North Coast Solar Stocks

November 23, 2009

First Solar sells California project to NRG

Filed under: EIX, FSLR, NRG — Tags: , , , , , — Jason @ 1:25 pm

Mon Nov 23, 2009 1:25pm EST

* NRG to buy 21-megawatt solar project in Blythe

* Financial terms of deal not disclosed

LOS ANGELES, Nov 23 (Reuters) – U.S. solar power leader First Solar Inc (FSLR) said on Monday that it was selling the first of its utility-scale solar power projects in California to national power plant operator NRG Energy Inc (NRG).

The companies did not disclose financial terms of the deal.

First Solar will operate the 21-megawatt solar power project for NRG Energy under a long-term contract, the company said in a statement.

Macquarie Securities analyst Kelly Dougherty said in a note to clients that the news “is an incremental positive” for First Solar and will likely add to the company’s revenue for the fourth quarter.

Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar started building the project in September. The plant, about 200 miles east of Los Angeles in Blythe, California, is expected to be finished by the end of the year. Electricity from the plant will be sold to Southern California Edison, a unit of Edison International (EIX).

First Solar is one of the world’s largest producers of photovoltaic cells, which turn sunlight into electricity. Its production costs are the lowest in the industry, although its thin-film cadmium telluride cells are not as efficient in capturing sunlight as more traditional silicon-based cells.

The sale follows another recent deal for First Solar. In October, the company sold a 20-megawatt solar power project in Ontario to Enbridge Inc (ENB), Canada’s largest oil pipeline company.

Princeton, New Jersey-based NRG has mostly fossil fuel-heavy power plants that generate enough electricity to serve 20 million U.S. households, but plans to add a range of renewable energy technologies.

The company owns three land-based wind farms in Texas and invested in solar thermal start-up eSolar earlier this year.

Shares of First Solar were up half a percent at $121.84 each in trading on Monday on the Nasdaq.

(Reporting by Laura Isensee; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

NRG buys Blythe solar project from First Solar

Filed under: EIX, FSLR, NRG — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 11:51 am

NRG buys largest utility-scale solar project in California from First Solar; terms undisclosed

11:51 am EST, Monday November 23, 2009

PRINCETON, N.J. (AP) — NRG Energy Inc. (NRG) on Monday said it bought the 21 megawatt Blythe solar energy project in California from First Solar Inc. (FSLR) for an undisclosed amount.

The New Jersey-based power plant owner said the site — located in Riverside County in southeastern California — is the first and largest utility-scale photovoltaic solar project in the state.

The Blythe plant will be connected to Southern California Edison’s (EIX) electrical distribution grid, and electricity will be sold to SCE under a 20-year power purchase agreement. At peak capacity, the site will be able to power almost 17,000 homes, NRG said.

Using First Solar’s thin film photovoltaic panels that convert sunlight directly into electricity, the project will generate more than 45,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year, displacing more than 12,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. That’s the equivalent of taking 2,200 cars off the road.

The plant uses about 350,000 solar modules, each measuring 2 feet by 4 feet, which cover about 200 acres. The project uses no water during normal operation, the company said. Construction began in September and is expected to be completed by year-end.

First Solar will provide operations and maintenance services at Blythe under a long-term contract with NRG.

Shares of NRG rose 20 cents to $24.01 in morning trading. First Solar shares rose $1.48 to $122.67.

First Solar Sells California Solar Power Project to NRG

Filed under: EIX, FSLR, NRG — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 8:00 am

21 Megawatt Blythe Project is California’s Largest Photovoltaic Facility

8:00 am EST, Monday November 23, 2009

TEMPE, Ariz.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–First Solar, Inc. (FSLR), today announced the sale of the 21 megawatt (MW) AC solar energy project it has developed and constructed in Blythe, Calif., to NRG Energy, Inc (NRG).

Located in Riverside County about 200 miles east of Los Angeles, the Blythe project is California’s first and largest utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) solar generation facility, and among the largest in North America. Construction began in September and is expected to be completed by year-end. Electricity from the plant will be sold to Southern California Edison (EIX) under a 20-year power purchase agreement.

“First Solar is very pleased that the first of our utility-scale solar projects in California will be coming on line with a leading power producer like NRG,” said Bruce Sohn, president of First Solar. “This clean, affordable, and sustainable energy will help California meet the goals of its Renewable Portfolio Standard.”

Using First Solar’s industry-leading thin film PV panels that convert sunlight directly into electricity with no water consumption during operation, the project will generate over 45,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year. The solar generation displaces over 12,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year—the equivalent of taking 2,200 cars off the road. The construction of this project created 175 green jobs.

First Solar will provide operations and maintenance services at Blythe under a long-term contract with NRG. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

First Solar is developing 1,300 megawatts of PV solar projects under contracts with utilities in California and the Southwest.

November 20, 2009

California utility wins OK for more transmission

Filed under: EIX, FSLR — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 6:21 pm

Fri Nov 20, 2009 6:21pm EST

* California regulatory agency clears application

* Southern California Edison to build 150-mile line

* When completed, line to move 1.2 gigawatt of power

LOS ANGELES, Nov 20 (Reuters) – Southern California could gain more transmission capacity — needed to accommodate electricity from renewable resources — after a project by utility Southern California Edison won approval from a key state agency on Friday.

The California Public Utilities Commission cleared the utility’s proposal for the $537 million, 150-mile project, called the Devers Palo Verde2 line, the utility said in a statement.

Southern California Edison, a part of Edison International (EIX), modified its original 270-mile Devers Palo Verde proposal earlier this year after Arizona utility regulators rejected construction of the line in that state, saying they did not want to export additional power to California.

When completed in 2013, the project is expected to move an extra 1.2 gigawatts of power from Riverside County to energy customers in Southern California.

The 128-mile, 500-kilovolt line will connect SCE’s Devers substation near Palm Springs to a proposed Midpoint switchyard near Blythe, California. SCE also will build a 42-mile, 500-kv line between the Devers substation and its Valley substation in Riverside County.

The project will relieve transmission congestion in an area identified by federal agencies and could help move more electricity generated by solar and other renewable energy resources in the future, the utility said in a statement.

California has the most aggressive renewable energy goals in the United States, with a target to get a third of its electricity from renewable resources by 2020.

A major hurdle, however, is a lack of transmission lines needed to move electricity from remote areas where solar, wind and other renewable power is produced, to cities where it is consumed.

In August SCE and U.S. solar leader First Solar Inc (FSLR) announced plans for two photovoltaic solar projects for a total of 550 megawatts in the California counties of Riverside and San Bernardino.

