Showing 5 posts from January 2010.
MiaSole, a manufacturer of Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS) thin-film solar panels, is said to be planning to build a 500,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Griffin, Ga.
Santa Clara, Calif.-based MiaSolé will initially employ about 250 at the plant but would probably ramp up to nearly 1,000 employees. The 500,000-square-foot plant could be one of the largest solar factories in the United States,
While Georgia is hardly a hot spot for the solar industry, the MiaSolé deal helps prove the state can compete for such investment. The company is said to have considered at least a dozen states for the plant. While Georgia is often a target destination for corporations looking for corporate relocations Georgia has not yet taken advantage of opportunities to attract players in the solar and renewable energy fields.
A southern California start-up founded by Bill Gross (the founder of Idealab) is the first company of its size to land a major solar deal in China.
Bill Gross’ eSolar recently announced that it had inked a deal with China Shandong Penglai Electric Power Equipment Manufacturing Co. to build a 2,000 MW solar thermal farm in China. (Unlike photovoltaic solar, thermal solar uses mirrors to collect sun that heats water, generating steam for electrical power).
In an interview in 2009 eSolar’s founder said that he expected to be able to install solar thermal farms at a cost per watt between $2.50 and $3.00. Once operational, solar thermal farms should be able to produce electrical power at a cost of roughly $0.10 per kWh, a rate that is attractive compared to other types of electrical generation.
The company values the deal at nearly $5 billion, so it if moves forward, eSolar will find itself in the small but happy club of renewable energy companies that are generating meaningful profits.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory at Berkeley has published a new paper on the application of federal incentives on community wind projects. (Revealing the Hidden Value that the Federal Investment Tax Credit and the Treasury Cash Grant Provide to Community Wind Projects).
The paper provides a helpful summary of the investment tax credit, the Treasury cash grant program and ways those incentives can be monetized and harnessed for locally-owned wind power projects. Perhaps more importantly, though, the paper points out how the recession of 2008-09 may turn out to have been a blessing in disguise for community-owned wind projects.
Wind power grew dramatically during the middle 2000s, but most of these projects were investor-owned. For-profit developers’ demands for turbines and qualified engineers often resulted in a shortage in those resources for more cash-strapped developers. The downturn impacted many of these projects and resulted in an excess of supply over demand, allowing community-owned projects to begin to take up the slack.
The expansion of the investment tax credit and the availability of the Treasury cash grant have made it possible for community-based projects to get started with less upfront capital than in the past.
The economics of fuel cells are improving each year, according to Pike Research, which forecasts that global revenues will more than double over the next few years, from $336 million in 2009 to $716 million in 2013, according to reports. Pike Research’s analysis indicates that stationary fuel cells offer enormous long-term potential, offering a clean, efficient source of electricity and range in size from 1 kW up to 10 MW or more.
With reformer technology, fuel cells are able to tap into established or accessible sources of fuels such as natural gas, and they can run off of various other fuels including biofuels and gases that are by-products of adjacent industrial processes. With cogeneration or combined heat and power, efficiencies improve dramatically from 40–50% up to as high as 85%. However, cost issues make the technologies’ long-term potential difficult to predict. In order for costs to come down, volumes will have to increase.
Pike Research, however, claims that costs will need to be reduced substantially in order for volumes to materialize. Without uniform government subsidy programs, Pike Research argues, it is unclear if or when that tipping point may occur. The estimated size of the fuel cell market in 2008 was 38 MW, and it is expected to grow to 219 MW by 2013, representing a CAGR of 33%. This translates into a market with a dollar value of $242M in 2008 that will grow to nearly $716M by 2013, representing a CAGR of 24%.
Welcome to our first “around the web” summary for the new year. Renewable Energy Around the Web is a weekly compilation of renewable energy news and information. Please write to us with idea or suggestions for topics at “editor at renewableenergymemo.com”.
Top Ten Biofuels Predictions for 2010
Our friends at BiofuelsDigest have posted their predictions for the coming year:
#10 – Low Carbon Fuel Standards – Following California’s lead, BFD predicts that other states will also adopt low carbon fuel standards that will spur investment into renewable fuels.
#9 – Cellulosic Ethanol “Happens”- BFD predicts 102 million gallons of advanced biofuels capacity by the end of 2010 with 25 Mgy of it cellulosic ethanol at 17 facilities.
#8 – Aviation Biofuels Surge- 2009 say several successful tests of aviation biofuels. Look for an increase in interest and investment in 2010.
#7 – Oil Companies Acquire Ethanol Capacity- BFD predicts that a major oil company will acquire 200-800 Mgy in ethanol capacity, at a discounted rate of $0.70 per gallon of capacity.
#6 – Green Chemicals and Plastics Boom – Look for big investments by ‘old’ economy chemical companies into biochemical and related lines of business.
#5 – Jatropha Revival – BFD predicts major investments in this once-maligned plant for use as a feedstock.
#4 – U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard – Congress will take up the renewable fuel banner and will extend targets into the future.
#3 – Micrcrops / Algae- BFD predicts that Lemna, cyanobacteria and heterotrophic algae gain traction as microcrops begin transition from R&D to commercialization.
#2 – Green Ports / Marine Biofuels- Look for major deals involving marine biofuels.
#1 – Alternative Finance / REITS Move In – BFD predicts the formation of at least one $1B+ investment fund that will finance renewable energy on a build-leaseback basis. BFD cites its earlier post on the need for project securitization to make project finance money available for biofules projects.
Our take? BFD’s ten predictions are an ambitious (and probably somewhat hopeful) look at the year ahead. Some, like the commercialization of cellulosic ethanol and an interest in green chemical platforms by traditional chemical companies, seem to be the product of trends that were put into place over the past few years. Others, like a revival of interest in Jatropha, are hard to visualize as we’re sitting here today.
Still others, like a prediction that Congress will pace a renewable fuel standard, depend on political forces that are notoriously difficult to predict.
If even half of these predictions come to pass, however, 2010 will bring a great deal of interest and focus to the renewable fuels sector.
And In Other News
Alternative Fuel Mixture Credit Expires. Congress failed to act, allowing the alternative fuel mixture credit to expire on December 31st. My tax lawyer buddies tell me that an extender bill is likely in the coming month that will be retroactive, but with this Congress there can be no guarantees.
Environmentalists vs. The Environment – Another report of a large solar park planned in the Mojave Desert falling prey to environmental challenges that the site will endanger the desert tortoise. Environmental challenges continue to make it difficult for large solar projects in the desert southwest to get permitted and get funded.
European Supergrid – Energy planners in Europe, meanwhile, are pondering the merits of a ’supergrid’ that would interconnect the electrical grids of participating states in Europe. Carrying a price tag of nearly $30B Euros, the supergrid would link “turbines off the wind-lashed north coast of Scotland with Germany’s vast arrays of solar panels, and join the power of waves crashing on to the Belgian and Danish coasts with the hydro-electric dams nestled in Norway’s fjords.”
(Passing interest – If you follow the link to the supergrid story, check out the picture of the solar park in Schleswig-Holstein Germany. The park is so far north that the solar panels are point almost perpendicular to the ground in order to see the sun. )
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