Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Solar power station in Spain works at night

A unique thermosolar power station in southern Spain can shrug off cloudy days: energy stored when the sun shines lets it produce electricity even during the night.

The Gemasolar station, up and running since last May, stands out in the plains of Andalusia.

From the road between Seville and Cordoba, one can see its central tower lit up like a beacon by 2,600 solar mirrors, each 120 square metres (1,290 square feet), that surround it in an immense 195-hectare (480-acre) circle.

"It is the first station in the world that works 24 hours a day, a solar power station that works day and night!" said Santago Arias, technical director of Torresol Energy, which runs the station.

The mechanism is "very easy to explain," he said: the panels reflect the suns rays on to the tower, transmitting energy at an intensity 1,000 times higher than that of the sun's rays reaching the earth.

Energy is stored in a vat filled with molten salts at a temperature of more than 500 degrees C (930 F). Those salts are used to produce steam to turn the turbines and produce electricity.

It is the station's capacity to store energy that makes Gemasolar so different because it allows the plant to transmit power during the night, relying on energy it has accumulated during the day.

"I use that energy as I see fit, and not as the sun dictates," Arias explained.

As a result, the plant produces 60 percent more energy than a station without storage capacity because it can work 6,400 hours a year compared to 1,200-2,000 hours for other solar power stations, he said.

"The amount of energy we produce a year is equal to the consumption of 30,000 Spanish households," Arias said, an annual saving of 30,000 tonnes of CO2.

Helped by generous state aid, renewable energies have enjoyed a boom in Spain, the world number two in solar energy and the biggest wind power producer in Europe, ahead of Germany.

For the Gemasolar solar product, foreign investors helped too: Torresol Energy is a joint venture between the Spanish engineering group Sener, which holds 60 percent, and Abu Dhabi-financed renewable energy firm Masdar.

"This type of station is expensive, not because of the raw material we use, which is free solar energy, but because of the enormous investment these plants require," Arias said.

The investment cost exceeds 200 million euros ($260 million).

But "the day when the business has repaid that money to the banks (in 18 years, he estimates), this station will become a 1,000-euro note printing machine!," he said, recalling that oil prices have soared from $28 a barrel in 2003 to nearly $130.

For now, the economic crisis has nevertheless cast a shadow over this kind of project: Spain is battling to slash its deficit as it slides into recession and has suspended aid to new renewable energy projects.

Andalusia, hard hit by the economic crisis with the country's highest unemployment rate at 31.23 percent, holds regional elections on March 25.

"We have three projects ready but stalled" because of the aid suspension, Arias said, admitting that in a difficult global economy the group has not managed to sell the Gemasolar techology abroad despite huge interest outside Spain.

Source - Yahoo News

Solar Jobs Join Harry Reid to Chinese Billionaire in Price Drop

A Chinese billionaire is teaming up with the most powerful man in the U.S. Senate to build a solar plant in a dusty corner of Nevada, even as officials accuse China of driving energy companies out of business by dumping cheap components on the American market.

ENN Group (ENNGZ) plans a manufacturing and generating facility worth $5 billion, more than all Chinese investment in the U.S. combined last year, in Laughlin, Nevada, a town pockmarked with foreclosed properties and the skeleton of a 14-story resort abandoned when the project went bankrupt.

Wang Yusuo, chairman of ENN Group, signs an agreement at the U.S.-China Strategic Forum on Clean Energy Cooperation in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 18, 2011. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
China's ENN Plans $5 Billion Solar Plant in Nevada

April 3 (Bloomberg) -- Steve Sisolak, a Clark County, Nevada Commissioner, talks with Bloomberg's Jennifer Oldham about ENN Group's plans to build a solar project near Laughlin, Nevada. ENN's project highlights the growing clout of Chinese capital in the U.S. ENN founder Wang Yusuo, one of China's richest men, has enlisted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the deal. (Source: Bloomberg)
Enlarge image Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat from Nevada, speaks at the Energy Independence 2020 Forum at NASDAQ Market Place on Dec. 12, 2005, in New York. ENN founder Wang Yusuo, one of China’s richest men, has enlisted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to win incentives including land 113 miles (182 kilometers) southeast of Las Vegas that ENN is buying for $4.5 million, or less than one-eighth of the $38.6 million assessors say it is worth. Photographer: Ramin Talaie/Bloomberg
Enlarge image Solyndra LLC Solar Panels

Solar panel prices have plunged almost 50 percent in the past 15 months, leading to the bankruptcy of equipment maker Solyndra LLC, with $535 million in U.S. government loan guarantees, and job cuts at other alternative-energy companies. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Company founder Wang Yusuo, one of China’s richest men, has joined with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to win incentives including land 113 miles (182 kilometers) southeast of Las Vegas that ENN is buying for $4.5 million, or less than one-eighth of the $38.6 million assessors say it is worth. The project has produced legal work for Reid’s son, Rory, a lawyer at a Las Vegas firm that gave the Nevada Democrat more than $40,000 in the past three election cycles.