Arizona-based First Solar is one of the world’s largest producers of photovoltaic cells, which turn sunlight into electricity.

The SCE’s transmission line is also subject to approval of the California Independent System Operator.

(Reporting by Laura Isensee and Eileen O’Grady; Editing by Christian Wiessner)

October 21, 2009

Solar is getting cheap: costs state by state

Filed under: EIX — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 4:23 pm

4:23 pm EDT, Wednesday October 21, 2009

Solar companies offer rooftop panels at wildly different prices, depending on where they’re being installed and the kind of incentives available. Here’s how much installers say customers in different states would pay for a 5-kilowatt solar system.

–New Jersey: $2,625. The original $37,500 sticker price drops after applying a state tax rebate of $8,750 from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, Clean Energy Program, a federal tax credit of $8,625 and a loan program through the Public Service Enterprise Group that’s worth up to $17,500 for customers with excellent credit, according to Rumson, N.J.-based installer Gaurav Naik.

–New York: $13,228. The $40,250 cost is slashed after applying a federal tax credit of $8,243, a state tax credit of $5,000, a city property tax abatement worth $2,404 and other local incentives worth $12,775, according to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

–Massachusetts: $21,350. The original $36,500 price tag gets cut down after applying a federal tax credit of $9,150 and state incentives of $6,000, according to San Francisco-based home solar service company SunRun Inc., which does business in the state.

–California: $22,610. The original $40,000 sticker price would be cut after applying a federal tax credit of $9,690 and a rebate through Southern California Edison (EIX), according to Foster City, Calif.-based installer Solar City.

–Arkansas: $35,000. The $50,000 price is cut by $15,000 after applying a federal tax credit, according to Bob Moore, a solar panel dealer in Ft. Smith, Ark.

August 26, 2009

US utility wants to deploy largest grid battery ever

Filed under: EIX, GE, PCG, SPWR — Tags: , , , , , — Jason @ 3:11 pm

Wed Aug 26, 2009 3:11pm EDT

By Poornima Gupta

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug 26 (Reuters) – Southern California Edison said on Wednesday it is seeking a U.S. grant to store wind power in the largest-ever grid storage battery, to be built by A123 Systems.

The utility, a unit of Edison International (EIX), wants $65 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Energy for the pilot storage project and for another project involving integration of home energy management systems into the electric grid.

The utility wants $25 million for the battery project, which would be the largest ever for power grid applications, Paul De Martini, vice president of advanced technologies, said in an interview.

U.S. utilities are racing to increase their production of electricity from renewable energy sources to meet stricter state environmental rules and to gear up for any U.S. move to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels.

But wind and solar are intermittent energy sources, and storing the power — at an economically viable rate — is seen as crucial to making ‘alternative’ energy truly mainstream.

Southern California Edison is seeking the money from a $615 million fund that the DOE has set up for “smart grid”-related pilot projects. Smart grid technology measures and modifies power usage in homes and businesses, improving grid reliability.

The company wants privately-held A123 Systems to assemble a utility-scale battery that would be made up of smaller batteries in an 8,000-square-foot building at an existing substation in the Tehachapi region in California.

The project is important to the California utility as it expects to have about 4,500 megawatts of wind power in the Tehachapi region by around 2015 and needs to find a way to store the power, De Martini said.

“We do recognize that there is a need for energy storage to help with mitigating some of the intermittentcy of wind,” he said.

Southern California Edison is one of the leaders in delivering renewable energy to customers. It transmitted 65 percent of all solar energy produced in the United States last year.

A123 Systems, which makes lithium-ion battery packs for use in plug-in hybrid vehicles, was one of the big winners of the competition for $1.5 billion in federal stimulus funds for companies that make advanced automotive batteries.

The Watertown, Massachusetts-based company, which counts General Electric (GE) among its shareholders, received $249 million to build a battery factory in the United States.

The approval of Southern California Edison’s application would be a big boost for A123 Systems’ push into energy storage batteries for the grid.

The result of the applications is expected in November, De Martini said.

For the second pilot project on smart grid integration, Southern California Edison is seeking $40 million from the DOE and will be working with GE, SunPower Corp (SPWRA, SPWRB) and Boeing Co (BA), he said.

Utility companies around the world are laying the groundwork to upgrade their networks with smart grid technology.

Separately, another California utility, Pacific Gas and Electric Co (PCG), is seeking $25 million from the DOE’s smart grid fund for a compressed air energy storage project, which aims to pump compressed air into an underground reservoir, using mainly wind energy produced during non-peak hours. The air would be released to generate electricity during periods of peak demand.

(Reporting by Poornima Gupta; editing by John Wallace)

August 18, 2009

First Solar, SoCal Edison plan big solar projects

Filed under: EIX, FSLR — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 2:26 pm

Tue Aug 18, 2009 2:26pm EDT

* Two projects with capacity of 550 megawatts

* To supply 170,000 homes, completion seen in 2015

* No near-term boost to First Solar results

LOS ANGELES, Aug 18 (Reuters) – First Solar Inc (FSLR) and utility Southern California Edison said on Tuesday that they would build two photovoltaic solar projects that will provide enough power to supply 170,000 homes.

The combined 550 megawatts of projects in the California counties of Riverside and San Bernardino are expected to be completed in 2015, the companies said.

The announcement is the latest move by U.S. utilities to increase their production of electricity from renewable energy sources to meet stricter state environmental rules and as the United States moves closer to regulating greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels.

The projects are also a sign that financing for new solar installations might be starting to recover after a year when many major banks abandoned the industry because of the meltdown in the credit markets.

First Solar is the one of the world’s largest producers of photovoltaic cells, which turn sunlight into electricity. Its production costs are the lowest in the industry, although its thin-film cadmium telluride cells are not as efficient in capturing the sun’s rays as the more traditional silicon-based cells.

First Solar will engineer, procure and construct the projects — a 250-megawatt installation to be called Desert Sunlight near Desert Center, California, and a 300-megawatt project to be called Stateline in northeastern San Bernardino County. The plants are each roughly the size of a small natural gas-fired power plant.

Raymond James analyst Pavel Molchanov said the deal ties the record for the largest photovoltaic contract in the United States — the other is also held by First Solar — but would not provide a near-term boost to First Solar’s results.

“The only ‘catch,’ so to speak, is timing,” he wrote. “Construction isn’t expected to start until 2012/2013, with completion coming only in 2015.”

Southern California Edison, owned by Edison International (EIX), delivered about 65 percent of solar energy produced in the United States last year.

Pending approval by state regulators, construction will begin on Desert Sunlight in 2012 and on Stateline in 2013.

