Renewables News Briefs

GE Becomes Majority Shareholder in Emerging Solar Technology Company

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GE Energy has increased its equity share in PrimeStar Solar Inc., an emerging solar thin-film technology and manufacturing company. GE already held a minority equity share in the company, as announced in September 2007. Solar is playing an increasing role in GE Energy’s renewable energy portfolio and is expected to grow even more as energy costs continue to rise.

GE Energy is at the forefront of the renewable energy industry. In addition to solar, GE’s renewable energy portfolio consists of wind and biomass. As the leading U.S. supplier of wind turbines, GE Energy’s installed fleet of more than 8,500 1.5-megawatt wind turbines recently surpassed 115 million operating hours in commercial service worldwide.

Renewable energy technologies are key elements in ecomagination, GE’s corporate-wide initiative to address challenges such as the need for cleaner, more efficient sources of energy, reduced emissions and abundant sources of clean water. Under ecomagination, which was launched in May 2005, GE will invest $1.5 billion annually in research in cleaner technologies by 2010, up from $700 million in 2004.

Arizona’s Largest Renewable Energy Plant Commences Commercial Operations

Arizona’s largest renewable energy facility to date, a wood-fired biomass energy plant located near Snowflake, Ariz., began providing commercial electricity to Arizona Public Service and Salt River Project customers in June. Owned and operated by Renegy Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq:RNGY), the 24 MW plant will provide renewable energy to more than 9,000 Arizona homes.

The Snowflake White Mountain Biomass Power Plant is generating electricity through a wood-burning boiler using forest thinning (wood-waste material from the area’s forest industries) and waste recycled paper fibers from a newsprint paper mill located adjacent to the biomass facility.

Each utility has signed separate long-term purchase power agreements with Renegy to secure the entire electrical output of the plant.

Largest U.S. Single Roof-mounted Solar Array to Be Installed in Atlantic City

The Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority awarded Pepco Energy Services, a subsidiary of Pepco Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: POM) a 20-year power purchase agreement with the Atlantic City Convention Center to install the largest single roof-mounted solar array in the U.S.

The Atlantic City Convention Center. Pepco Energy Services will install the largest single roof-mounted solar array in the U.S. there under a 20-year contract. Photo courtesy of Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority.
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Under the 20-year contract, Pepco Energy Services will build, own, operate and maintain the 2.36-megawatt solar array for the Atlantic City Convention Center. Construction will be completed by Dec. 31, 2008. The solar panel project is the first in a series of initiatives the authority is planning.

LIPA to Launch Ambitious Energy Efficiency Program

In an effort to reduce energy costs while keeping up with Long Island’s growing energy demands, Long Island Power Authority President and CEO Kevin S. Law recently announced Efficiency Long Island.

The 10-year, $924 million program kicks off on Jan. 1, 2009, and will offer residential and business customers an array of programs to help reduce their energy usage resulting in savings on future bills and achieving significant environmental benefits.

Efficiency Long Island is expected to reduce peak electric demand by 500 MW by 2018. Such a reduction will result in the deferral or elimination of the equivalent of one large or two medium-sized power plants from LIPA’s capacity expansion plan and avoid high-cost, on-peak energy production equivalent to saving 2.2 million barrels of oil.

Duke Energy Expands Wind Operations, Acquires Catamount Energy Corp.

Duke Energy(NYSE: DUK) announced the acquisition of Catamount Energy Corporation from funds affiliated with Diamond Castle Holdings, LLC, a transaction that will significantly increase Duke Energy’s wind energy operations.

Catamount Energy was formed in 1992. Since 2001, the company has focused on developing wind projects in the U.S. and U.K. Catamount has approximately 300 MW of renewable energy in operation, including its interests in the Sweetwater project in Nolan County, Texas, which is one of the largest wind projects in the world. Additionally, Catamount has approximately 1,750 MW of development interests in several states and the U.K.

