This week's theme in clean energy news is China.
President Obama will revive his green energy sales pitch Friday with a proposal to divert offshore oil-and-gas revenues to fund research into alternative fuel and vehicle technologies. The president will highlight the plan during a visit to a clean-energy research lab in Chicago, arguing the investment is vital to reduce dependence on foreign oil and spur high-tech jobs for the United States.
It follows on his announcement of a $2 billion “Energy Security Trust” in his State of the Union address last month. White House officials framed the trust as a way to wean the U.S. off oil and to reduce carbon emissions. They said the security trust is a major part of the president’s economic strategy of boosting high-tech manufacturing and innovation.
Five companies are interested in developing wind farms in the ocean off North Carolina, hoping to take advantage of what could be the East Coast’s most promising chance to create energy through giant turbines anchored to the sea floor.
The idea is embraced by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and the Sierra Club alike, who see North Carolina as the next potential center for renewable energy in America. But big obstacles remain before the whirling farms become a reality. Offshore wind is an expensive form of energy, and Congress is losing interest in federal subsidies to encourage it. There are no offshore wind farms in the United States, although they’re common in Europe.
Two potential development areas are between Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Wilmington, N.C., while another is beyond the Outer Banks, across from the island towns of Kitty Hawk, Nags Head and Manteo. All potential areas are at least six miles from shore.
When the residents of DeKalb County, Ill., approved 115 wind turbines in 2009, they insisted on a property value guarantee from the developers, FPL Energy Illinois Wind, LLC. In the event property owners there can’t sell their homes for the appraised value, the wind energy company will provide the difference between the sale price and the appraised value at closing.
In Tipton County, developers Juwi Wind Energy say there’s no data to support the contention that wind farms affect property values. But even the authors of the only comprehensive U.S. study on the subject, a 2009 U.S. Department of Energy-funded look at more than 7,000 properties near wind farms, weren’t willing to go that far.
The Texas Panhandle’s wind energy industry is about to be blown away.
An international mix of companies has committed to more than doubling the region’s production capacity by spending more than an estimated $3.3 billion on construction of wind farms in the next two years. The area currently has the capability of producing about 1,500 megawatts, but that will go up by another 1,644 megawatts if projects now under contract go through.
Cross Texas Transmission and Sharyland Utilities are approaching the end of construction of transmission lines that will take locally produced electricity to places like Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Houston. That has lit the fuse, and wind farm developers and the transmission companies have begun filing agreements with the Public Utility Commission of Texas making some of their formerly closely guarded commitments public.
A loan program for sustainable technology costs more to participate than industry receives in benefits, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report says.
The Department of Energy (DOE) developed its Loan Guarantee Program in 2005 and its Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program in 2007, following directives from Congress to spur innovation in the sustainable energy field and to develop more fuel-efficient cars.
GAO told House and Senate lawmakers on the powerful appropriations committee that the DOE’s loan office, which administers both programs, has about $51 billion in unused funds in its account and has $170 million in credit subsidy appropriations going unused. Further, the department hasn’t “closed on a loan or loan guarantee or conditionally committed to do so under either program since September 2011,” according to the study.
Massachusetts-grown startup Boston-Power Inc., for one, is building a research and development center in Beijing. It is also building a factory in Shanghai that can make enough batteries to equip 20,000 electric vehicles. The company has gained widespread recognition for its longer-lasting, higher-capacity lithium-ion batteries and landed Mercedes-Benz among its early consumers.
"Electric vehicle is an example where quite a lot of technology companies involved in that in the U.S. today are seriously looking at China," said Stefan Henningsson, a senior adviser at the World Wide Fund for Nature, an environmental group that recently published a report to assess each country's clean-tech prowess.
Henningsson said that many other Western clean-tech startups are also heading east. As those companies share technical know-how with Chinese partners, help solve environmental problems in China and work with the Chinese hand in hand to answer global demand for a cleaner future, "it will bring great benefits to China economically and environmentally."
To handle continued growth, Kyle-based energy storage company Xtreme Power Inc. is restructuring its top leadership, with its co-founder and CEO moving to a strategic planning role.