First Solar shares rose 1 percent to $134.38 on Nasdaq, while Edison International shares rose 1 percent to $31.97 on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Matt Daily and Nichola Groom; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Bernard Orr)

First Solar, Southern California Edison Sign Contracts for 550 MW of Photovoltaic Solar Electricity

Filed under: EIX, FSLR — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 9:00 am

Tuesday August 18, 2009, 9:00 am EDT

ROSEMEAD, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–First Solar, Inc. (FSLR) and Southern California Edison (SCE) today announced agreements to build two large-scale solar power projects in Riverside and San Bernardino counties in Southern California. The installations, which will be among the largest of their kind, will have a generation capacity of 550 megawatts of photovoltaic solar electricity, enough to provide power to approximately 170,000 homes. The agreements are subject to approval by the California Public Utilities Commission.

“Southern California Edison is always looking for innovative ways to deliver clean power from renewable sources. First Solar is an excellent partner in helping us achieve our goals,” said Stuart Hemphill, SCE senior vice president, Power Procurement. “This agreement is good for our customers, for the industry and for the environment.”

First Solar will engineer, procure and construct the two solar facilities, using its industry leading thin-film photovoltaic solar modules. The projects are the 250 megawatt Desert Sunlight project near Desert Center, Calif., and the 300 megawatt Stateline project in northeastern San Bernardino County. Pending network upgrades and receipt of applicable governmental permits, construction is scheduled to begin in 2012 for Desert Sunlight and 2013 for Stateline. Both projects are expected to be completed in 2015. Several hundred construction jobs are expected to be created at each site. When completed, the solar projects will produce 1.2 billion kilowatt-hours of clean energy per year.

“Supplying solar power to Southern California Edison and its customers advances our mission of providing clean, affordable and sustainable solar electricity,” said John Carrington, First Solar executive vice president, Marketing and Business Development. “These projects will help California reach its renewable energy goals, and are powerful examples of large-scale photovoltaic solar generation becoming a reality in the United States.”

California currently has a goal of delivering 20 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2010 and is considering legislation to increase the goal to 33 percent by 2020. SCE is the nation’s leading purchaser of renewable energy and, in 2008, delivered 12.6 billion kilowatt-hours of energy to its customers from renewable resources – about 16 percent of its total energy portfolio. In addition, the utility delivered more than 65 percent of the solar energy produced in the United States for its customers in 2008.

About Southern California Edison

An Edison International (EIX) company, Southern California Edison is one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, serving a population of nearly 14 million via 4.9 million customer accounts in a 50,000-square-mile service area within Central, Coastal and Southern California. Visit http://www.sce.com/renewables for more information about the company’s work in renewable energy.

August 10, 2009

Technology, Tenacity Drive Down Solar Power Costs

Filed under: AMAT, CSIQ, EIX — Tags: , , , , , — Jason @ 3:26 pm

Monday August 10, 2009, 3:26 pm EDT

Solar photovoltaic (PV) technology has changed little since the energy crisis of the 1970s, but it’s finally getting cheaper.

Large-scale rollouts of solar farms in Europe in the past few years have virtually commoditized PV as an energy source, and huge installations on the way in the United States and China will cement that process.

Edison International (EIX) subsidiary Southern California Edison got the go-ahead last month from California’s energy regulators to build and manage 250 megawatts of solar power generation and contract for another 250 MW from outside developers within the next five years, making it the largest solar PV program ever undertaken.

Independent solar industry consultants Solarbuzz estimates that worldwide solar PV installation hit almost 6,000 MW in 2008, nearly double the 3,000 MW of 2007.

Powering Competitiveness

Both cyclical and structural forces are driving the process.

The economic downturn has lead to a collapse in the price of silicon, a key ingredient in the making of solar cells, and short-term drop in demand for modules.

State-level renewable portfolio standards (RPS) have mandated that an increasing amount of renewable energy be generated. There is also a national RPS-like mandate currently in the Markey-Waxman energy bill making its way through Congress. And an array of tax credits and renewable energy mandates have also subsidized solar PV to bring its cost per kilowatt hour more in line with that of “brown” power, usually coal-fired in the U.S.

Finally, the efficiency of the solar cells themselves has improved. Early this year, researchers at Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems created a solar PV cell that’s 41.4% efficient, beating the record held by the Colorado-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory by almost percent.

(more…)

July 9, 2009

Politics may make future of solar energy “small”

Filed under: DUK, EIX, FSLR — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 3:14 pm

Thu Jul 9, 2009 3:14pm EDT

* Opposition to big projects could spur small rooftop solar

* California mulling focus on profusion of small projects

* Price, other issues remain to be worked out for rooftop

By Peter Henderson

SAN FRANCISCO, July 9 (Reuters) – The future of solar energy may be small — small scale, that is.

The climate change and energy policy bill winding its way through the U.S. Congress shows a new federal eagerness to build a renewable energy future, but what specifically to build where is still up for debate.

Massive solar arrays of mirrors and photovoltaic panels harnessing desert sun on otherwise-worthless land are the cliches of clean energy, but environmentalists and homeowners suing to preserve species and backyard views may be the reality.

Such opposition to big solar “plants” in the desert and power lines that would link them to cities could tip the scales toward a profusion of smaller rooftop solar projects as politics upsets conventional wisdom about how the United States could respond to global warming.

That could be a boon for solar panel makers like First Solar Inc (FSLR), the first installer of a big rooftop project in southern California.

“You’d be amazed at the number of people who come out against solar projects,” said Bob Fishman, the chief executive of solar thermal power company Ausra Inc. ‘Not-in-my-backyard’ rejection of solar projects rivals opposition to fossil fuel plants he built in a previous job, he said.

“Nobody wants to give up electricity, but nobody wants to see it get made,” he said.

Trend-setting California may be the test case for the United States. It has the most aggressive renewable ambitions of any state in terms of raw energy production. A target of 20 percent renewables may be raised to a 2020 goal of 33 percent.

“We really may be in a paradigm shift,” said Judith Ikle, program manager for procurement of renewables and climate mitigation at the state’s Public Utilities Commission, which has just finished an analysis of how to build a state-wide system that gets a third of its power from renewable sources.

(more…)

Solar panel cap looms

Filed under: EIX, PCG — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 12:45 pm

7/9/2009 12:45:11 PM

ESCONDIDO, CALIF.: The climate for switching to solar energy in California is sunny, with federal and state tax breaks covering half the installation cost and owners of rooftop panels earning credits against electric bills for the power they generate.

But those credits are forecast to run out in the next couple years.

And a San Francisco Bay Area lawmaker is sponsoring legislation to keep the credits going.