The acquisition, valued at approximately $240 million plus assumed debt, is a continuation of Duke Energy’s strategy to develop renewable energy. In May 2007, Duke purchased Tierra Energy, a leading wind developer in Austin, Texas. The combined entity will have more than 5,000 MW of wind energy under development in 12 states and approximately 500 MW of operating assets by the end of 2008.

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Today’s announcement follows several other recent renewable initiatives announced by Duke Energy, including a $100 million plan to install electricity generating solar panels at up to 850 North Carolina sites; a plan to purchase electricity output from the nation’s largest photovoltaic solar farm to be built in Davidson County, N.C.; a 20-year contract to purchase 100 MW from a wind farm in Indiana; and a request for proposals to purchase significant amounts of electricity from renewable energy providers in Ohio.

PSE&G Partners With Four Cities to Test New Energy Efficient Street Lighting

Working with its municipal and county customers to explore energy efficiencies for New Jersey cities, PSE&G has begun testing new technologies in street lighting. The company is partnering with New Jersey cities and Essex County in a test installation of new Light Emitting Diode (LED) lamps for use on city and county roadways.

PSE&G will be performing multiple tests during the next six to 12 months to determine reliability, light output, light quality, and energy consumption. The municipalities are being asked to monitor their experience with the new type of lighting from a pedestrian perspective and to provide feedback to PSE&G regarding their satisfaction with the quality of the light.

LEDs are considered green alternatives because of their extremely low hazardous materials content and the fact that reducing energy consumption significantly will reduce the need for electric generation that produces carbon dioxide into the environment.

LED technologies in street lighting are expected to reduce energy consumption by up to 70 percent while providing an equal or better illumination, and they have a potential life expectancy of three to four times that of the current high intensity discharge sources like high pressure sodium and metal halide.

ASU Creates Solar Power Laboratory to Boost Renewable Energy Industry, Improve Environment

Arizona State University is strengthening its commitment to boost Arizona’s economic development prospects in the renewable energy industry by establishing the Solar Power Laboratory to advance solar energy research, education and technology. Researchers will pursue the quest to make solar energy systems more efficient and economical.

Prominent scientists and engineers are being hired to lead the endeavor to improve the efficiency of solar electric power systems while making them more economically feasible.

“The Solar Power Laboratory will further build up the university’s already formidable solar energy research and develop collaborations with the energy industry to accelerate expansion of the state’s economy,” said ASU President Michael Crow.

The effort is a major part of ASU’s response to the Arizona Board of Regents’ Solar Energy Initiative, aimed at encouraging research and development to meet future needs for renewable energy sources, Crow said.

In addition to spurring economic opportunity, advances in solar power systems will help Arizona protect its environment by enabling more widespread use of this clean-energy source, Crow said.

The laboratory will be a collaboration partnering the university’s Global Institute of Sustainability and Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering.

“Our goal is for ASU to have the pre-eminent academic solar energy research, development and training program in the United States, and one of the top such programs in the world,” said Jonathan Fink, director of the Global Institute of Sustainability.

The lab’s goal in large part will be to support a significant facet of the economic development objectives of Arizona and the Southwest, Fink said, noting that expansion of the solar energy industry has been identified as an economic priority by Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, the state Department of Commerce, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and Science Foundation Arizona.

“ASU and the state of Arizona have a number of exciting economic development and research opportunities associated with renewable energy,” he said.

“We hope to unify the various solar energy-related research efforts throughout the university and to develop industry collaborations,” explained Stephen Goodnick, ASU’s associate vice president of Research and Economic Affairs.

Solar power groups such as the university’s Advanced Photovoltaics Center and Photovoltaic Testing Laboratory will be affiliated with the new lab under the Global Institute of Sustainability.

The lab “will bring together other ASU researchers, from materials engineering, physics, chemistry, electrical engineering and architecture” to collaborate on projects, Goodnick said.

“For four decades, ASU has been a leader in research related to virtually all aspects of solar energy,” said Fink, including creation of new materials and devices for generating electricity from sunlight, improved methods of photovoltaics testing, design of advanced power systems, and laying the groundwork for sound energy policies.

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