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Home Solar Systems to Be an Option for Honda Customers

By DIANE CARDWELL Automakers have long resorted to incentives like zero-percent financing, rewards points and rebates to inspire customer loyalty. Now Honda is offering a different deal: inexpensive home solar power systems for customers. Through a partnership with SolarCity, a residential and commercial installer, Honda and Acura will offer their customers home solar systems at little or no upfront cost, […]

Obama Administration Approves Roadmap for Utility-Scale Solar Energy Development on Public Lands

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to expand domestic energy production, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today finalized a program for spurring development of solar energy on public lands in six western states. The Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for solar energy development provides a blueprint for utility-scale solar energy permitting in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah by establishing solar energy zones with access to existing or planned transmission, incentives for development within those zones, and a process through which to consider additional zones and solar projects.

Today’s action builds on the Administration’s historic progress to facilitate renewable energy development. On Tuesday, with the authorization of the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project site in Wyoming, Interior reached the President’s goal of authorizing 10,000 megawatts of renewable power on public lands. Since 2009, Interior has authorized 33 renewable energy projects, including 18 utility-scale solar facilities, 7 wind farms and 8 geothermal plants, with associated transmission corridors and infrastructure. When built, these projects will provide enough electricity to power more than 3.5 million homes, and support 13,000 construction and operations jobs according to project developer estimates.

“Energy from sources like wind and solar have doubled since the President took office, and with today’s milestone, we are laying a sustainable foundation to keep expanding our nation’s domestic energy resources,” said Secretary Salazar, who signed today’s Record of Decision at an event in Las Vegas, Nevada with Senator Harry Reid. “This historic initiative provides a roadmap for landscape-level planning that will lead to faster, smarter utility-scale solar development on public lands and reflects President Obama’s commitment to grow American made energy and create jobs.”

The Solar PEIS establishes an initial set of 17 Solar Energy Zones (SEZs), totaling about 285,000 acres of public lands, that will serve as priority areas for commercial-scale solar development, with the potential for additional zones through ongoing and future regional planning processes.  If fully built out, projects in the designated areas could produce as much as 23,700 megawatts of solar energy, enough to power approximately 7 million American homes. The program also keeps the door open, on a case-by-case basis, for the possibility of carefully sited solar projects outside SEZs on about 19 million acres in “variance” areas. The program also includes a framework for regional mitigation plans, and to protect key natural and cultural resources the program excludes a little under 79 million acres that would be inappropriate for solar development based on currently available information.

“The Solar PEIS sets forth an enduring, flexible blueprint for developing utility-scale solar projects in the right way, and in the right places, on our public lands,” said David J. Hayes, Deputy Secretary of the Interior. “Never before has the Interior Department worked so closely and collaboratively with the industry, conservationists and sportsmen alike to develop a sound, long-term plan for generating domestic energy from our nation’s sun-drenched public lands.”

The signing of the Record of Decision today follows the July release of the Final PEIS, a comprehensive analysis that identified locations on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands most suitable for solar energy development.  These areas are characterized by excellent solar resources, access to existing or planned transmission and relatively low conflict with biological, cultural and historic resources.

Today’s action is in line with the President’s direction to continue to expand domestic energy production, safely and responsibly. Since President Obama took office, domestic oil and gas production has increased each year, with domestic oil production at an eight-year high, natural gas production at an all-time high, and foreign oil imports now accounting for less than 50 percent of the oil consumed in America – the lowest level since 1995.

Click here for a fact sheet on the Solar PEIS.
Click here for a list of the 17 Solar Energy Zones.
Click here for a map of the six-states (individual state maps available upon request).

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2011, recreational and other activities on BLM-managed land contributed more than $130 billion to the U.S. economy and supported more than 600,000 American jobs. The Bureau is also one of a handful of agencies that collects more revenue than it spends. In FY 2012, nearly $5.7 billion will be generated on lands managed by the BLM, which operates on a $1.1 billion budget. The BLM’s multiple-use mission is to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Bureau accomplishes this by managing such activities as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production, and by conserving natural, historical, cultural, and other resources on public lands.
–BLM–

Solar Glut in China

By 

BEIJING — China in recent years established global dominance in renewable energy, its solar panel and wind turbine factories forcing many foreign rivals out of business and its policy makers hailed by environmentalists around the world as visionaries.