The legislation by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, took an important step forward Tuesday as her Assembly Bill 560 passed out of the Senate Energy, Utility and Communications Committee, 9-1. The bill next goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee, as early as next week. It passed the Assembly earlier.

The situation is this: When California established a policy allowing homeowners and business owners to receive credits for the power they produce on their roofs, the state set an upper limit for that incentive. Once rooftop power represents 2.5 percent of the electricity supply in particular utility service area, no more credits can be claimed for new installations.

Skinner has been trying to raise that cap to four times the amount, or to 10 percent. The proposal ran into some opposition in Tuesday’s committee hearing on the bill, and the panel changed the number to 5 percent.

That still is enough to keep credits going — and solar panels being installed — for the foreseeable future, she said.

A local homeowner who installed solar panels on his roof a couple years ago has been watching the bill. He says it has huge implications for the future of California’s electrical supply.

“Solar energy, in my opinion, is just going to absolutely explode,” said Peder Norby of Carlsbad, in a telephone interview Tuesday.

But while Norby figures sun power is destined to become bigger, it is unclear how much green energy will come from giant, remote desert solar farms as opposed to roofs of local homes, businesses and public office buildings.

If credits run out for rooftop panels, he said, that will stunt the growth of home-grown power.

“Once you reach the cap, the small guy’s out of the picture,” Norby said.

Similarly, if credits are discontinued, Riverside County’s Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District might reconsider a plan to add solar panels, said district spokesman Greg Morrison.

The existing panels on three buildings and the credits associated with those are helping the agency save 15 percent on annual electricity costs, Morrison said. And the district would like to put up more.

“It seems counterintuitive to not raise it (the cap).” he said. “If you want to reduce energy demand, and certainly peak energy demand, you would want to continue to encourage alternative energy sources like solar.”

The issue has come up because Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PCG), the giant utility that serves much of northern and central California, is expected to reach the cap in its service territory sometime next year.

San Diego Gas & Electric Co., which serves 3.4 million people in San Diego County and southern Orange County, is a little farther behind, with rooftop solar accounting for 50 megawatts, or a little more than 1 percent of its power supply. In Southern California Edison’s (EIX) territory, which includes Riverside County, rooftop solar panels account for 0.5 percent of the total generating capacity.

A megawatt is the industry yardstick for measuring large amounts of electricity and is generally what is required to keep the lights on in 650 homes.

SDG&E opposes the bill.

“Obviously, we support allowing our solar customers to be able to fully offset their electric consumption,” said Jennifer Briscoe, a spokeswoman for SDG&E. “But we want to make sure that there is not an unfair level of cost sharing.”

The San Diego utility and other power providers argue that, because homeowners get a full retail-price credit for the energy they generate, they are relieved of the responsibility to pay costs associated with financing transmission lines and power plants.

And advocates for the poor contend that unfairly saddles other customers not wealthy enough to install panels with the burden of paying for plants and wires.

“That cost is just shifted to the other customers in the system.” said Sen. Roderick Wright, D-Inglewood, during Tuesday’s hearing.

And, he added, “There ain’t no rooftop solar panels in Watts.”

To a degree, critics have a point when it comes to residential customers, Skinner said. They tend to ramp up their electrical use after they return home from work, when the temperature outside is cooling down. But that’s not the case with the other customers that possess a large majority of panels, she said.

“We have lots of businesses now and public sector entities, whether they be schools, community colleges or city halls, that are making long-term investments in solar,” Skinner said by telephone, following the hearing.

And they use power during the heat of the day, during the very hours when peak demand occurs, she said. That means the power their panels generate is canceling out the need to build new power plants and transmission lines to handle growing peaks.

Forty-four states let customers claim credits for power they produce, and 18 have no limit on how many may take advantage of that arrangement. A limit is likely to survive for some time in California, Skinner said, but it is time to raise it.

“Why would you generate your own electricity if you couldn’t get any credit for that?” she asked.

July 6, 2009

Solar: Should Utility Customers Subsidize Solar Homes?

Filed under: EIX, PCG, SRE — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 11:42 am

Posted by Eric Savitz
barrons.com

Here’s a tricky question: should the average electric utility customer pay higher rates so that people who install solar systems can sell power back to the grid?

That question is at the heart of a story today in the L.A. Times about whether to expand a program under which California utilities buy back power from customers with solar panels. Current state law allows utilities to cap solar power purchases at 2.5% of their generating capacity; a provision now being debated in Sacramento would quadruple the cap to 10%. The piece notes that Pacific Gas & Electric (PCG) could hit the 2.5% cap by the end of the year, while Southern California Edison (EIX) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SRE) are moving more slowly.

All three utilities oppose the higher cap. The Times notes that while the power companies support solar power, they want more information on whether it is fair to increase financial incentives for solar-panel ownership at the expense of the rest of their customers. The piece points out that the so-called “net metering” program which allows people to sell power to the grid is in addition to a 20% state subsidy and a 30% federal income tax credit.

The piece noted that a staff report by the state Senate’s Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee asserted that the utilities are over-paying for power produced by solar customers. Under the legislation, the solar companies pay a full retail rate, “well above the value of the generated power.”

July 1, 2009

Handful of players seen ruling the solar roost

Filed under: EIX, FSLR, PCG, SPWR, SRE, STP, YGE — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 12:35 pm

Wed Jul 1, 2009 12:35pm EDT

By Nichola Groom

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Solar panel makers from California to China are gearing up to capture a slice of the growing U.S. market for utility-scale solar power plants, but just a handful of players are expected to snap up most of the business in the coming years.

U.S. players First Solar Inc (FSLR) and SunPower Corp (SPWRA, SPWRB) and China’s Suntech Power Holdings (STP) are widely expected to be the primary winners of large photovoltaic solar projects in the United States in the next few years, with the first two already firmly entrenched in the market.

“I don’t think the utility landscape is going to become as competitive as the commercial market, because the barriers to entry are much higher,” said Barclays Capital analyst Vishal Shah. “It takes a long time to prove your technology to the utility so they can be comfortable. So from that standpoint it limits the competition only to a handful of players.”

For much of the last two years, investors have been banking on an eventual boom in solar power plants in the United States due to increased concerns about climate change that have ushered in generous government incentives for clean energy. That optimism has only intensified in recent months despite a weak global economy and tight credit markets that have hampered development of green power projects this year.

Efforts by the Obama administration to speed development of renewable energy, state mandates for renewable power and a dramatic drop in the cost of solar panels mean “the U.S. market could potentially (and finally) become ‘the promised land’ that investors have been waiting for since late 2007,” FBR Capital Markets analyst Mehdi Hosseini said in a June research note.