“This is counter to most logic,” said Thomas Maslin, an analyst at IHS Emerging Energy Research in Washington, D.C. “It doesn’t make sense in terms of supply and demand. The likely rationale is that because they’re building on public land they need to justify somehow the price through job creation and high- tech manufacturing.”
Growing Clout

ENN’s project highlights the growing clout of Chinese capital in this country. Chinese investment in the U.S. jumped to 66 deals worth $4.5 billion in 2011, up from just 11 deals worth $146 million in 2003, according to the Rhodium Group, a New York-based firm that researches trade with China. While it is rising quickly, that total is still far lower than countries such as Switzerland, whose $42 billion infusion makes it the top foreign investor, according to a July report from the U.S. Commerce Department.

Solar panel prices have plunged almost 50 percent globally in the past 15 months, leading to the bankruptcy of equipment maker Solyndra LLC, with $535 million in U.S. government loan guarantees, and job cuts at other solar manufacturers. The Obama administration, under pressure to curb Chinese companies’ trade practices, imposed preliminary duties on March 20 of as much as 4.73 percent on solar equipment imported from China. Tariffs may prompt more Chinese companies to move their manufacturing facilities to the U.S., Maslin said.

ENN’s Nevada plan calls for solar panel manufacturing and generation facilities and an eco-community people can visit -- part of what Reid proposes as an alternative-energy hub in a March 12 report called “Playing to Win in Clean Energy.”
Energy for California

Reid, 72, a Nevada Democrat who has led the U.S. Senate since 2007, promotes the project planned by ENN, based in Langfang, Hebei Province, as a way to put thousands of people back to work as his state struggles to overcome one of the nation’s highest foreclosure rates.

“It will generate the electricity California must have in just a few years -- 30 percent of all electricity must come from renewable resources,” Reid said during a March 12 conference call with reporters. “This project is close to California. It’s within walking distance.”

Plans for ENN’s Nevada facility say it may eventually generate about 700 megawatts of electricity, more than 100 times the output of the company’s biggest solar operation now, in Germany. If actually built at that size, it would be 12 times bigger than the largest solar power plant currently in operation in the U.S., Sempra Energy’s 58-megawatt Copper Mountain Solar 1 Facility, and also larger than the biggest facility under construction, the 550-megawatt Topaz Solar Farm in Santa Margarita, California, with financing from Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co.
Creating Jobs

The solar complex could create as many as 2,505 jobs during construction through 2023, according to an economic impact study by Las Vegas-based Applied Analysis, a market research consulting firm.

“Other solar companies said they could produce electricity, but they didn’t have anything that would offer a permanent number of good jobs -- ENN’s manufacturing component will,” said Jacquelyne A. Brady, Laughlin’s town manager, in an interview.

Both Rory Reid, 49, and former Nevada Governor Richard Bryan, attorneys at the Lionel Sawyer & Collins law firm, have worked on the project, according to documents and Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak.
Payments to Reid

The firm gave $40,650 individually and through its political action committee to Senator Reid over the past three election cycles, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan firm that researches the role of campaign contributions in public policy. Lionel Sawyer’s political action committee also contributed $2,000 in 2010 and $5,000 in 2008 to the Searchlight Leadership Fund, a political action committee that lists Reid as an affiliate, according to the CRP’s opensecrets.org.

The senator’s son hasn’t lobbied him on the ENN project, said Kristen Orthman, a Reid spokeswoman.

“We have a longstanding office policy that strictly bars any member of the staff’s family or the Senator’s family from lobbying our office on behalf of their clients,” Orthman said in an e-mail. Reid did not recommend the law firm to ENN, she said. Bryan and Rory Reid didn’t return repeated calls.

While the project may create jobs, it doesn’t make sense in terms of market dynamics, said Lawrence Gasman, principal analyst at Glen Allen, Va.-based NanoMarkets, an alternative- energy research firm.
‘Reasons to be Skeptical’

“There are many reasons to be skeptical of this project,” Gasman said. “Running a power plant and running a manufacturing plant making solar panels are two very different skill sets.”

