North Coast Solar Stocks

October 6, 2009

Where’s the next boom? Maybe in `cleantech’

Filed under: DOW, GE, GOOG, HPQ, IBM — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 9:33 pm

Energy breakthroughs could be the next big thing, but how many jobs can they generate?

By Jordan Robertson, AP Technology Writer
9:33 pm EDT, Tuesday October 6, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Our economy sure could use the Next Big Thing. Something on the scale of railroads, automobiles or the Internet — the kind of breakthrough that emerges every so often and builds industries, generates jobs and mints fortunes.

Silicon Valley investors are pointing to something called cleantech — alternative energy, more efficient power distribution and new ways to store electricity, all with minimal impact to the environment — as a candidate for the next boom.

And while no two booms are exactly alike, some hallmarks are already showing up.

Despite last fall’s financial meltdown, public and private investments are pouring in, fueling startups and reinvigorating established companies. The political and social climates are favorable. If it takes off, cleantech could seep into every part of the economy and our lives.

Some of the biggest booms first blossomed during recessions. The telephone and phonograph were developed during the depression of the 1870s. The integrated circuit, a milestone in electronics, was invented in the recessionary year of 1958. Personal computers went mainstream, spawning a huge industry, in the slumping early 1980s.

A year into the Great Recession, innovation isn’t slowing. This time, it’s better batteries, more efficient solar cells, smarter appliances and electric cars, not to mention all the infrastructure needed to support the new ways energy will be generated and the new ways we’ll be using it.

Yet for all the benefits that might be spawned by cleantech breakthroughs, no one knows how many jobs might be created — or how many old jobs might be cannibalized. It also remains to be seen whether Americans will clamor for any of its products.

Still, big bets are being placed. The Obama administration is pledging to invest $150 billion over the next decade on energy technology and says that could create 5 million jobs. This recession has wiped out 7.2 million.

And cleantech is on track to be the dominant force in venture capital investments over the next few years, supplanting biotechnology and software. Venture capitalists have poured $8.7 billion into energy-related startups in the U.S. since 2006.

That pales in comparison with the dot-com boom, when venture cash sometimes topped $10 billion in a single quarter. But the momentum surrounding clean energy is reminiscent of the Internet’s early days. Among the similarities: Although big projects are still dominated by large companies, the scale of the challenges requires innovation by smaller firms that hope to be tomorrow’s giants.


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)

July 16, 2009

China Sprouts Green Energy Opportunities

Filed under: CSIQ, GE, JASO, LDK, STP — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 1:22 pm

Andy Stone, 07.16.09, 1:22 PM ET

The credit crisis stalled green power investment in America, but China’s a very different story. We talked to Michael Ding, head of Accenture’s utility industry consulting practice in Beijing, about the opportunities, and potential pitfalls, for investors interested in the market.

Motivated to meet the power needs of a rapidly urbanizing population and unburdened by the chains of democratic debate and the lobbying efforts of investor-owed utilities, Beijing has been quick to dictate renewable energy standards among the 90% of utilities it owns.

Foreign investors do face hurdles. Last November, China implemented its own $586 billion economic stimulus plan, but the government has directed money at local industry and has been increasingly protective of its clean power sector. In May, the government disqualified global manufacturers hoping to bid on 25 wind turbine contracts, and granted all projects to Chinese companies. In fact, nearly 70% of wind projects in 2008 went to Chinese companies despite investments by turbine giants General Electric (GE), Siemens (SI) and Vestas in local manufacturing and the sharing of technology with Chinese partners.

The solar investing opportunity is a bit clearer. Low-cost China is the world’s biggest producer of solar panels, and several Chinese solar manufacturers’ shares trade in the U.S. Suntech Power Holdings (STP), with a market cap of $2.4 billion, is China’s largest solar module producer. It’s ADRs trade on the New York Stock Exchange. Investors can also purchase shares of LDK Solar (LDK) and depository receipts of JA Solar Holdings (JASO).

Forbes: Explain the role of the Chinese government in stimulating demand for renewable energy.

Michael Ding: In China, 90% of generating companies are owned by the state, and transmission is 100% government-owned. The government’s policy is that all state-owned generating companies must meet a renewable energy standard, so clearly the government has been driving the increase in renewables.