(more…)

June 18, 2009

Cal PUC approves SCE 500-MW rooftop solar program

Filed under: EIX, FSLR, PCG — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 3:12 pm

Thu Jun 18, 2009 3:12pm EDT

By Bernie Woodall

LOS ANGELES, June 18 (Reuters) – A program to place 500 megawatts of solar photovoltaic panels on commercial rooftops in the Southern California Edison territory was approved unanimously by the California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday.

The Edison International (EIX) subsidiary SCE will own half of the 500 MW of solar PV to be installed, and half will be developed under purchased power agreements.

The SCE-owned portion of the program is to be completed in five years and will cost an estimated $875 million. SCE says that each year it will install 50 MW.

SCE and Edison International are based in Los Angeles suburb Rosemead.

The purchased-power portion in which independent solar developers install the PV panels and enter long-term contracts to sell power to SCE, is already under way. While it is not expected that all 250 MW of this portion to be installed within five years, contracts for the installations are likely to be signed by then, an SCE official said. Long-term contracts for solar are usually 20 years.

SCE said the cost for the PV panels it owns is estimated to be $3.50 per installed watt, which is about half the cost to install PV panels on homeowners roofs in the California solar incentives program. That’s because of economies of scale.

PUC Commissioners Rachelle Chong and John Bohn said splitting the program to allow utility-owned and independent producer-owned panels allows comparison of costs and other issues.

The credit crisis has dried up finding for renewable energy projects. Utilities, however, have been a bright spot for solar installations because, effective late last year, they can claim a 30-percent federal tax credit.

Earlier this year, Pacific Gas & Electric Co based in San Francisco said it would pay $1.4 billion to own up to 250 MW of solar generation, its first direct investment in renewable generation in more than a decade. PG&E Co is a unit of PG&E Corp (PCG).

First Solar (FSLR) won the first two competitive bid contracts in the program of panels to be owned by SCE. First Solar has already installed 2 MW on commercial roofs in Fontana, California and is installing 1 MW of panels on roofs in Chino, California.

Eventually, SCE will own 250 MW of PV panels atop 150 commercial roofs that together will cover two square miles (5.2 square kilometers) under lease arrangement with building owners. The Fontana project has 33,700 PV panels and is the largest PV installation in the state.

PUC President Michael Peevey said an advantage of putting PV panels on large commercial buildings are that they are normally near or in cities where the electricity demand is.

(Editing by Christian Wiessner)

California Regulators Approve Southern California Edison Proposal to Create Nation’s Largest Solar Panel Installation Program

Filed under: EIX — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 3:00 pm

ROSEMEAD, Calif., June 18, 2009 — A plan proposed by Southern California Edison (SCE) for the largest U.S. installation of advanced solar panels on otherwise unused large commercial rooftops across Southern California was approved today by the California Public Utilities Commission.

During the next five years SCE will install, own and operate 250 megawatts of solar generating capacity. The utility also will conduct competitive solicitations offering long-term power contracts to independent solar power providers who will install an additional 250 megawatts, bringing to 500 megawatts the total generating capacity of the project — the largest photovoltaic program ever undertaken.

“This innovative solar rooftop project is part of Edison International’s 25-year commitment to developing cleaner renewable and alternative energy sources for our customers,” said Theodore F. Craver, Jr., Edison International chairman and CEO. “The program will create hundreds of neighborhood solar power plants, strengthen local grid reliability and produce hundreds of new green jobs to bolster Southern California’s economic recovery.”

During the fall of 2008, SCE completed the first of what eventually will be about 150 sites making up this program, a 600,000-square-foot Fontana, Calif. distribution warehouse roof. The rooftop now holds 33,700 advanced thin-film solar panels with a generating capacity of 2.4 megawatts of direct current power, known as DC power – the largest single rooftop solar photovoltaic array in California. SCE already has begun construction of its second installation atop a 458,000-square-foot industrial building in Chino, Calif. First Solar of Tempe, Ariz. was the winning bidder to supply panels for these first two installations.

Based on today’s regulatory approval, competitive solicitations will take place for the remaining roof leases and equipment needed for the 250 megawatts of facilities SCE will install and operate. A limited number of ground mounted installations also will be considered as part of SCE’s solar program.

Potential Benefits
SCE sees numerous benefits to customers, the region and the state from its massive solar project. The program will provide a new generation source to areas where customer demand is rising. The solar modules can be connected directly and quickly to the nearest neighborhood circuit while major new renewable energy transmission lines are being built. Additionally, the output of solar panels generally matches peak customer demand — lower in the morning and evening, higher in the afternoon. Also, the project will allow SCE grid engineers to study the electrical effects of a high penetration of photovoltaic on distribution circuits. The information gained will be shared with the industry.

SCE anticipates its solar power project will create as many as 800 new green jobs in Southern California in the solar industry. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, one of SCE’s project partners, is supporting the project through the expansion of its solar installation apprentice training program.

About Southern California Edison
An Edison International (EIX) company, Southern California Edison is one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, serving a population of nearly 14 million via 4.9 million customer accounts in a 50,000-square-mile service area within Central, Coastal and Southern California.

June 17, 2009

SCE signs contracts for over 900 MW of renewable energy

Filed under: EIX — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 2:15 pm

6/17/2009 2:15:17 PM

ROSEMEAD, CALIF.: Edison International (EIX) electric utility Southern California Edison has signed agreements with wind and solar suppliers for up to 960 MW of renewable power.

The recent agreements, subject to approval of the California Public Utilities Commission, include two contracts with Solar Millennium for a potential 726 MW of power from solar-thermal trough generators. When complete, those projects call for two 242 MW facilities with the option to expand one to include an additional 242 MW. The projects would be located in Blythe, Calif., and Ridgecrest, Calif., and are expected to come on line in 2013 and 2014.

Other recent renewable power contracts, both scheduled to come on line in the fourth quarter of 2010, include an agreement with Columbia Energy Partners for 40 MW of wind power, expandable to 104 MW, in Central Oregon; and one with BP Wind Energy and Ridgeline Energy, LLC for 90 MW of wind power, expandable to 130 MW, in Southeast Idaho.

To date, SCE has executed 12 contracts from the 2008 renewable solicitation representing potential annual deliveries of more than 6.5 billion kWh per year. In addition, SCE is in the process of preparing to issue the 2009 renewable solicitation with an expected launch date by the end of June.

Around 16 percent of SCE’s total energy portfolio comes from geothermal, wind, solar, small hydro and biomass resources. SCE delivered 65 percent of the U.S.’s solar energy to its customers in 2008.

