German Green Energy Bluster Running Out Of Wind

Although blades on the 150-meter wind turbines at the new German offshore Riffgat power plant nine miles off the North Sea island of Bokum are finally turning, there is one big problem. They are doing so only because they are being powered by onshore fossil-fueled generators to prevent the rotors from corroding in salty air. And why might that be? Well although they otherwise function perfectly, the underfinanced grid operator hasn’t yet connected a power line because of problems attracting investor financing. Prospective investors attribute their reluctance to a lack of market confidence.

While half a dozen wind farms are still being built in the North Sea, there are no follow-up contracts. As Ronney Meyer, managing director of Windenergie Agentur (EWE) based in the northern port city of Bremerhaven said, “The market has collapsed.” EWE developer Riffgat reportedly doesn’t plan to invest in any more offshore turbines.

There is little mystery regarding a clear lack of clamor for wind in the energy marketplace. Namely, taxpayers and ratepayers are recognizing that the subsidy-dependent and performance-costly industry makes no economic sense.

Written by Larry Bell. To read the full article, click here.

Japan Solar Energy Soars, But Grid Needs to Catch Up

Hokkaido, Japan’s second largest and northernmost island, is known for its beautiful wild nature, delicious seafood, and fresh produce. Now another specialty is taking root: Large-scale megasolar power plants that take advantage of the island’s unique geography.

A new renewable energy incentive program has Japan on track to become the world’s leading market for solar energy, leaping past China and Germany, with Hokkaido at the forefront of the sun power rush. In a densely populated nation hungry for alternative energy, Hokkaido is an obvious choice to host projects, because of the availability of relatively large patches of inexpensive land. Unused industrial park areas, idle land inside a motor race circuit, a former horse ranch—all are being converted to solar farms. (See related, “Pictures: A New Hub for Solar Tech Blooms in Japan.”)

But there’s a problem with this boom in Japan’s north. Although one-quarter of the largest solar projects approved under Japan’s new renewables policy are located in Hokkaido, the island accounts for less than 3 percent of the nation’s electricity demand. Experts say Japan will need to act quickly to make sure the power generated in Hokkaido flows to where it is needed. And that means modernizing a grid that currently doesn’t have capacity for all the projects proposed, installing a giant battery—planned to be the world’s largest—to store power when the sun isn’t shining, and ensuring connections so power can flow across the island nation.

Written by Yvonne Chang. To read the full article, click here.

The Making of a Solar REIT: By the Numbers

Power REIT (NYSE:PW) announced yesterday that it had closed on a deal to buy approximately 100 acres of land leased to the owners of over 20 MW of solar projects near Fresno, CA. This will be the company’s second solar transaction and increases the share of its revenue from solar to 21%. These two solar transactions put PW well on its way to becoming the nation’s first REIT to get most of its revenue from renewable energy. The balance of its revenue comes from leasing its railroad property. Whiile not renewable energy, rail is also a green asset in that transport by rail is much more fuel efficient than the alternative: trucking.
Salisbury, MA Transaction

Just last week, PW completed financing for its previous solar transaction, by closing on a $750,000 bank loan. I thought it would be helpful to dig into the newly released numbers to understand the economics of the transactions.

Below are the details of the completed transaction for land under the True North Solar farm in Salisbury, MA. These, and the details about the Fresno transaction discussed below come from the press releases, interviews with the Chairman and CEO of Power REIT, David Lesser, and my own searches of news stories and public records.

Written by Tom Konrad. To read the full article, click here.

Eddie Bauer’s Power Katabatic Solar Tent Will Keep Your Gadgets Charged in the Wilderness

If there’s one place technophiles fear, it’s the great outdoors. But with this new solar charging tent by Eddie Bauer, gadget geeks will be able to charge their devices even in the depths of a forest. Called the Power Katabatic, this 92-inch tall tent was designed for “roughing it” though all four seasons within an ample 36-square-feet space. However, beyond its generous quarters, the real star of the Power Katabatic is the small triangular solar panel, called Goal Zero solar charger, which sits atop the tent, drawing in energy for powering devices.

Details on the solar power system are still sparse as Eddie Bauer just released photos of the tent-mounted solar panel. What we do know is that sun-derived electricity is stored in a battery pack that you can plug in to recharge all your iPhones, cameras, and GPS devices.

This whole setup does however cost a pretty penny—between the $600 tent (without the solar panel unit) and a Goal Zero Sherpa 50 power pack for $200, you’re already looking at spending nearly $800 before you even account for the still unannounced price of the solar charger.

Written by Kevin Lee. To read the full article, click here.

Fracking Could Help Geothermal Become a Power Player

Here’s another use for fracking: expanding access to hot rocks deep beneath Earth’s surface for energy production. In April Ormat Technologies hooked up the first such project—known in the lingo as an enhanced geothermal system, or EGS—to the nation’s electric grid near Reno, Nev.

“The big prize is EGS,” enthuses Douglas Hollett, director of the Geothermal Technologies Office at the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE). “The key is learning how to do it in a reliable way, in a responsible way.”

By some estimates, the U.S. could tap as much as 2,000 times the nation’s current annual energy use of roughly 100 exajoules (an exajoule equals a quintillion, or 1018 joules) via enhanced geothermal technologies. With respect to electricity, the DoE concludes at least 500 gigawatts of electric capacity could be harvested from such EGS systems. Even better, hot rocks underlie every part of the country and the rest of the world. Australia’s first enhanced geothermal system, spicily named Habanero, began producing power in May, and Europe has brought three such power plants online.

Written by David Biello. To read the full article, click here.

Listen Up: Top Ten Questions about Residential Solar Power

Like many home improvement projects, solar power can be complicated. Unfortunately, the solar industry make it worse; sometimes it’s like manufacturers and installers speak a completely different language. To make matters more challenging, there are literally hundreds of companies, almost all of whom have great products at the “best” price. So how do you as a consumer decide what system is best for your home or business?

From “How much does a solar system cost?” to “What kind of maintenance does rooftop solar need?”, this week’s Energy Show on Renewable Energy World will answer the top ten questions about residential solar power. So if you are thinking about solar power for your home or business, be sure to listen to this podcast.

As energy costs consume more and more of our hard-earned dollars, we as consumers really start to pay attention. But we don’t have to resign ourselves to $5/gallon gas prices, $200/month electric bills and $500 heating bills. There are literally hundreds of products, tricks and techniques that we can use to dramatically reduce these costs — very affordably.

Written by Barry Cinnamon. To read the full article, click here.

No Free Sun for You! Why Arizona Wants to ‘Tax’ Solar Power

Arizona does not have enough sunshine. It needs to ration that precious resource.

There’s no other explanation for the latest proposal from Arizona Public Service, Arizona’s largest electric utility. On July 12, it announced a plan to drastically change net-metering, the way in which homeowners and businesses with solar rooftops sell excess power back to the grid. Net-metering is the foundation for all solar leasing; without it, solar companies can’t entice homeowners with the promise of “cut your electric bill, no money down” but instead would rely on sales of expensive systems.

The proposal would slap existing solar-paneled homeowners with a fee of up to $100 per month for the privilege of selling excess power back to APS. If you own a home and don’t already have solar panels, no sun for you! You can never share in net-metering as we know it.

Written by RL Miller. To read the full article, click here.