Specifically, in 2006 the government passed the China Renewable Energy Law and in 2007 it released a mid- and long-term renewable energy implementation plan (Mid and Long Term Renewable Development Plan), with a target of 15% of primary energy consumption to come from renewable sources by 2020, and the government will likely raise this to 20%. It recently revised the wind target from 30 gigawatts to 150 gigawatts of generating capacity by 2020. The government has launched a “Three Gorges on Land” wind project in Gansu Province that will equal the generating capacity of the 22 gigawatt 3-Gorges Dam.

Regarding solar, China is already the largest solar panel producer in the world. Ninety-five percent of the supply is exported, only 5% serves the local market. China had just 120 megawatts of installed solar capacity by the end of last 2008 –that’s very small.


June 1, 2009

Texas Kills Solar Bill on Last-Minute Motion

Filed under: AMAT, GE, HPQ, SPWR — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 2:44 pm

By Russell Gold

The sun isn’t shining in Texas this morning.

A bill in the Texas legislature to create a $500 million rebate program for utility-scale and small-scale solar installations – and jumpstart a Texas solar industry – died late on Friday night on a procedural maneuver. Several people who followed the bill closely said it wasn’t voted down on the merits. It was derailed on a picayune legislative point about whether two bills should be melded together. The point, raised by Houston Democrat Sylvester Turner, was turned away, but by then it was too late. The clock had run out. In all likelihood, this means the Lone Star State won’t be able to create any solar incentives until 2011.

Solar boosters are worried about the message this will send. “We will lose out on talent and manufacturing because the industry will either not locate in Texas or relocate to other states that have legislative support,” says Raymond Walker, general counsel of Standard Renewable Energy, a Houston company that installs solar panels for homes and businesses.

The death of the bill was unexpected because it had strong support on both sides of the aisle – from rural Republicans such as bill sponsor Sen. Troy Fraser who saw the economic uplift created by wind farms in West Texas to urban Democrats would were in favor the idea of boosting solar-installation jobs. The fate of the bill is also surprising because Texas’ effort several years ago to create a wind industry has been so successful.

Still, despite the darkness that has descended on solar’s Texas backers, some say there is reason to be positive. “What is interesting and what matters to us is that the chair of the Texas Business & Commerce Committee (Sen. Fraser) was the first person to introduce a solar bill,” says Kari Smith, public affairs director for solar manufacturer SunPower Corp. (SPWRA, SPWRB)

“It is not business as usual in Texas anymore. We’ve gone beyond this is environmental versus big business issue,” says Ms. Smith, pointing out that the bill had support from an ad-hoc coalition called Texas High-Tech for Solar and included Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD), Texas Instruments Inc. (TXN), Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) and General Electric Co. (GE)

Proving her point, Jim Marston, head the state chapter of Environmental Defense, bemoaned the death of the solar bill thusly: “We are going to lose a bunch of jobs to other states. We are going to lose all those installation jobs, the kind of jobs that cannot be exported to China and India. And we’re not going to get the clean-air benefit.”

“This was simply bad luck,” says Steve Taylor, a member of the Solar Alliance and executive with Applied Materials Inc. (AMAT) “Circumstances and procedural motions.” He said solar boosters will meet soon to discuss ways forward, pointing out that the bill passed the state senate on a 26-4 vote.

The $500 million would have been funded by a statewide charge of electricity bills.

What is thin-film solar power?

Filed under: ASTI, DSTI, ENER, FSLR, GE — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 1:41 pm

Mon Jun 1, 2009 1:41pm EDT

LOS ANGELES, June 1 (Reuters) – Solar panels made with little or no polysilicon, broadly known as thin-film, could lose their competitive advantage over silicon-based modules because prices of polysilicon have plunged since last year.

*Thin film solar panels are less efficient at transforming sunlight into electricity than the traditional crystalline silicon panels that dominate the market. They are generally lower in cost, however, because they do not rely on polysilicon, the price of which had skyrocketed in recent years.

*In 2008, thin film represented about 20 percent of the photovoltaic solar market, or about 1.16 gigawatts.

*Three technologies fall under the thin film umbrella: amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride, and copper indium gallium selenide, or CIGS.

*Amorphous silicon panels use about 1 percent of the silicon needed for traditional panels. Its comparative thinness is enabling amorphous-silicon panels to be integrated into buildings, including doubling as roof shingles.

Top manufacturers include U.S.-based Energy Conversion Devices Inc (ENER) and Japan’s Kaneka Corp, Sharp Corp and Sanyo.