May 28, 2009

Electric Utilities Rise to Meet Solar Call-to-Action

Filed under: DUK, EIX, PCG — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 3:01 pm

“2008 Top Ten Utility Solar Integration Rankings” Reports on Power Industry Adoption of Solar Electricity

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–As financial markets deteriorated in October 2008, Solar Electric Power Association Executive Director Julia Hamm challenged the solar and utility industries to deploy solar power on a massive scale despite new economic barriers. She issued the challenge in a speech at Solar Power International, the nation’s largest solar conference and trade show. Today, the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) issued a report demonstrating that the industry has responded even amidst a tough economic climate.

SEPA’s “2008 Top Ten Utility Solar Integration Rankings” report identifies the utilities in the U.S. that have the most significant amounts of solar electricity integrated into their portfolio, and records the increased collaboration of the U.S. electric utility and solar energy industries. The report demonstrates that the utility segment is making a major investment to increase the amount of solar energy in power portfolios, with many utilities doubling the amount of solar power in their portfolio in just one year. The overall installed solar capacity of the top ten ranked utilities rose from 711 megawatts to 882 megawatts, reflecting 25 percent growth. Ninety-two utilities participated in this year’s survey, an increase of more than 80 percent over last year, showing that the utility industry’s interest in solar power is stronger than ever.

“This year’s report demonstrates that solar electricity is finally on the radar screen of utilities across the country,” said Julia Hamm, executive director of the Solar Electric Power Association. “Solar plants large and small are ready for significant build-out, and the utility industry is moving quickly toward mass adoption to meet a variety of business needs.” Renewable portfolio standards, impending carbon policy, and fluctuating costs of power generation and fuel resources top the list of drivers towards improved utility perception of solar electric options.

The report also documents a wave of utility-driven installations, pointing to the growing importance of utilities in the solar power market, and the growing importance of solar power to the business of utilities. Historically, the solar power market has been dominated by customer-driven installations.

“Residential and commercial photovoltaic projects will continue to be important stimulants for job creation and small business growth, but they will be complemented by large-scale photovoltaic and concentrating solar power projects,” said Mike Taylor, director of research and education at SEPA. “The variety of ways solar power is being implemented signals an increased maturity in the market.”

(more…)

April 15, 2009

First Solar, Sempra in new solar plant deal

Filed under: EIX, FSLR, PCG, SRE — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 2:30 pm

Wed Apr 15, 2009 2:30pm EDT

*First Solar to build 48 MW plant for Sempra in Nevada

*Deal expands existing 10 MW plant in same location

LOS ANGELES, April 15 (Reuters) – First Solar Inc (FSLR) said on Wednesday it would build a solar power plant for Sempra Energy (SRE) in Nevada that, when completed, will be the largest photovoltaic power plant in North America.

The 48-megawatt plant near Boulder City, Nevada, expands a 10 MW plant First Solar built for Sempra’s generation unit last year. It is expected to be completed in 2010.

California utilities have been a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy solar market because they must comply with a state mandate to produce 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2010 and then 33 percent by 2020.

First Solar, whose cadmium telluride solar panels cost less than traditional polysilicon-based panels, has benefited from cost-conscious utilities’ efforts to buy more clean, renewable power through deals with Sempra and Edison International’s (EIX) Southern California Edison.

The company also expanded its presence in the U.S. utility market this month with the acquisition of rival OptiSolar’s project pipeline.

“Utilities offer the most durable source of solar demand in a weak economy, because many are under mandate to invest in new renewable generation; and they have some of the best access to financing even in otherwise frozen capital markets,” Raymond James analyst Pavel Molchanov said in a client note.

The latest deal is subject to Sempra executing a power purchase agreement with a utility customer for the electricity the plant will generate.

The existing 10-MW plant supplies power to California utility PG&E (PCG)

Larger solar power plants are in the works in North America, but will be completed after the latest First Solar and Sempra project.

First Solar shares were down 50 cents, or 0.3 percent, at $147.60 in afternoon trade on the Nasdaq. Sempra shares were up 44 cents, or 1 percent, at $45.35 on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Nichola Groom)

April 14, 2009

Abound, U.S. solar startup, takes on First Solar

Filed under: EIX, FSLR, SRE — Tags: , , , , , — Jason @ 12:01 am

Tue Apr 14, 2009 12:01am EDT

By Nichola Groom

LOS ANGELES, April 14 (Reuters) – Abound Solar, a U.S. solar startup whose top rival is low-cost industry leader First Solar Inc (FSLR), starts production at its first factory on Tuesday, promising that it will lead the way to making solar competitive with power from dirtier sources.

Abound, a private company that was known as AVA Solar until last month, will make cadmium telluride solar panels at its first full-scale plant in Longmont, Colorado, where it will eventually produce 200 megawatts of solar modules annually.

Using cadmium telluride as its key raw material puts Abound in direct competition with First Solar, the Wall Street darling whose low-cost technology has been snapping up solar power deals with U.S. utilities including Sempra Energy (SRE) and Edison International (EIX).

Traditional solar panel makers use polysilicon as their main raw material, making the panels more efficient in transforming sunlight to electricity, but also more costly.

Abound Solar’s management said it would easily compete with Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar, the solar equivalent of an industry behemoth.

“We think we have a slight technological advantage over First Solar,” Chief Executive Pascal Noronha said in an interview. “And by the way I think very highly of First Solar.”

Abound’s manufacturing process, Noronha said, is completely automated and continuous, allowing the company to convert sheets of glass into solar panels in less than two hours without human labor.

“We have a manufacturing process that is about as continuous as making beer cans, and therefore makes us the lowest cost manufacturer of photovoltaic modules,” Noronha said.

(more…)

April 1, 2009

Google to map green energy zones

Filed under: EIX, FSLR, PCG, SPWR — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 3:17 pm

by Todd Woody
GreenWombat

Can Google help defuse a simmering green civil war between renewable energy advocates and wildlife conservationists in the American West?

That’s the idea behind a new Google Earth mapping project launched Wednesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Audubon Society. Path to Green Energy will identify areas in 13 western states potentially suitable for massive megawatt solar power plants, wind farms, transmission lines and other green energy projects. The app will also pinpoint critical habitat for protected wildlife such as the desert tortoise in California and Wyoming’s sage grouse as well as other environmentally sensitive lands.

“This was information that was unavailable or very scattered,” said Google.org program director David Bercovich at a press conference. “The potential cost savings from this will be enormous. If we can get people to the right areas and streamline the process that will have enormous benefits in getting clean energy online faster.”

NRDC senior attorney Johanna Wald said her group already is using Path to Green Energy in New Mexico to help plan a new transmission project. “Careful siting is the key to renewable energy development,” she said, noting that NRDC has mapped 860 million acres. “We’re not greenlighting development on places that are on our map but we’re providing a framework for discussion.”