Cash-strapped states nationwide want to draw foreign investment to create jobs and boost tax revenue. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Feb. 24 that PepsiCo Inc. and Theo Muller Gmbh, a German dairy company, would invest $206 million in a yogurt factory that would create 186 jobs.

In Florida, a Malaysian developer announced plans to build a five-star resort on Biscayne Bay that state officials said would boost employment and raise millions in tax revenue.

In January, Xinyu, China-based LDK Solar Co. announced plans to build two solar plants with a capacity of 8 megawatts in California.

Like struggling U.S. solar manufacturers, Nanosolar Inc. and SoloPower Inc., both based in San Jose, and Loveland, Colo.- based Abound Solar Inc., ENN manufactures thin film solar panels. ENN’s panels aren’t made with the same material as its U.S. competitors’ and rely on a non-crystalline substance known as amorphous silicon.
Firing Workers

SoloPower announced in August that it received a $197 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy. Abound Solar, with $400 million in approved federal loan guarantees, said in February it was firing 180 workers and halting solar panel production.

Solar price weakness may be good news for consumers and for utilities such as San Francisco-based PG&E Corp. (PCG), which is required to buy much of its power from renewable sources, said Anthony Earley Jr., PG&E’s chief executive officer. The trend isn’t as healthy for government-backed solar companies struggling to make ends meet in the aftermath of the collapse of Solyndra.

“Every time we go out for bids we are seeing the price come down,” Earley said in an interview. “A lot of it is that the Chinese and others are dumping cheap solar cells on the market. The risk is the industry just collapses.”
Suits of Armor

The man behind the proposed Nevada plant is Wang, 48, chairman of ENN Group, which includes ENN Energy Holdings Ltd. (2688), the fourth-largest Hong Kong-listed natural gas supplier by sales. He founded the company that became ENN Group in 1989 and it now operates in more than 100 cities across China, according to its website.

Wang rose from a background selling natural gas canisters for home cooking and renting cars to build the 100-acre ENN headquarters 35 miles (56 kilometers) south of Beijing, with manufacturing facilities and a company museum. Nearby, Wang built a luxury golf course with his personal villa and a five- star hotel, featuring a wine cellar guarded by suits of armor.

With his wife, Zhao Baoju, Wang is estimated to be worth $2.7 billion, ranking the couple among the top 100 richest people in China, according to the Hurun Report, a Shanghai-based publisher of luxury magazines, which tracks the nation’s wealthy using publicly available information.
Land Deal

The land deal ENN negotiated with Clark County commissioners requires the firm to obtain an agreement from a utility to buy power before it can break ground, Sisolak said.

The California Public Utilities Commission approved only a fraction of renewable power deals brought before it for review last year, said Timothy Alan Simon, a member of the commission.

“We have a situation where we’re oversubscribed,” Simon said in a telephone interview.

Speaking through an interpreter, Wang touted the proposal in August in Las Vegas at Reid’s fourth annual Clean Energy Summit. Vice President Joe Biden and California Governor Jerry Brown -- who asked Wang to consider bringing the project to his state -- were photographed alongside the ENN chairman, Reid and Sisolak.
‘Resort Destination’

“We plan to build an eco-community by using our ‘Ubiquitous Energy Network’ technology, with the aim of making it a good resort destination just like Las Vegas,” Wang said in a speech at the summit.

In a statement provided by a company spokesman, ENN Solar Energy Co. Chief Operating Officer De-Ling Zhou said: “After reviewing your questions, it became clear that at this early stage in the proposed project, we simply do not have enough details or are not in a position to adequately answer them.

“We can say ENN’s proposed project will bolster the long- term economic health of Clark County and the State of Nevada,” Zhou wrote.

Job creation persuaded Clark County commissioners to approve the subsidized land deal, which requires ENN to meet a series of milestones including investing $100 million by 2014 and $1 billion by 2018. Officials also offered to use ENN’s land payments to build infrastructure on the property.

“Next to the hospitality industry, construction has been our life blood,” said Sisolak. “It’s not like it got a little rough for construction over the last couple of years. It basically went away.”

For Clark County, where 70 percent of homeowners owe more on their homes than they are worth, furloughed construction workers rely on food banks at local union halls, and unemployment is 13.1 percent, the project could singlehandedly diversify a stagnant economy.

“I can’t tell you how many tours I’ve given people over the years trying to get them to see Laughlin as an attractive place,” said Brady, who has managed the town since 1995 on behalf of Clark County.

About 30 percent fewer people visited Laughlin in 2011 than in 2007, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Gaming revenues at its riverside resorts -- battling competition from Indian casinos in Nevada and California -- were off by 25 percent, statistics show.