*Cadmium telluride is the semiconductor material used in panels made by thin film industry leader First Solar Inc (FSLR). Cadmium telluride’s success has come from its low cost, despite efficiencies that lag silicon-based competitors.

Other cadmium telluride panel makers include privately-held U.S. company Abound Solar and General Electric Co (GE)-backed PrimeStar Solar Inc, which has yet to begin commercial production.

*CIGS is a compound semiconductor material made of copper, indium, gallium and selenium. The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory said last year they had set a new efficiency record of 19.9 percent for CIGS cells, nearing the record for crystalline silicon cells. However, no company has neared efficiency in the factory.

CIGS manufacturers include Ascent Solar Technologies Inc (ASTI), DayStar Technologies Inc (DSTI) and privately-held Solyndra, Global Solar, and Nanosolar, which is backed by Google (GOOG) founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Sources: New Energy Finance, U.S. Department of Energy

(Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

February 19, 2009

GE, SunPower and California’s Lake County Partner on 2.2-Megawatt Solar Power System

Filed under: GE, SPWR — Tags: , , — Jason @ 8:00 am

Thursday February 19, 8:00 am ET

Arrays Constructed on Two Wastewater Treatment Plants and County Jail; Savings to County Residents May Reach $5 Million Over 20 Years

LAKEPORT, Calif., Feb. 19 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — SunPower Corp. (SPWRA, SPWRB), a manufacturer of high-efficiency solar cells, solar panels, and solar systems, GE (GE), California’s Lake County and the Lake County Sanitation District (LACOSAN) announced today the completion of a 2.2-megawatt solar-electric power system on three sites, including the county jail and two wastewater treatment plants. Combining this new system with an existing 1-megawatt solar power installation, Lake County is now home to the largest solar power installation on county facilities in California. The combined 3.2-megawatt system produces the equivalent of 94 percent of the facilities’ electricity requirements.

“We expect these solar power installations to save Lake County taxpayers and ratepayers between $1.6 million and $5 million over the next 20 years, depending on utility rate increases,” said Mark Dellinger, special districts administrator for LACOSAN. “SunPower offered high-efficiency technology that maximizes the amount of solar power generated, and a turnkey solution that helped to accelerate design and construction.”

Hosting the solar installation helps further Lake County’s commitment to building a sustainable community infrastructure. The wastewater that LACOSAN treats, recycles and transports at the two treatment plants is used to recharge another alternative energy source — geothermal — that generates power for homes and businesses. The County’s program includes its commitment to energy efficiency, The Geysers — which is the world’s largest complex of geothermal energy — and other alternative sources of energy.

“These solar facilities represent a critical part of Lake County’s overall energy program,” said Denise Rushing, chair of the Lake County Board of Supervisors. “The County truly appreciates the innovation demonstrated by SunPower and GE, and for their partnership with us to make this happen.”

GE Energy Financial Services, a unit of GE, in partnership with SunPower, financed and owns the system as well as the associated renewable energy credits and environmental benefits. Using conversion formulas provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the 2.2-megawatt SunPower system will avoid more than 131 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over the next 30 years, equivalent to removing close to 11,000 cars from the road.

Under a SunPower Access(TM) power purchase agreement (PPA), the partnership is selling electricity to the County and LACOSAN at rates that are competitively priced against utility rates, providing the County and LACOSAN with a long-term hedge against rising peak power prices.

“Lake County and LACOSAN took advantage of the SunPower Access PPA to build and host emission-free solar power plants at their facilities with no upfront capital expenditure,” said Tom Werner, chief executive officer of SunPower. “We applaud the County and District for taking the lead with this showcase installation that demonstrates how solar makes good financial sense for public agencies today.”

At the County and LACOSAN facilities, SunPower designed and installed a system that utilizes SunPower solar panels, the most efficient solar panels on the market today, with the SunPower Tracker® system. The Tracker follows the sun’s movement during the day, increasing sunlight capture by up to 30 percent over conventional fixed-tilt systems, while significantly reducing land use requirements.

The SunPower arrays in the system include:
* A 602-kilowatt installation at the Lake County Jail;
* Two installations at the Northwest Wastewater Treatment Plant,
including one 281-kilowatt array and one 764-kilowatt array; and
* A 522-kilowatt array at LACOSAN’s Southeast Wastewater Treatment Plant.