The unveiling of Path to Green Energy comes two weeks after California Senator Dianne Feinstein announced she would introduce legislation to put as many as 600,000 acres of the Mojave Desert off limits to renewable energy development to protect endangered wildlife and their habitats. Solar developers have filed lease claims on a million acres of federal land in the California Mojave and there are state and federal efforts already under way to identify green energy zones across the West.

Path to Green Energy is designed to give regulators and developers a tool to choose the best potential sites for solar and wind farms so they don’t get bogged down in years-long and multimillion-dollar fights over wildlife. Ausra, BrightSource Energy and other developers of the first half-dozen solar power plant projects moving through the licensing process in California have spent big sums on hiring wildlife consultants who spend thousands of hours surveying sites for desert tortoises, blunt-nosed leopard lizards and other protected species.

The Google Earth app won’t do away with the need to do such detailed environmental review but puts in one package a variety of information that developers must now cobble together themselves — if they can find it. Path to Green Energy could also prove valuable to utilities like PG&E (PCG) and Southern California Edison (EIX) as more and more projects are proposed and regulators scrutinize the cumulative impact of Big Solar power plants across regions.

For instance, in California’s San Luis Obispo County, three large-scale solar farms are being planned within a few miles of each other by Ausra, SunPower (SPWRA, SPWRB) and First Solar (FSLR). That has resulted in delays as wildlife officials initiate studies looking at how all those projects affect the movement of wildlife throughout the area. Going forward, Path to Green Energy will give developers a snapshot of where the wild things are, as well as wildlife corridors to help them avoid siting one plant too close to another in a way that may impede animals’ migration. That could save millions of dollars in mitigation costs – money builders must spend to acquire land to replace wildlife habitat taken for a power plant project as well as avoid fights with environmental groups that have become increasingly uneasy about Big Solar projects.

If the desert tortoise is the critter to avoid when building solar power plants in the Mojave, the sage grouse poses problems for Wyoming wind farms. Brian Rutledge, executive director of Audubon Wyoming, said Path to Green Energy shows the densities of sage grouse across the state, allowing developers to stay clear of those areas.

“We get a solid indication of where energy development shouldn’t go,” he said. “Just as important, we get a better sense of the places that should be evaluated for wind turbine farms and transmission lines. The maps make clear that there is plenty of room for green energy.”

The payback from using Web 2.0 software could indeed be tremendous, given that Google (GOOG) spent a scant $50,000 in donations to NRDC and Audubon to create the maps.

March 2, 2009

First Solar buys rival’s assets in $400 million deal

Filed under: EIX, FSLR, PCG, SRE — Tags: , , , , , , — Jason @ 5:31 pm

By Todd Woody
GreenWombat

In the second big solar deal of the day, First Solar (FSLR) on Monday announced it was acquiring rival thin-film photovoltaic startup OptiSolar’s solar power plant projects in an all-stock transaction worth $400 million.

The acquisition vaults First Solar into the ranks of big solar power plant developers, giving it control of a 550-megawatt photovoltaic solar farm — the world’s largest — OptiSolar is building for utility PG&E (PCG) as well as 1,300 megawatts’ worth of projects in the pipeline. The deal also includes federal land claims OptiSolar filed on 136,000 acres in the Southwest desert that could support power plants generating 19,000 megawatts of solar electricity.

First Solar CEO Mike Ahearn said 6,500 megawatts of those projects are in the front of the line in the “transmission queue” to connect to the power grid, allowing solar farms to be rapidly deployed over the next couple of years.

“This package in total would be very hard to replicate, if at all,” Ahearn said Monday afternoon during a conference call. “That positions us ideally to be the player in the U.S. utility market.”

OptiSolar spokesman Alan Bernheimer told Green Wombat that OptiSolar will now focus on its solar cell manufacturing operations. “We needed to find a way to realize value for our shareholders,” he said. “This is a wonderful fit. We developed what we think is the largest power plant pipeline while First Solar developed the lowest cost thin-film technology.”

Silicon Valley-based OptiSolar quickly became a leader in the nascent solar power plant market but stalled as the financial crisis hit, forcing the company to halt work on a solar cell factory and lay off half its workers last November. Bernheimer said OptiSolar has applied for a $300 million federal loan guarantee to restart and expand its manufacturing operations.

He said OptiSolar CEO Randy Goldstein will join First Solar, along with about 30 other employees, when the deal closes.

First Solar (FSLR), backed by Wal-Mart’s (WMT) Walton family, has become become known as the Google (GOOG) of solar for its stratospheric stock price. The Tempe, Ariz.-based company jumped into the solar power plant market last year with deals to build small-scale solar power plants for Sempre Energy (SRE) and Southern California Edison (EIX).

The OptiSolar deal follows by hours the sale of solar financier MMA Renewable Ventures’ solar portfolio to Spanish solar developer Fotowatio. “There’s a shakeout in the marketplace and there’s opportunities for consolidation,” MMA Renewable Ventures CEO Matt Cheney presciently told Green Wombat Monday morning.

February 24, 2009

PG&E chief: We’ll be solar’s ‘green knight’

Filed under: EIX, FSLR, PCG, SPWR, SRE, STP — Tags: , , , , , — Jason @ 4:50 pm

by Todd Woody
Green Wombat

SAN FRANCISCO — With the financial crisis dimming solar’s prospects to become a significant source of renewable energy, utility giant PG&E on Tuesday said it will spend $1.4 billion to install 250 megawatts’ worth of photovoltaic panels in California while contracting with private developers for another 250 megawatts. PG&E chief executive Peter Darbee said the utility is also prepared to be a “green knight,” rescuing distressed big centralized solar power plant projects by providing financing so they can get built.

“We have contracted for 24% of our energy to be renewable and we’re concerned whether our [developers] will have access to capital,” Darbee said at PG&E’s San Francisco headquarters during a press conference. “We think financing for these projects may be in jeopardy. PG&E is well-positioned with its $35 billion balance sheet to step up and help.”

PG&E’s (PCG) move to take a direct role in obtaining the renewable energy it needs to comply with California’s global warming laws could be big business for solar module panel makers and installers like SunPower (SPWRA, SPWRB), Suntech (STP) and First Solar (FSLR). The action was prompted in part by a change in the tax laws that lets utilities claim a 30% investment tax credit for solar projects.

Fong Wan, PG&E’s vice president for energy procurement, said most of the 500 megawatts of solar panels will be installed on the ground in arrays of between one and 20 megawatts at utility substations or on other PG&E-owned property. (The utility is one of California’s largest landowners.) A small portion may be installed on rooftops, he said.