But now China’s strategy is in disarray. Though worldwide demand for solar panels and wind turbines has grown rapidly over the last five years, China’s manufacturing capacity has soared even faster, creating enormous oversupply and a ferocious price war.

The result is a looming financial disaster, not only for manufacturers but for state-owned banks that financed factories with approximately $18 billion in low-rate loans and for municipal and provincial governments that provided loan guarantees and sold manufacturers valuable land at deeply discounted prices.

China’s biggest solar panel makers are suffering losses of up to $1 for every $3 of sales this year, as panel prices have fallen by three-fourths since 2008. Even though the cost ofsolar power has fallen, it still remains triple the price ofcoal-generated power in China, requiring substantial subsidies through a tax imposed on industrial users of electricity to cover the higher cost of renewable energy.

The outcome has left even the architects of China’s renewable energy strategy feeling frustrated and eager to see many businesses shut down, so the most efficient companies may be salvageable financially.

In the solar panel sector, “If one-third of them survive, that’s good, and two-thirds of them die, but we don’t know how that happens,” said Li Junfeng, a longtime director general for energy and climate policy at the National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s top economic planning agency.

Mr. Li said in an interview that he wanted banks to cut off loans to all but the strongest solar panel companies and let the rest go bankrupt. But banks — which were encouraged by Beijing to make the loans — are not eager to acknowledge that the loans are bad and take large write-offs, preferring to lend more money to allow the repayment of previous loans. Many local and provincial governments also are determined to keep their hometown favorites afloat to avoid job losses and to avoid making payments on loan guarantees, he said.

Mr. Li’s worries appear to be broadly shared in Beijing. “For the leading companies in the sector, if they’re not careful, the whole sector will disappear,” said Chen Huiqing, the deputy director for solar products at the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Machinery and Electronic Products.

The Chinese government also wants to see the country’s more than 20 wind turbine manufacturers, many of which are losing money, consolidate to five or six. “Wind does not need so many manufacturers,” said Mr. Li, who in addition to drafting renewable energy policies is the president of the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association.

Chinese solar company executives blame their difficulties partly on the United States’s decisions last spring to impose antidumping and anti-subsidy tariffs on solar panel imports, and on the European Union’s recent decision to start its own antidumping investigation of imports from China.

“It is not a Chinese industry problem, it is a global solar industry problem,” said Rory Macpherson, a spokesman for Suntech Power, one of the largest Chinese solar panel manufacturers. “It is primarily the result of an imbalance between supply and demand, and the U.S. and E.U. trade investigations.”

Mr. Li said the solar industry’s problems were the result of overcapacity in China, and not the fault of trade restrictions.

Yet he insisted that if the Chinese government could turn back the clock and revisit past renewable energy decisions, it would not do anything differently.

The problem lies in the eagerness of Chinese businesses to rush into any new industry that looks attractive and swamp it with investments, he said. Chinese companies and their bankers are then far more reluctant than Western companies to admit defeat for investments that prove unprofitable.

Mr. Li added that banking regulators had not yet decided what to do about banks’ exposure to the solar sector. The central government tried without success to learn from local and provincial government agencies how much of the solar industry’s bank debt they have guaranteed, Mr. Li said.

Chinese solar power companies are making some cutbacks. Suntech, based in Wuxi, is temporarily closing a quarter of its solar cell capacity. It will transfer a majority of the 1,500 affected workers to other operations and provide severance payments to the rest.

Jiangsu province, where Suntech has its headquarters and most of its factories, issued an unusual appeal to state-owned banks several weeks ago to continue lending money to the company, a step that Mr. Li criticized as inappropriate. Mr. Macpherson of Suntech wrote in an e-mail that the Jiangsu government had not guaranteed any of the company’s debt, which totaled $2.26 billion at the end of the first quarter, including some convertible bonds in addition to bank loans. Trina Solar, one of its biggest rivals, also has said it will “streamline its operations” and shrink its work force, but did not provide details.

Trina shares have dropped 85 percent in the last three years and Suntech shares have fallen more than 98 percent in the last five years. Both trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

The modest cutbacks in production barely put a dent in China’s overcapacity problem. GTM Research, a renewable energy consulting firm in Boston, estimates that Chinese companies have the ability to manufacture 50 gigawatts of solar panels this year, while the Chinese domestic market is on track to absorb only 4 to 5 gigawatts. Exports will take another 18 or 19 gigawatts.

The enormously expensive equipment in solar panel factories needs to be run around the clock, seven days a week, to cover costs.