ENN isn’t the only company interested in the desolate desert where road runners race across potholed two-lane roads in front of Baby Boomers on Harleys. Here, the sun shines 320 days a year and mobile phones can’t decide whether to use Pacific (Laughlin) or Mountain (Arizona) time.

Others are also looking to buy land for solar projects in the area, wrote New York-based Integra Realty Resources in an appraisal commissioned by Clark County for the 9,000-acre ENN parcel and obtained by Bloomberg through the Nevada Public Records Act.

“From what we can surmise, this is just the beginning,” Integra wrote. The firm added: “We also found that this is a highly secretive business.”

Source - Bloomberg

Mexico buoyed by renewable energy boost

Mexico, buoyed by success in wind energy expansion, is launching a giant solar energy project that sees a U.S. firm's role in its primary development.

Soaring crude oil prices have skewed national budgets throughout Central and Latin America and the ongoing row between Argentina and Spain's YPF Repsol is an indication of tension over rising energy costs.

Mexico will aim to circumvent the challenge of punishing oil prices by installing high-capacity solar power generation systems, company data indicated.

Californian solar systems provider SolFocus, Inc. said Thursday it joined with Mexican land and real estate developer Grupo Musa and U.S. energy developer Synergy Technologies LLC to work on a landmark solar power plant in Baja California, near Tecate, Mexico.

The plant is planned to have a 450-megawatt capacity but will be built in 50-megawatt phases. Construction on the first phase will begin this year and that part of the plant will be operational next year.

The plant will use the SolFocus Concentrator Photovoltaic equipment, but will be owned and operated by SolMex Energy S.A. de C.V., a new Grupo Musa and Synergy Technologies company focused on solar energy in Mexico.

Officials said Mexico's solar energy aims met with the objectives of both Mexican and U.S. energy planners.

"The project is in direct alignment with the Mexico and U.S. bilateral clean energy agenda," said David Munoz, director general of the Baja California State Commission of Energy.

"The countries share a common goal of achieving strong economic growth and energy security while addressing climate change and increasing the reliability of energy infrastructure," Munoz said.

"Mexico has been successful with wind energy, and now this large solar project will support our energy infrastructure and economic development efforts in the very near future," he said.

The renewable energy market in Mexico so far is limited to wind power but interest in other forms of renewable energy is growing.

With the launch of the new project, solar power development points to a major step forward as an energy source for the country, officials said.

Grupo Musa says it aims to provide low-cost, dependable energy but will use most of the initial 50 megawatts to meet its own energy needs. At least 120,000 megawatt hours of electricity will make it to consumers in Baja California.

"There is no doubt that Baja California faces energy challenges and we are excited that we are able to utilize two of our key resources - abundant land and solar fuel - to enhance the environmental and economic sustainability of northern Mexico," Grupo Musa Director of Special Projects Marcos Sarabia Rodelo said.

Experts say northern Mexico has the third greatest solar resource in the world, making it an ideal location for the project.

"While Tecate is a solar-rich region, the hot temperatures make it a challenging environment for traditional solar equipment," Synergy Technologies Chief Executive Officer Matt Piell said.

SolFocus was picked because of its advanced, high-efficiency CPV equipment and to improve the overall financial economics of the project, the company said.

The new project builds on SolFocus track record in the southwest United States and Mexico.

SolFocus Chief Executive Officer Mark Crowley said the project will "turn dormant land into jobs and low-cost, reliable electricity."

Grupo Musa has headquarters in Tijuana, Baja California, and has developed more than 250 business and industrial projects in Mexico and abroad.

Synergy engages in manufacturing energy technology and has headquarters in Waynesboro, Ga.

SolFocus, a leading manufacturer of solar energy systems based on Concentrator Photovoltaic technology, has headquarters in San Jose and is active worldwide.

Asian Pacific Corp. Panama, S.A. is a multinational business development and investment banking company.

Source - Solar Daily

Monday, 2 April 2012

Collapse of solar power giant an embarrassment for Obama administration

The company Solyndra was lauded by President Barack Obama but later left the US government liable for $528 million (£334m) of taxpayer money. Republicans in the House of Representatives are investigating whether the guarantee was rushed through so that an event featuring Vice President Joe Biden could be held.

Solyndra was a major presence in Washington and spent millions of dollars on lobbying. Its executives raised thousands of dollars for Mr Obama and Democrats in Congress. The fallout from the collapse of the California-based company is an embarrassment to the White House at a time when Mr Obama is promoting his new jobs plan.

The congressional panel examining the loan released emails that appeared to show that senior staff at the Office of Management and Budget were reluctant to conduct "rushed approvals" of loan guarantees.

