per kilowatt- hour is the lowest,” says Fred Morse, senior advisor for U.S. operations with Abengoa Solar. Morse says that the company’s 280-megawatt plant in Arizona, set to begin operation by 2011, will have six hours of storage, while other recent projects promise seven to eight.

Morse says that while the design of solar thermal power stations is rapidly diversifying, most will use essentially the same system for storing energy: tanks full of a molten salt that remains liquid at temperatures exceeding 565 °C. “It’s basically two tanks with a lot of heat exchangers, pipes, and pumps,” says Morse. For a sense of scale, consider that the 50-megawatt plants that Germany’s Solar Millennium is building in Spain near Granada will employ 28,500 tons of molten salt in twin tanks standing 14 meters high and 38.5 meters in diameter.

While molten salt is the most popular storage option, developers are experimenting widely to find the best means of collecting heat in the first place, and integrating collection and storage. Abengoa’s plant in Arizona (see below image) will use a “trough” design in which arrays of parabolic mirrors concentrate sunlight onto a glass tube carrying a commercial heat-transfer oil such as therminol. Some of the heated oil heats the molten salt in storage while the rest directly generates steam. Abengoa Solar’s vice president for technology development, Hank Price, says that the plant’s trough energy-collection design is the one most commonly used today, thanks largely to improvements in the glass tubes. Ceramic-metal absorption coatings have increased the amount of heat captured by the tubes to the point that plants using them produce 30 percent more power than the first-generation solar thermal demonstration projects of the early 1990s.

SolarReserve, in contrast, is developing systems that directly heat molten salt. Its designs call for so-called power towers in which arrays of mirrors focus sunlight onto elevated towers. The company, launched in January, is a joint venture between energy investment bank U.S. Renewables Group and aerospace firm Hamilton Sundstrand, whose subsidiary Rocketdyne built molten-salt heat receivers for a 10-megawatt power-tower demo plant that operated in the early 1990s.

SolarReserve’s Murphy says that the power-tower system should be cheaper to build than trough-collection systems, since it doesn’t require miles of glass tubing. More important, he says, it should produce higher-quality steam. That’s because it will directly heat its molten salt to about 565 °C, about 165 degrees hotter than the oils in a trough plant.

That increased thermodynamic efficiency will be key, says Murphy, when water shortages force thermal power plants in hot, dry deserts to abandon water-based cooling of their used steam. (Steam that’s passed through the turbine must be cooled and condensed so that it can be reused.) Alternative cooling techniques are more energy intensive, cutting into a plant’s overall efficiency. The hotter a plant runs, says Murphy, the lower the losses from alternative cooling schemes. “We’re going to experience 3 to 4 percent loss,” he says, “and [the trough plants] are going to be losing 7 to 8 percent.”

Abengoa’s Price agrees that power towers do, in theory, have thermodynamic advantages, which is why Abengoa has built its own 10-megawatt demo in Spain and is building a second at 20 megawatts. But Price questions whether investors will support the direct jump to 100-to-200-megawatt power-tower plants that SolarReserve envisions. “There’s a lot of technical risk in doing that,” he says. “We need to scale up in a way that’s financeable.”

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