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Posts Tagged ‘Arizona’

KEVIN FAGAN, San Francisco Chronicle, July 31, 2010

It happened a long time ago in a state on the other side of the country, but the day Ohio National Guardsmen killed four students at Kent State University during an anti-war protest is still a fresh hurt for Laurel Krause.

Her sister, 19-year-old freshman Allison Krause, was one of those killed in what became a tragic touchstone for protests against the Vietnam War. Now, 40 years after the May 4, 1970, shootings that also left nine wounded, Krause has launched a personal project to collect a video history of the event.

The 55-year-old Mendocino County woman will be coming to San Francisco on Aug. 7 and 8 to set up a camera and record the testimonials of anyone who was at the shootings or was directly affected by them. Witnesses, people who were wounded, relatives of victims, teachers, administrators, National Guardsmen – they’re all welcome, she said.

The event will be webcast live from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day on MichaelMoore.com.

‘Truth Tribunal’

Krause, an environment blogger, is calling her project “The Kent State Truth Tribunal.” Her first collection of oral histories – about 70 in all – was recorded in early May at Kent State, when the university was commemorating the 40th anniversary of the killings. After San Francisco she intends to record more recollections in New York City on October 9 and 10.

Co-directing the project with Krause is filmmaker Emily Kunstler, daughter of the late civil rights lawyer William Kunstler.

“Based on what we’ve been told over the years, we think the second-largest group of participants and witnesses to the shootings is in California, and we expect people to come from this state, Washington, Oregon and anywhere else nearby,” Krause said. “We are hoping to get all sides of the story. We want the whole truth to come out about these shootings.”

Public apology

In 1990, then-Ohio Gov. Richard Celeste apologized publicly for the shootings, but nobody was ever officially held accountable for the killings. Varying accounts have been offered over the years of whether the National Guardsmen were ordered to open fire on the anti-war protesters or did so spontaneously.

Krause is convinced the shooting was deliberate. She wants an apology from the federal government, because the U.S. invasion of Cambodia during the Vietnam War was what precipitated the protests that led to the shootings.

“Even 40 years later, it’s still a horrible thing for me and my family,” Krause said. “Allison was my only sibling. She wanted to be an art therapist. And I can never, ever see her again.”

Krause intends to give her collection to a library at New York University.

Earlier this year, the shooting site at Kent State was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and the university started a walking tour of it. The school’s library already has more than two floors worth of archives, including 100 oral histories, devoted to the shootings – but its archivists pick no sides in the historical debate, said Cara Gilgenbach, head of special collections and archives.

“There are many varying narratives of what occurred,” she said.

Find out more

To find out more about the tribunal event in San Francisco, and to register to give a testimonial, go to truthtribunal.org.

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MendoCoastCurrent, July 2, 2009

SolarTowerSizeEnviroMission Ltd. recently filed two land applications in the United States for two prospective Solar Tower power station developments.

Melbourne, Australia-based EnviroMission Limited, also opened operations in Phoenix, Arizona, and established a 100% owned subsidiary, EnviroMission (USA) Inc., to lead Solar Tower development in the American market.

The drive for Solar Tower development in America is based on the availability and acquisition of suitable land. Each Arizona land application for 5,500 acres meets the site development requirements for a single 200MW Solar Tower power station.

The Arizona State land sites were identified as ideal for Solar Tower development within due diligence studies that showed critical development criteria, including meteorological and solar insulation parameters met and exceeded at each site.

Ownership surveys, completed in May 2009, informed both applications and identification of the sites will remain confidential until the application process requires further disclosure in order to avoid any prejudice to EnviroMission’s applications. Cultural, archeological and environmental surveys are expected to be completed in July 2009.

EnvrioMission’s CEO, Roger Davey said “I’ve personally walked both sites in Arizona and they tick all the boxes for Solar Tower power station development needs.” He added that “the land is flat, the weather is ideally and consistently hot and both sites are in close proximity to transmission infrastructure. The quality of the sites, and overall market and policy opportunities currently available to renewable energy developers in the U.S. confirms EnviroMission’s decision to shift our Solar Tower development.”

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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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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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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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Marianne Lavelle, U.S. News & World Report, February 21, 2008

It’s a big week for mirrors in the desert—with two big southwestern projects putting a spotlight on a form of big-scale solar energy that its most ardent advocates believe has the best chance of expanding the nation’s share of electricity from renewable sources.

Today, Arizona’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service, is announcing plans to build the world’s largest “concentrating solar power” plant, a $1 billion project to spread parabolic mirrors over a 3-mile-square stretch of desert 70 miles southwest of Phoenix. To be designed and built by the Spanish firm Abengoa, it would generate 280 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power 70,000 homes.

That makes it four times as large as Nevada Solar One, near Boulder City, Nev., which last summer became the first CSP plant to open in the United States in more than 17 years. Tomorrow, Nevada Solar One’s developer, a rival Spanish company, Acciona, plans a star-studded dedication ceremony for the facility, with speakers including former astronaut Sally Ride, Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, and actor/activist Ed Begley Jr. The dedication, says Acciona Energy North America chief executive Peter Duprey, is meant to get the word out that concentrating solar “is a reality today, and we need to be developing it and exploiting it.”

Unlike the solar energy that most people know, CSP doesn’t use expensive semiconductor material to transform the sun’s energy into electricity. CSP relies on mirrors to focus sunlight onto a heat transfer fluid, which in turn heats water into steam, which turns turbines to generate power. The big Arizona plant, which will be called Solana Generating Station, will take the technology an exciting step forward by using molten salt to store solar energy for up to six hours. “When the suns sets, this plant keeps on ticking,” says Arizona Public Service President Don Brandt. “We’ll have solar energy in the dark.”

The big issue with solar energy has been the cost. Brandt says the Solana plant is expected to generate electricity at 12 cents to 14 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is about 20 percent more than the cost of the other electricity that APS generates with its mix of nuclear, natural gas, and coal. But Brandt notes that since the price of the fuel is free, it’s a 30-year contract with one big source of risk eliminated. If natural gas prices increase or if coal-fired power is made more expensive because of climate-change legislation, the CSP power could end up being one of the lowest-priced forms of electricity in the utility’s portfolio. “Any business wants to diversify its sources of supply,” Brandt says. “That’s why we feel right now the price is attractive. And you factor in the possibility of natural gas prices rising or any carbon legislation, and I think we’ll look back in five years and think this was an absolute grand-slam home run.”

In the late 1970s, it was the U.S. government that spurred research and development of CSP technology through a series of experimental projects in the Mojave Desert—one of which has been generating power for years, operated by Florida Power & Light. But in recent years, European companies have taken the lead in big-scale renewable energy projects, spurred by aggressive government incentives.

Duprey of Acciona says his company is building four more CSP plants in Spain and has a number in development in the United States. He says all will be two or three times the scale of Nevada Solar One, which was a $226 million project. “This plant is on the smaller side, because we wanted to see how it would work,” he says. “We had to start out with all new suppliers and build out this industry. It’s like an infant—we have to nurture it and bring it along.

“We believe the technology is proven, it’s a matter of getting more suppliers and getting competition among suppliers and driving the cost down,” he says.

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