“You want to be up at 80 percent, so they’re half of what they need,” said Shayle Kann, the head of GTM Research, which is a unit of Greentech Media.

Chinese companies have struggled even though a dozen solar companies in the United States and another dozen in Europe have gone bankrupt or closed factories since the start of last year. The bankruptcies and closures have done little to ease the global glut and price war because China by itself represents more than two-thirds of the world’s capacity.

To reduce capacity, foreign rivals have clamored for China to subsidize the purchase of more solar panels at home, instead of having Chinese companies rely so heavily on exports. But the government here is worried about the cost of doing so, because the price of solar power remains far higher than for coal-generated power.

The average cost of electricity from solar panels in China works out to 19 cents per kilowatt-hour, said Mr. Li. That is three times the cost of coal-fired power. But it is a marked improvement from 63 cents per kilowatt-hour for solar power four years ago.

China’s official goal is to install 10 gigawatts of solar panels a year by 2015, using 20-year contracts to guarantee payment for electricity purchased from them. If costs stay where they are now, the subsidies would be $50 billion over 20 years for every 10 gigawatts of solar power installed, based on figures supplied by Mr. Li.

Even if solar power costs fall by a third, as the government hopes, he said, “it’s big money.”

A version of this article appeared in print on October 5, 2012, on page B1 of the New York edition with the headline: Strategy of Solar Dominance Now Poses a Threat to China.

REC Energy Plans Bankrupcy For Norway Solar Unit

By Stephen Treloar – Aug 14, 2012 6:30 AM MT

Renewable Energy Corp. ASA (REC), a Norwegian solar company, will stop funding and file for insolvency for its only manufacturing unit in the country after halting production of silicon wafers there.

REC Wafer Norway AS’s liabilities exceeded its assets by about 1.2 billion kroner ($203 million) at the end of July, making a solvent winding-up of the unit dependent on more money from REC, the Sandvika, Norway-based group said in a statement today. The company that said in April it would close the unit expects about 400 million kroner of costs from the bankruptcy.

REC is suffering with the strength of the krone along with a slump in prices for the raw material used in solar cells. The shutdowns already have resulted in the the firing of 700 employees. Most of the remaining 600 staff at the wafer unit will lose their jobs in the second half of the year.

The bankruptcy of REC Wafer Norway won’t affect REC’s solar and silicon units, it said today. The company will continue manufacture polysilicon in the U.S., where it is able to produce at a lower cost than competitors. It also makes solar modules in Singapore.

‘Positive’

“Although we had looked for potential savings of up to about 1 billion kroner, we believe the news is positive as REC has been somewhat vague when discussing this topic in the past,” Pareto Securities ASA said in a note to clients. The move will save REC about 800 million kroner, it said.

The wafer unit has already been removed as guarantor from REC’s bond-loan agreements and wasn’t included in a new bank loan agreement which came into effect earlier this month, REC said.

REC, whose shares have slumped 97 percent since listing six years ago, rose as much as 5.4 percent and traded 3.4 percent higher at 2.01 kroner as of 2:43 p.m. in Oslo.

European solar-component makers are under pressure from Chinese rivals that expanded capacity just as demand slowed, causing wafer and cell prices to plummet. Demand also shrank as France, Italy and Germany reduced subsidies to cap booming installations.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Treloar in Oslo at streloar1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christian Wienberg atcwienberg@bloomberg.net

KONARKA TECHNOLOGIES FILES FOR CHAPTER 7 BANKRUPTCY PROTECTION

June 4, 2012 · by  · in Solar ·Edit

Cross-sectional Representation:
Power Plastic Layers:

Lowell, Mass. – June 1, 2012 – Konarka Technologies, Inc., a leading developer of thin-film solar panels, has filed for bankruptcy protection under chapter 7 of the Federal bankruptcy laws. Under chapter 7 proceedings, the company’s operations cease and a trustee is tasked with liquidating the company’s assets for the benefit of creditors. Creditors will be asked to submit their claims to the Bankruptcy Court and are unable to obtain payment from the company.

Howard Berke, chairman, president and CEO of Konarka, said, “Konarka has been unable to obtain additional financing, and given its current financial condition, it is unable to continue operations. This is a tragedy for Konarka’s shareholders and employees and for the development of alternative energy in the United States.”

