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Va. study makes economic case for renewable energy


Pursuing a portfolio of renewable power sources such as solar, biomass and wind power to satisfy Virginia's energy appetite through 2035 would create tens of thousands more jobs than relying on either coal or natural gas, a George Mason University study concludes.

The study released Wednesday was prepared for Virginia Conservation Network, a coalition of environmental groups and proponents of renewable energy sources over fossil fuels.

George Mason's Center For Regional Analysis based the study on the 2010 Virginia Energy Plan, which projected a need for an additional 19,448 megawatts of demand over the next 25 years. Half of that demand can be met through biomass, solar and wind, offshore and onshore, the study concludes.

Nathan Lott, executive director of the Conservation Network, said the study illustrates that renewable energy can be competitive with fossil fuels. "This is important for regulators and utilities that must plan today for a safe, reliable electricity system 20 and 30 years into the future," he said.


Warmer climate having global ocean effect (surface salinity changes)


BERKELEY, Calif., April 27 (UPI) -- Ocean salinity is being affected by global warming, and current models underestimate the change to the globe's water cycle, an Australian scientist says.

The water cycle -- the worldwide phenomenon of rainwater falling to the surface, evaporating back into the air and falling again as rain -- is changing, with the wetter parts of the world getting wetter and the drier parts drier, researchers report in Science magazine.

This is confirmed by the fact that saltier parts of the ocean are getting saltier and the fresher parts are getting fresher, they said.

"Salinity shifts in the ocean confirm climate and the global water cycle have changed," said Paul Durack of the University of Tasmania, who is now a post-doctoral fellow at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California.


Maine may harness power of tides


PORTLAND, Maine -- Maine regulators have put three utilities on the path to distribute electricity harnessed from tides at the nation's eastern tip, a key milestone in a bid to turn the natural rise and fall of ocean levels into power.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission set terms for a contract that would be in place for 20 years. The regulators also directed the three utilities to negotiate with Ocean Renewable Power Co. to put electricity onto the grid this summer, the first long-term power purchase agreements for tidal energy in the United States.

"It's a landmark in the commercialization of tidal energy in the U.S.," said Chris Sauer, president and CEO of the Portland-based company.

Ocean Renewable intends to install its first underwater turbine unit this summer on Cobscook Bay under a demonstration project.


Areva Solar Builds Giant Solar Farm In India


In a northwestern corner of India, rows of steel and glass are rising from the ground to form what will be one of the largest solar power plants in Asia. The 250-megawatt project is the first in India for Silicon Valley-based Areva Solar, which is benefiting from an aggressive plan by the Indian government to boost solar energy generation to help reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Areva engineers solar power plants that use flat mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto water-filled tubes to produce steam, which is then piped to run a turbine to generate electricity. This process is called concentrating solar thermal technology, and it’s being used in different configurations to build solar farms in the United States, particularly in states such as California and Arizona.

The company will complete the project in two phases, with the first 125 megawatts to come online in May 2013, said Jayesh Goyal, the company’s global vice president of sales. The second phase will start delivering power in late 2014 or early 2015.

“India is a market with a high electricity demand and a favorable regime for renewable energy,” Goyal said.


Arizona solar project reaches 100MW mark


YUMA, Ariz., April 26 (UPI) -- Set to become the world's largest photovoltaic power plant, the Aqua Caliente project in Arizona reached the 100-megawatt milestone, companies said.

Executives from NRG Energy Inc., MidAmerican Solar and First Solar Inc., met with Arizona representatives to commemorate delivering the first 100 megawatts to the grid from the 290 MW Aqua Caliente solar project.

"Agua Caliente will provide a positive impact on the environment and create jobs," said Paul Caudill, president of MidAmerican Solar. "Projects such as Agua Caliente will play a central role in our nation's long-term electric energy supply and in our national transition to cleaner energy sources."