The company — which makes energy storage and power management systems for utilities, wind farms and manufacturing companies — saw revenues double in 2011 and expects to see similar growth in the coming year, said Carlos Coe, who will step aside as CEO to become chairman of the board and oversee the company's global growth. Alan Gotcher will be promoted from chief technology officer to president and CEO.
Much of that growth is expected overseas, particularly in China, which is installing "an amazing amount of wind power every year," and officials need assistance moving that energy onto their power grids, Coe said. Xtreme Power recently opened a Beijing office and is "very close to finalizing a local partnership," he said. In addition to China, Coe estimated that pending projects in several countries will come to fruition this year.
GE, Extreme Power form strategic alliance - Flashback
GE Energy Storage, a unit of GE Transportation (GE) and Xtreme Power, a privately held Austin, Texas company have formalized a strategic alliance to work together to provide cutting-edge energy storage solutions. The alliance combines GE's Durathon* battery technology for grid energy storage systems and Xtreme Power's extensive experience as an integrated energy storage turn-key solutions provider. The new GE Durathon battery products, which can last up to ten times longer than conventional lead acid batteries and store more energy in half the space, are the result of a $100M initial investment in battery technology developed at GE's Global Research Center in Niskayuna, NY. GE's Durathon battery technology, when paired with Xtreme Power's Xtreme Active Control Technology, should enable safer and highly efficient storage of massive quantities of electricity at low cost for grid applications.
It was a first of it's kind technology [made by Extreme Power] - that went up in smoke. Seven months after they started spinning, the Kahuku wind mills stopped because of a fire.The fact that they're sitting idle is having an ripple effect that reaches your electric bill.For seven months they were spinning in the wind."First seven months of operation it put about 52k megawatts of energy into the system," said Hawaiian Electric Company spokesperson Darren Pai.A productive project - capable of powering 7,800 homes.But these last seven months have been a different story.Since August, the 12 turbines at Kahuku are at a standstill after a fire inside the facility's battery storage system shut the wind farm down.Turns out it was the third blaze to break-out inside the building."And those we did an extensive investigation and determined the cause of those that was related to the capacitors in the converters," said Wren Wescoatt of First Wind. "We took several steps to remedy that and the new investigation looked into that as one of the possibilities but hasn't yet determined what the cause of the final fire was."Sen. Gabbard who chairs the Committee on Energy says - no cause is no good.
HONG KONG - News late Monday that China's state-run CNOOC Ltd. had completed its record-breaking purchase of Canada's Nexen Inc. came hot on the heels of another Chinese investment in the U.S. the same day, signaling that the appetite for North American shale projects in energy-hungry Asia remains strong.
CNOOC and Nexen said in separate statements they had completed the $15.1 billion acquisition following approvals from Canadian, U.K. and U.S., regulators, giving the third-largest Chinese oil and gas company by output control over huge shale-gas reserves in British Colombia and crude-oil deposits beneath the North Sea.
Hours before that, state-owned oil giant China Petrochemical Corp., or Sinopec Group, agreed to buy a 50% stake in Chesapeake Energy Corp.'s Mississippi Lime venture for $1.02 billion. In 2010 and 2011, CNOOC bought into Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy's oil-rich shale fields in south Texas, as well as fields in Colorado and Wyoming.
China Guodian Corp. and Miami, Florida-based UPC Management LLC have signed 10 billion yuan of wind power agreements, the Chinese company said on its website today. The companies will develop seven wind power projects with capacity exceeding 1,075 megawatts in total, according to the statement.
US reaches major business agreements with China - Flashback
Guodian said the UPC and the United States in the field of wind power a wide range of strategic cooperation. Under the agreement, the two sides will jointly develop, build and operate over 1075 MW of total installed capacity of wind power projects of cooperation. UPC officially entered China in 2006, currently in China's 12 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, development and construction of 24 projects. As of the end of 2010, UPC in the territory of China's wind power installed capacity reached 150 MW.
The 10MW pilot project, consisting of five 2MW turbines in the windy Texas Panhandle. It is located near Ralls, a village near Lubbock. The power is being sold to the utility Xcel. The project uses the companies SE8720IIIE turbines, with Chinese partner AVIC International. The development was bought from American Seawind, a local developer.
GE's Jeff Immelt with Charlie Rose on China.