Konarka was founded by Mr. Berke and by Dr. Alan Heeger, the winner of the Nobel Prize for his work in conductive polymers. Among the Company’s assets are over hundreds of owned and licensed patents and patent applications in the field of solar energy and a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Mr. Berke noted that several large international companies had expressed interest in financing or acquiring the company. He further noted that, given the worldwide interest in the company, including from the Chinese government, the company had not entirely given up hope that a rescue financing or acquisition would emerge in the bankruptcy. Under Chapter 7 proceedings, however, any such transactions are evaluated by a trustee and not by the company itself.

Further information about the company, including a copy of its petition in bankruptcy, is contained on Konarka’s website, http://www.konarka.com.

As a leader in OPV (organic photovoltaic) technology – a 3rd generation solar technology that is rapidly emerging to compete with silicon based 1st and 2nd generation solar technologies. The company holds over 350 patents and filings covering every aspect of our proprietary chemistry and processes.  Our current research efforts are exploring exciting new OPV chemistries as well as advances to our existing technology that will produce greater power output at a lower cost.

At the heart of Konarka’s technology is a photo-reactive polymer material invented by Konarka co-founder and Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Alan Heeger.  This proprietary material can be printed or coated inexpensively onto flexible substrates using roll-to-roll manufacturing, similar to the way newspaper is printed on large rolls of paper.  The resulting Power Plastic can then be manufactured into a wide range of end-use products.

Konarka’s Power Plastic offers several advances over other OPV technologies:

Tunable Cell Chemistry

Power Plastic’s tunable cell chemistry can absorb specific wavelengths of light – as well as broad spectrum

Both Indoor and Outdoor

Konarka Power Plastic converts light to energy whether that light is from the sun or a lightbulb enabling it to work both indoors and outdoors.

Uses All Recyclable Materials

Power Plastic is the only thin-film photovoltaic technology that uses all recyclable materials

Power Plastic is thin, light-weight and flexible

Power Plastic is comprised of several thin layers:  a photo-reactive printed layer, a transparent electrode layer, a plastic substrate and a protective packaging layer. Power Plastic can be manufactured up to 60” wide in virtually any length – and panels can be combined for greater power output.  Click here to learn more about Power Plastic’s material characteristics.


Wind turbine to harvest energy and water from desert air

Eolewater's WMS1000 wind-driven water-harvesting system uses on-board cooling units to chi...

Eolewater’s WMS1000 wind-driven water-harvesting system uses on-board cooling units to chill the air until its moisture condenses

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We’ve all seen ice cold glasses and bottles dripping with condensation after cooling water vapor in the air, and though grabbing water out of thin air is not new, it took French inventor and Eolewater founder Marc Parent’s umpteenth emptying of his air conditioner’s condensate to envision harvesting atmospheric moisture on acommercial scale using wind turbines. After years of designs and prototypes, his proof-of-concept device, essentially a wind-powered refrigeration/condensation/filtration unit, was put in operation in the dry desert air of Abu Dhabi last October where it’s been reliably extracting 130-200 gal (approx. 500-800L) of clean, fresh water a day ever since.

“Access to drinking water is a condition for life and cannot be considered a luxury reserved to developed countries,” Parent said. “Humanity cannot ignore the pain of those deprived of water access and has to find new solutions.” The turbine units are not designed solely for desert-use. Being self-contained makes them suitable for any isolated areas that lack the infrastructure for water and/or electricity distribution, including islands, disaster areas, etc.

Housed in a 19.7 ft x 6.5 ft (6 m x 2 m) nacelle, Eolewater’s fifth generation WMS1000 water condenser system sits atop a 78 ft (24m) mast and is powered by a 30 kW wind turbine (minimum 15 mph (24 kph) wind speed required) with a 42 ft (13 m) diameter rotor. Since our atmosphere contains a reasonable amount of water (even the Sahara desert has an average relative humidity of around 25%), it’s simply a matter of using the wind to generate electricity for the on-board cooling units to chill the air until its moisture condenses out.

Once the water is collected, it is filtered and sent to stainless steel tanks for storage – simple as that. Apparently, the units are so durably built that, with routine maintenance, it’s estimated they’ll last up to 30 years. In areas where sun abounds but the winds are unreliable, Eole has also designed the WMS-30kW Solar Panel to drive the condensation/filtration equipment. For the millions living in or adjacent to deserts and drought-prone areas around the world, that’s welcome news, indeed.

Source: Eolewater via Treehugger