Utility company Pacific Gas and Electric has a 25-year purchase agreement for the project's entire capacity. When completed in 2014, it will be the largest PV power plant in the world, offsetting roughly 5.5 million tons of carbon dioxide during the next 25 years.


Solar Program in India Drives Prices to Impressive Lows


Washington, D.C. - infoZine - India’s ambitious national solar program has catalyzed rapid growth in the solar market, driving prices for solar energy to impressive lows and demonstrating how government policy can stimulate clean energy markets, according to a report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).

In only two years, competitive bidding under India’s National Solar Mission drove prices for grid-connected solar energy to nearly the price of electricity from fossil fuels, at Rs. 7.49/kWh ($0.15/kWh). During that same period, cumulative installed solar capacity in India surged from 17.8 MW to over 500 MW, as discussed in “Laying the Foundation for a Bright Future: Assessing Progress Under Phase 1 of India’s National Solar Mission.”

“As the world’s second-fastest growing economy, India has sparked a powerful solar market in only two years,” said Anjali Jaiswal, Senior Attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council’s India Initiative. “While the National Solar Mission still faces significant hurdles, India has already made important strides to attract new domestic and international players into the market, and lower the price of solar energy faster than most anticipated.”


Wind power stays aloft in renewable energy race (cheaper than new coal plants)


Michigan electricity providers are making good progress toward meeting the state’s 2015 renewable-energy mandate, mainly because of a sharp drop in wind-power generation costs, a recent state Public Service Commission report found.

The commission also says the cost of renewables is lower than the projected cost of producing electricity from a new coal-fired plant.

Spokesmen for DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, the state’s two largest electric utilities, wouldn’t comment on whether the utilities agreed with the commission’s cost comparisons.

“Wind is the cheapest resource to bring large amounts of renewable energy online,” said Julie Baldwin, manager of the commission’s renewable energy section. “It’s hard for other sources to be competitive.”


Here comes the sun: Solar cost competitve with fossil fuels in a decade?



And, ultimately, it’s the answer. Eventually the capacity of solar cells will increase, the cost to manufacture them will go down, and battery storage will improve such that sunlight collected on a sunny day can be used during a cloudy week.

But when?

Perhaps sooner than one might think. According to the giant consulting firm McKinsey & Company, solar capacity globally will soar as costs fall by an average of 10 percent a year through 2020. It should become cost competitive with fossil fuels in a decade, the report says.

“The pace of cost reductions has been staggering. When companies are building new energy infrastructure, solar will be a competitive option within this decade,” report author Krister Aanesen said in a news release. “It will be cost comparable to peaking plant within two to three years in some countries and comparable with base load plants by the end of the decade.”


Germany Solar Installations May Have Tripled in First Quarter (1800 MW)


German solar installations may have more than tripled in the first quarter from a year ago, the country’s deputy environment minister said.

“The first quarter had big installations,” Katherina Reiche said today in an interview during an informal meeting of ministers in Denmark. “It is assumed that nearly 1,800 megawatts were installed.”

Germany added 513 megawatts in the same period last year, according to the Bundesnetzagentur grid regulator.

Chancellor Angela Merkel seeks to cut by half the pace of annual solar installations after incentives for the industry pushed new projects to a record 7.5 gigawatts last year, more than double a target. Subsidy cuts, still going through parliament, would take effect April 1, about a year after Merkel decided to exit nuclear generation and replace reactors with a mix of renewable and more efficient fossil-fuel plants.


World's largest solar field switched on in India


NEW DELHI—The west Indian state of Gujarat is flipping the switch on Asia's largest solar power field, as just part of its 600 megawatt solar energy addition to India's power grid.

The Gujarat Solar Park, spread across a desolate swath of desert, accounts for 214 MW of photovoltaic solar capacity, making it larger than China's 200 MW Golmud Solar Park.

The project gives a serious boost to India's renewable energy ambitions.

India aims for solar power to account for 3 percent of national capacity -- or 1,000 MW -- by 2013. Overall, it wants renewables to make up 15 percent of capacity by 2020, from 6 percent today.

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