"We would prefer to have sufficient time to do our due diligence reviews and have the approval set the date for the announcement rather than the other way around," said unnamed aide in an email to Mr Biden's office.

Mr Obama cited Solyndra as an example of how the economic stimulus bill would create jobs. When it filed for bankruptcy, saying it couldn't compete with foreign manufacturers of solar panels, 1,100 employees were laid off.

Source - Telegraph

Spain subsidy cuts seen threatening thousands of jobs

Spain's decision to cut subsidies for clean energy production puts at risk the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs in a sector in which it is a global leader, industry leaders warned Tuesday.

The sector shed 20,000 jobs between 2008 and 2010 due to cuts to the subsidies made by the previous government and the end of new subsidies announced Friday will likely lead to the loss of a similar number of jobs this year, said the head of lobby group Fundacion Renovables, Javier Breva.

"But what worries me more are the hundreds of thousands of jobs which would be generated and which now will not be," he said, adding that the previous government had predicted the sector would generate 300,000 jobs by 2020.

Spain's new right-leaning government passed a decree on Friday that will "temporarily suspend" subsidies for all new wind, solar, co-generation or waste incineration plants as part of its bid to curb the public deficit.

"Who is going to invest in the renewable energy sector after this decree?" Breva said. "It is an attack on the competitiveness of the Spanish economy."

Spain was an early mover in developing clean energy, especially wind power, and generous government subsidies helped Spanish firms to become global leaders in the sector.

Spanish power giant Iberdrola is the world's biggest producer of clean energy, with plants in Brazil and the United States, while Gamesa is one of the world's top wind turbine groups.

But the previous Socialist government started scaling back subsidies for clean energy at the end of 2008 as the global economic crisis began to bite and Spain headed into recession.

"There are many companies that are not going to be able to make it until the end of the year because of the end of the new subsidies," said Jose Antonio Gonzalez, the head of FENIE, which represents power and telecoms firms.

The loss of jobs in the clean energy sector would add to Spain's already dire unemployment situation.

The country's jobless total soared above five million people at the end of 2011, pushing the unemployment rate to 22.85 percent, the highest in the industrialised world.

Renewable sources provided Spain with a third of its electricity last year, according to the industry ministry.

The government says the cuts will not affect Spain's contribution to reaching European renewable energy targets. The European Union wants to have 20 percent of its total energy use covered by renewable sources from 2020.

Source - Solardaily

India to plot solar energy hot

India is planning a "solar atlas," based on the intensity of the sun's radiation, to pinpoint ideal sites for the development of solar power projects.

With data from the atlas, solar project developers will be able to predict a proposed plant's output with reasonable accuracy and determine which solar technology is more suited to the project, India's government-run Center for Wind Energy Technology said in a report in The Economic Times.

Last month CWET completed ground-based measuring of radiation in 51 locations in India, a major phase of the project, and is now developing an algorithm to validate the data.

While the country averages 300 days of sunshine annually, solar project developers typically have relied on NASA and its satellite images to identify the best locations.

"A solar atlas will be very useful," said James V Abraham, managing director and chief executive officer of India's Sunborne Energy Technologies.

Accurate data are crucial for solar projects, Abraham said, noting that even a 10 percent gap between the actual radiation and what data show can result in nearly a 20 percent drop in energy output.

Indian companies such as Mahindra Solar, which had used NASA data for planning solar projects, welcome the solar atlas as a useful business tool.

"To have info mapped in India with local conditions will help us further optimize prediction. The entire ecosystem, with solar atlas mapping, will see companies like ours getting aggressive in (the) future," Mahindra Chief Executive Officer Vish Palekar told The Economic Times.

Separately, the International Finance Corp., a member of the World Bank Group, announced Monday that it will provide $5 million debt financing to Mahindra for a 5-megawatt solar photovoltaic power project in Rajasthan expected to generate enough electricity to serve about 60,000 rural homes.

India's National Solar Mission, launched in January 2010, aims for a solar power generation capacity of 20,000 megawatts by 2022. By the end of 2011 India had acquired 190 megawatts of solar, up from less than 12 megawatts in 2009.

In a related development, the Indian government announced it is establishing a solar company with initial capital of $405.6 million to build federal solar projects.

"A dedicated company will ensure that we meet our targets effectively," Renewable Secretary Gireesh B. Pradhan was quoted as saying by The Wall Street Journal.

Pradhan said Indian officials are planning visits to the United States and Europe in May to attract investment in India's renewables sector, particularly for solar energy.

Source - SolarDaily