About Lake County Sanitation District

The County of Lake is committed to developing sustainable community infrastructure through the innovative use of renewable energy and increased energy efficiency. Lake County is located in beautiful Northern California and is home to the state’s cleanest air basin, Clear Lake — the largest natural freshwater lake in California — as well as The Geysers, the world’s largest complex of geothermal energy. For information on Lake County’s innovation in wastewater recycling and solar-powered infrastructure, visit

About GE Energy Financial Services

GE Energy Financial Services’ experts invest globally with a long-term view, backed by the best of GE’s technical know-how and financial strength, across the capital spectrum in one of the world’s most capital-intensive industries, energy, to help their customers and GE grow. With more than $19 billion in assets, GE Energy Financial Services is based in Stamford, Connecticut. In renewable energy, GE Energy Financial Services is growing its portfolio of more than $4 billion in assets in wind, solar, biomass, hydro and geothermal power. For more information, visit

October 13, 2008

SunPower and GE Partner to Power-Up HP in San Diego

Filed under: GE, HPQ, SPWR — Tags: , , — Jason @ 8:00 am

Monday October 13, 8:00 am ET

Residential SunPower Systems Available to HP Employees At Preferred Rates

SAN DIEGO, Oct. 13 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — SunPower Corporation (SPWRA, SPWRB), a Silicon Valley-based manufacturer of high-efficiency solar cells, solar panels, and solar systems, and GE (GE) announced today the completion of a 1.1-megawatt solar-electric power system on the roof of HP’s (HPQ) printing technology research and development facility in San Diego. The companies are jointly dedicating the system today at the HP site.

At the San Diego facility, SunPower installed a SunPower® T10 Solar Roof Tile commercial roof system, which is a non-penetrating product that tilts at a 10-degree angle to increase energy capture. The system will reduce more than 60 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over the next 30 years, which is equivalent to providing electricity to 3800 homes or removing more than 5250 cars from the road.

“We applaud HP’s vision for the future as well as its understanding that solar makes good business sense today,” said Tom Werner, chief executive officer of SunPower. “For leading companies and individual homeowners, clean, reliable solar power will become a core energy investment over the next decade. Solar power can be delivered anywhere, at any scale, when and where we need it.”

As an alternative to purchasing the commercial system itself, HP is buying electricity from GE Energy Financial Services, a unit of GE that owns the system under SunPower Access(TM), a power purchase agreement program. HP owns the renewable energy credits and environmental benefits associated with the system, which it may retire or sell. The solar electricity is competitively priced against retail rates, providing HP with a long-term hedge against rising peak power prices.

“Collaborating with SunPower enables us to provide HP with an efficient and cost-competitive way to realize the financial savings and environmental benefits of solar power,” said Kevin Walsh, managing director and leader of renewable energy at GE Energy Financial Services. “For us, this project diversifies our renewable energy portfolio with more solar assets and supports ecomagination, GE’s program to help its customers meet their environmental challenges while expanding its own portfolio of cleaner energy products.”

SunPower has also collaborated with HP to provide SunPower residential solar electric systems to U.S.-based HP employees at reduced rates. To date, more than 500 HP employees have signed up for the program, and about 60 have completed the installation of SunPower systems at their homes.

“HP has set aggressive goals to reduce the environmental impact of both our operations and that of our customers through product innovation,” said Ron Coughlin, senior vice president and leader of environmental strategy for HP’s Imaging and Printing Group. “By generating clean, affordable solar power with this flagship installation in San Diego, SunPower and GE are helping us achieve those goals with no initial out-of-pocket expenses, offering us long-term savings on electricity costs.”

October 8, 2008

First Solar mulls projects, partnerships

Filed under: FSLR, GE, SPWR — Tags: , , , , , — Jason @ 4:30 pm

Wed Oct 8, 2008 4:30pm EDT

By Matt Daily and Nichola Groom

NEW YORK/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Solar cell maker First Solar Inc. (FSLR) has felt no immediate effect on its business from the financial markets crisis and could take on a role in financing new projects or buying into new technologies, Chairman and CEO Michael Ahearn said on Wednesday.

The maker of thin-film photovoltaic cells told the Reuters Global Environment Summit that the fast-growing industry would likely face higher costs of capital because of the credit crisis, and that First Solar could helping to finance new projects.

“First Solar is in a relatively strong position,” Ahearn said. “There may be some be opportunities for us to help facilitate lower-cost credit.”

First Solar’s largest market remains Germany, he said, a market with solid financial structures and subsidies in place for solar projects.