PG&E said the solar initiative will generate enough electricity to power 150,000 homes and will provide 1.3% of the utility’s electricity supply.

“There’s no or little need for new transmission and these projects can plug directly into the grid,” said Darbee. “Given our size and our credit ratings, we can move forward where smaller developers may not be able to do so.”

The California Public Utilities Commission must approve PG&E’s solar initiative, which Wan estimated would add about 32 cents to the average monthly utility bill. An $875 million program unveiled by Southern California Edison (EIX) last year to install 250 megawatts of utility-owned rooftop solar panels has run into opposition from solar companies that argue it is anti-competitive and from consumer advocates who contend the price is too high. The state’s third big utility, San Diego Gas & Electric (SRE), has also proposed a rooftop solar program.

Wan acknowledged that objections to Edison led PG&E to design its program so that private developers would have a 50% stake in the initiative. PG&E will sign 20-year power purchase agreements for privately owned solar installations.

PG&E will also need regulators’ approval to inject equity financing into companies developing big solar power plants. The utility has signed power purchase agreements for up to 2,400 megawatts of electricity to be produced by solar thermal and photovoltaic power plants to be built by companies like Ausra, BrightSource Energy, OptiSolar and SunPower.

“We are looking at the least risky and most developed opportunities to see where we can be the most helpful,” Darbee said.

February 19, 2009

Meltdown 101: Will the sun soon power our homes?

Filed under: EIX, SPWR — Tags: , , , , , — Jason @ 4:46 pm

Thursday February 19, 4:46 pm ET
By Chris Kahn, AP Energy Writer

Meltdown 101: How soon will solar power become an affordable source of electricity?

After 30 years of trying to squeeze electricity from sunlight, the solar energy industry is finally gaining some traction in its effort to compete with fossil fuels.

Does that mean most of the power in our homes will soon be coming from the sun?

Here are some questions and answers about solar energy as a source of electricity.

Q: Is solar energy getting close to being able to compete with fossil fuels?

A: It’s definitely moving in that direction.

Rooftop solar panels already are producing cheaper electricity than traditional power plants during the day in California and Hawaii. And industry analysts say that as early as next year utilities could build solar power plants able to compete with traditional coal-fired or natural gas power plants.

Q: Has something changed recently to give solar a leg up?

A: There have been vast improvements in technology as equipment and installation costs have plummeted, thanks in part to manufacturing innovations and a huge plunge in polysilicon prices.

Q: Polysilicon?

A: That’s a form of silicon that’s used to make some of the solar cells that gather sunlight to turn it into electricity.

Polysilicon prices have dropped about 30 percent in the past two months as makers of semiconductors — which also use the material — curbed production during the recession, said Jesse Pichel, an analyst with Piper Jaffray in New York.

Q: President Barack Obama has talked a lot about encouraging the production of alternative energy. Does anything in the stimulus plan he signed this week encourage the use of solar power?

A: Yes, the stimulus was packed with incentives for solar, including U.S. Treasury grants that will allow consumers to recoup 30 percent of the cost of installing solar equipment.

Robert Margolis, a senior analyst with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, said the new federal incentives will allow people in many U.S. cities to immediately lower the cost of home electricity by installing solar panels on their rooftops.

(more…)

February 11, 2009

BrightSource to supply 1.3 GW solar thermal power to SCE

Filed under: EIX — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 7:48 pm

2/11/2009 7:48:11 PM

ROSEMEAD, CALIF.: Electric utility Southern California Edison (EIX) and solar energy provider BrightSource Energy reached agreement on a series of contracts for 1,300 MW of solar thermal power, enough to serve nearly 845,000 homes.

The agreement, which now requires approval from the California Public Utilities Commission, calls for a series of seven projects totaling 1,300 MW. The first of the solar power plants, sized at 100 MW and to be located in Ivanpah, Calif., could be in operation by early 2013. It is expected to produce 286,000 MWh of renewable electricity per year.

BrightSource will build and begin commercial operations of each of its plants as quickly as permitting and infrastructure will allow. The full 1,300 MW of projects will produce 3.7 billion kWh of clean energy and avoid more than 2 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, which is equivalent to removing more than 335,000 cars from the road.

BrightSource’s proprietary Luz Power Tower 550 (LPT 550) energy system is built on “power tower” technology. The system uses thousands of small mirrors called heliostats to reflect sunlight onto a boiler atop a tower to produce high temperature steam. The steam is then piped to a conventional turbine that generates electricity.

In order to conserve desert water, the LPT 550 system uses air-cooling to convert the steam back into water, which is then returned to the boiler in a closed cycle. The fully integrated energy system is designed to offer high operating efficiencies at low capital costs.

February 9, 2009

Big Solar Heats Up

Filed under: EIX, FSLR, PCG, SPWR — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 1:15 pm

Andy Stone, 02.09.09, 01:15 PM EST

A slew of innovative, industrial-scale projects may soon be powering your home.

Following two decades of darkness, the market for big-time solar generation in the United States could soon see the light. More than a dozen young companies have plans to build a total of at least five gigawatts of solar projects in the vast deserts of the Southwest–enough to power more than 1.25 million homes.

Aggressive renewable portfolio standards in California that will require utilities to generate 20% of their electricity from renewable sources by next year, and the recent extension of the 30% investment tax credit for solar projects have given solar companies incentive to get their projects underway.

But many of the upcoming projects will use new technologies with limited proof of their reliability or ability to produce cheap power. Utility-scale solar projects generate electricity by the megawatt, as opposed to smaller rooftop photovoltaics used mainly to produce a few kilowatts to power a home or business.

With the help of tax credits and other subsidies, the new solar projects will need to produce power at a cost that’s as close as possible to what utilities pay for electricity from gas-fired turbines, the benchmark that produces electricity for up to 15 cents per kilowatt hour.

The young solar companies are employing a variety of designs, some of which incorporate vast collections of photovoltaic cells that turn the sun’s energy directly into electricity. Others use concentrating solar power designs that use mirrors to focus light on a single point to boil water and create steam to drive conventional turbines. They’re all vying to become the new standard for utilities looking for big solar projects.

But the utilities, tellingly, are limiting their financial commitment to the solar upstarts, preferring instead to let the companies fight among themselves for technological hegemony. “Utilities recognize there is intense competition right now to be the leader in technology,” says Jack Jenkins-Stark, chief financial officer at Brightsource Energy, which wants to build as much as 900 megawatts of solar generation capacity in the California desert. “They recognize it’s unclear who will be the leader.”

(more…)

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