First Solar makes the lowest-cost photovoltaic cells in the industry, relying on cadmium telluride to turn sunlight into electricity. Most other companies use silicon instead.

Last week’s extension of U.S. renewable energy incentives and a new rule that will allow utilities to take advantage of tax breaks should help those utility holding companies move into the role of the financial institutions that had previously helped fund the projects.

“They are a likely funding source going forward,” Ahearn said.

First Solar said it has been discussing such deals with energy companies that would like to take the U.S. tax credits in exchange for funding new solar projects.


October 1, 2008

Could The Credit Crunch Kill Green Energy?

Filed under: ESLR, GE — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 6:00 pm

William Pentland 10.01.08, 6:00 PM ET

The looming threat of climate change and soaring energy prices has attracted vast amounts of capital into clean energy companies in the past few years.

In 2007, the sector attracted $2.2 billion in venture-backed investments, up 45% from 2006. Biofuels production jumped from 4.9 billion gallons in 2006 to roughly 6.5 billion gallons last year. Meanwhile, in 2007 the U.S. added 314 megawatts of new solar energy systems to the grid, up by 125% from the previous year.

In the past two years, solar energy has become an especially hot spot in the clean energy sector. In 2007, solar energy start-ups raised the lion’s share of new investments in the sector, or roughly $600 million in capital raised in 39 deals.

And then came the credit crisis. Already companies have pulled IPOs, and worry is growing that the nascent industry could be choked off just as it is starting to take off. The question now: How bad will the hangover be? Or, more important, how long will it last?

The energy game is ill-suited to the stereotypical garage inventors who sparked the Internet revolution. The key difference is that technological innovation is a very small part of the picture. Future generations of solar energy technologies will produce cheaper and more powerful equipment, but a number of solar energy technologies are ready for prime time today even without those improvements, especially in states like California where government policies have given them an added boost.


August 12, 2008

Utilities a boon to First Solar, but is it enough?

Filed under: AMAT, EIX, ENER, FSLR, GE, SPWR, SRE, STP — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 3:02 pm

08.12.08, 3:02 PM ET

United States – * First Solar expected to win big U.S. utility contracts

* Too soon to tell how subsidies will affect utilities

* First Solar faces competition down the road from established players and start-ups

By Nichola Groom

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Thin-film solar companies are poised to capture a big share of the U.S. power market as utilities seek renewable energy at the lowest possible cost, but doubts are being raised about whether that is enough to support First Solar Inc’s (FSLR) sky-high valuation.

The biggest maker of thin-film products, First Solar has been a Wall Street darling since it went public in 2006 because its cadmium telluride solar cells are far less costly to produce per watt than the silicon-based cells that dominate the market.

Electricity produced from the sun is pricier than that from dirty sources like coal-fired plants, so cost is paramount when choosing among solar suppliers. For that reason, thin-film suppliers are expected to pick up big contracts in states such as California, which is requiring that 20 percent of the state’s electricity come from green sources by 2010.

“Thin film is really the leading edge for satisfying demand from the utility market,” said Ted Sullivan, senior analyst at market research firm Lux Research. “Utilities are sophisticated buyers. All they care about is the lowest cost.”

Thin film’s cost advantage over cells made from silicon, along with clean-energy requirements from a growing number of states, have underpinned investor enthusiasm for First Solar.


June 26, 2007

GE Ignites DayStar Technologies With Thin Film Purchase

Filed under: DSTI, GE — Tags: , , , , — Jason @ 1:16 pm

Tuesday June 26, 1:16 pm ET

DayStar is certainly in play after Canadian newspaper Globe & Mail reported that General Electric Inc. (GE) is purchasing thin film products from the company. General Electric is one of many corporations beginning to work under a U.S. federal program to make solar power cost-competitive by 2015. General Electric is assessing thin film cells that have a wide range of applications and is looking to create a durable commercial product.

It is important to realize that such an order is probably not very significant and that DayStar still does not have the manufacturing capability to produce thin film cells en masse. However, even skeptics would agree that what’s most important about such a deal is that it highlights the adoption of thin film technology which definitely bodes well for DayStar in the long run. Plus, the ability to catch the attention of a major player like General Electric is something worth noting. That is why right out of the gate this morning DayStar is extending yesterday’s 30+% gains by $.59, or 10%, to $6.52 on very heavy volume of 2.7 million shares three hours before the closing bell. Average trading volume is usually just around 297,000 shares.

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